Preaching The Gospel

Monday, November 3, 2008

Preach and Reach - Part IV

Preach and Reach
Despite his liberal record, Barack Obama is making a lot of evangelicals think twice.
John W. Kennedy |

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Vanderslice says she is elated with Obama because he cares about the environment, wants to bring troops home from Iraq, and will bring tax relief for average Americans. The Matthew 25 Network is running $500,000 worth of commercials on Christian radio stations in battleground states. "A president can have such an impact on lives, not only here but [also] around the world," Vanderslice says.

The man behind the push to reach out to evangelicals is Joshua DuBois. The 26-year-old black Pentecostal associate pastor from Boston is Obama's point person for faith policy. DuBois has organized 200 American Values Forums—town hall meetings where evangelicals, Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Jews sit down and try to see each other's political viewpoints.

In addition, DuBois has been busy coordinating house parties where Obama supporters invite neighbors, friends, coworkers, and relatives to discuss faith and politics. The goal is to find common ground on tough issues like abortion.

Cizik, Campolo, and Sider favor extending Bush's faith-based initiative, but they are disappointed that Obama's proposal to do so would sacrifice the right of faith groups to hire employees who share the same faith. "The Bush guarantees on hiring are important," Cizik says. "A good number of evangelicals who would join the program won't. I'm not sure Obama understands how seriously we view the protection of the integrity of our institutions."

And more questions are cropping up about Obama's basic religious convictions. "There's no question Obama is a Christian, but he is definitely of a postmodern, liberal, and, to some small extent, black liberation theology perspective," says Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of Barack Obama.

"One can imagine, in an Obama presidency," writes Mansfield, "White House conferences on 'Faith and Poverty' or 'Religion's Responses to Racism' that are more than theater, more than time-wasting mockeries of national ills."

Obama, Dobson, and Warren

No single evangelical leader has been more negative about Obama's candidacy than Focus on the Family's James Dobson. This summer, Dobson—who earlier declared that he couldn't vote for McCain—took to the airwaves to denounce Obama, based on his keynote address at a Call to Renewal conference two years earlier.

In that speech, Obama noted the pluralistic reality of society. "Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers," Obama said. "And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?"

Being mentioned in the same breath as Sharpton offended Dobson. Dobson also declared on the air that Obama "is deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology." He labeled Obama's abortion stance "a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution." Yet much of Obama's Call to Renewal address took Democrats to task for failing to address political issues in moral terms.

Dobson's protest spurred Houston's Caldwell to start a website, Some 12,000 have signed the site's online statement critical of Dobson's views on Obama. Caldwell told CT, "Someone needs to address the comments he made. I want Americans to know the truth and vote accordingly."

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