Friday, August 15, 2008

Return of the Coathanger

Saturday night the candidates will speak to evangelicals, a crucial time for those of us with strong views. A major issue among progressives is the right to determine one's own life, sexual preference and decisions about childbearing very much on our minds.

It is a breaking point with respect to any candidate which side he/she is on for many voters. Calling the evangelicals 'values voters' in 1999 made those on the right believe that there were no sides to their issues besides right and wrong, and they were right in every way. Of course, Sen. Obama is a member of a right wing faith, but that just doesn't convince the right wing voters. The wingers seem to have fixated on white men to join them and defy Jesus' injunction to render unto Caesar, along with Jesus' exhortations of forgiveness, love, tolerance - that pinko librul stuff.

I probably won't watch the Saturday night follies, but I did see encouraging thoughts about it.

Obama's last visit to Saddleback was in December 2006 when he and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback spoke at Warren's annual conference on HIV/AIDS. Brownback went first and joked to the crowd that the last time he and Obama shared a stage, it was at a meeting of the NAACP and he didn't receive the most rousing of welcomes. Turning to Obama, he said, "Welcome to my house." The crowd laughed, but when it was Obama's turn, the Democrat had a message for his Republican colleague. "With all due respect, Sam," said Obama, "this is my house, too."

That refusal to cede religion to Republicans has characterized Obama's presidential campaign as well. He has a larger and more comprehensive religious outreach operation than any Democrat in history. According to an August poll from the Barna Group, Obama leads McCain in every religious demographic — mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims — except for white evangelicals.

But those white evangelicals are key, and so far Obama's support among them is not rising above John Kerry's numbers from 2004. One major stumbling block appears to be abortion. Nearly two-thirds of white evangelicals in a recent TIME poll say they could vote for a candidate whose position on abortion differed from theirs. And many evangelicals have, like Warren, broadened their agenda of concerns to include issues like global poverty and the environment that should favor Obama. But in practice, abortion continues to be a threshold issue for a large number of evangelical voters.

Warren has already said he will raise the issue with the candidates on Saturday, and Obama could well take advantage of the opportunity. In closed-door meetings throughout the campaign, he has impressed pro-life religious leaders with his argument that measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to support women who want to carry their babies to term could actually lower abortion rates more substantially than purist approaches that seek to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion.

But Obama hasn't been as vocal publicly about such an approach to the abortion issue, which has raised concerns about his commitment. The recently released 2008 Democratic platform has only fed the skepticism. While the party did insert for the first time language promoting efforts to reduce abortion rates, it dropped two phrases that had traditionally been welcomed by pro-life voters, including the Clinton-era assertion that abortion should be "rare." Large numbers of evangelical and Catholic voters will be listening for Obama to articulate his abortion position in his conversation with Warren. A significant number of them remain undecided in the race, and their votes may hinge on his answer. (Emphasis added.)

The rationality of Obama's stance ought to rank high with anyone who actually wants to convey religious quality to American life. That hasn't been the direction taken by evangelical voters, however. As a conversation at The Sideshow went ) (in commentsearlier this week, 'religion' often is used instead of 'right wing' in describing political stances that have none of the good qualities that religion is supposed to promote.

I don't feel optimistic that Saturday night's candidate forum will produce any new quality of humankindness in the right. I suspect that the candidate promoting war and torture will walk away with it. That seems to be the character desired by the right wing voters. I guess I wouldn't do too well in that crowd, I do let the teachings of some one named Jesus stand. They were about good qualities, mercy, charity, kindness, that stuff the right wing scoffs at.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sen. Obama is a member of a right wing faith". Huh? In what universe?

8:08 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

The Trinity United Church of Christ. CoC is evangelical, associated with the gifts of the spirit which include speaking in tongues. The right wing has involved the CoC in its political movement, in my community has elected several winger judges.

1:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may be confusing UCC (United Church of Christ) with other denominations with a similar name. UCC grew out of the old Congregational church, which was active in the anti-slavery movement. They have been in the forefront of civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, the peace movement, etc. for many years. It is known as one of the most liberal denominations in America. Rev Wright of Trinity UCC is to the left of Obama's campaign, which is why Obama dissociated himself from his church when Wright's condemnation of American imperialism sent the media into ratings-fueled hysterics. I agree that the battle for reproductive rights is far from over and that the wingers are more determined than ever and will continue to try to use fundamentalist religion for their own purposes. We lefties are values voters too.

8:55 AM  
Blogger shrimplate said...

Whatever happens during the Saturday night talks, it's important to consider this: it's a TV show.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

deanor,I believe that the Church of Christ has an organization that includes several varieties of evangelical churches, and that UCC is part of it. And fundies try to cover up their ideological biases with trappings of real religions like this one, just as the w liebury is using the Methodist Church as a cover, and paying them so well that SMU faculty are covering for them. It's a way of getting otherwise respectable elements to give them slack that otherwise wouldn't happen.

3:15 AM  
Blogger Summerbythelakeside said...

Ruth, you believe wrongly. The UCC and the CoC are two completely different denominations, unconnected with each other, and hold very different POVs.

For reference:

As you can see, "Church of Christ" isn't even a single movement, whereas the UCC is a well-defined group. Just because both employ the term "Christ" in their terminology, that doesn't make them the same thing. After all, the Mormon church is also known as the "Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints", but you don't seriously think that Mormons and the UCC are part and parcel of the same thing, do you?

11:13 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

But there's also

that gives a whole bunch of associated churches calling themselves the Church of Christ. I plead guilty to making a quick association, but as far as I can tell, by naming themselves Church of Christ any church associates with the basic existing one.

11:23 AM  

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