Desperately Seeking Evangelicals

It seems that everyday there is a new story in the news about how evangelical Christians are “up for grabs” in this year’s election. On Sunday there was this article on CNN.com about Shane Claiborne’s “Jesus For President” tour, in which the dreadlocked neo-monk said, “With the respectability and the power of the church comes the temptation to prostitute our identity for every political agenda.” Well said.

Then on Tuesday there was a story about Obama “reaching out” to evangelicals–a story that featured quotes from who else but Emergent guru Brian McLaren, who claimed that “there’s a very, very sizable percentage — I think between a third and half — of evangelicals, especially younger [evangelicals], who are very open to somebody with a new vision.” I wonder who he means?

Meanwhile McCain continues to all but ignore evangelicals, adding fuel to the “up for grabs” fire that is so eagerly announced by the mainstream press. He did muster a meeting with Billy Graham last weekend, which seemed more symbolic than anything. I love Billy Graham very much, but is the 89-year-old really the best person McCain should tap to get some evangelical momentum on his side? While McCain continues to cater to the over-80 set, Obama is busy inspiring the formation of young Christian political action committees, like the Matthew 25 Network.

But is anyone else a little weary of all this “seeking the evangelical vote” spiritual gerrymandering? Obama plays his evangelical card with characteristic finesse, but ten years ago would he be caught dead with the e-word label? I doubt it. And McCain… well at least he isn’t trying to pretend he is or ever was a card-carrying evangelical. He straight-up flaunts his ambivalence to the Dobsons of the world… and that earns him more than a little respect in my book. He’s not trying to be someone he isn’t.

I’m not saying Obama is lying through his teeth; I honestly do think he is sincere in his Christian faith. But in the terms with which evangelicals historically define themselves, Obama clearly does not fit the bill. And that is fine. Christians: it IS okay to vote for someone who is not exactly like you! We should be voting on the issues and qualifications of the candidates, not their church-going practices.

I guess I’m just fatigued by the whole idea that I—as an evangelical—am part of some monolithic group that will sway the election. Am I not free to vote for the person I think will be a better president for us? Do I really have to be “courted” and convinced by the candidates that my Christian point of view will be reinforced by them as president? That’s what happened when George W. Bush ran for president in 2000. And did everything become Christian and wonderful in America? Far from it.

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6 responses to “Desperately Seeking Evangelicals

  1. Well said. I agree completely–Obama’s attempts to appear evangelical creep me out. And McCain shooting Dobson the bird is awesome.

    But I’ll probably vote for Obama, even if he is a little creepy.

  2. If, as you protest, Evangelicalism is not a monolithic entity to be wooed at courted, then in what sense is Obama not authentically and traditionally Evangelical? It seems to me that the sort of ideological criteria that would make Obama an outsider (pro-life, anti-gay, etc.), if indeed such a checklist can be defined so as to allow for inclusion and exclusion, makes Evangelicalism exactly the sort of entity that, by definition, can be treated politically as a single-minded voting bloc.

  3. If, as you protest, Evangelicalism is not a monolithic entity to be wooed and courted, then in what sense is Obama not authentically and traditionally Evangelical? It seems to me that the sort of ideological criteria that would make Obama an outsider (pro-life, anti-gay, etc.), if indeed such a checklist can be defined so as to allow for inclusion and exclusion, makes Evangelicalism exactly the sort of entity that, by definition, can be treated politically as a single-minded voting bloc.

  4. Obama is not an Evangelical. If anything, he seems to me a bit reluctant to admit he’s a Christian. I can’t fault him for this, considering who he is and what he’s trying to do, but he’s not out there trying to spread the gospel of Christ. He’s spreading a Christ-less social justice type of message. Which may be/appear to be noble, but it ain’t evangelical.
    In fact…it seems downright anti-Christian to me.
    I’m not a huge McCain supporter either, but there is a creep factor to Mr. Obama that I can’t ignore.

  5. shakespeherian

    If anything, he seems to me a bit reluctant to admit he’s a Christian.

    Really? Tons of atheist and agnostic Democrats got in a tizzy when he said in 2004 ‘We worship an awesome God in the blue states.’ In 2006, he gave the keynote speech at Sojourner’s Call to Renewal conference, which also sparked a liberal firestorm. A similar firestorm recently began when Obama said that he wants to expand/redesign Bush’s faith-based initiative. His ‘Christ-less social justice type of message’ is rooted in his belief that, as he said recently in Ohio, ‘While I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I went out and did the Lord’s work.’

  6. I’d be thrilled to be wrong about Obama, but I just don’t trust his words. The way he speaks about abortion has given me pause. I am all for social justice and many things Democrats seem to champion, but I cannot in good conscience support a candidate who doesn’t want to take a stand for the sanctity of human life. May God change his heart then, and may God’s will be done in and through him whatever it is he really believes.
    (Also, firestorms get votes…I didn’t say that Obama was just tickling ears, but I do think that there is a lot more going on behind the curtain that we won’t find out until after he’s elected, if indeed he does take office)

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