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Joke August 20, 2008

Posted by Zack in | 6 comments

OK, hopefully RIJ can become your one stop shop for progressive Evangelical political humor. Here’s the first installment thanks to commentor James:

Obama is not the Messiah, but he may cast out some demons in November.

Thanks Matt August 18, 2008

Posted by Zack in DC | 1 comment

The PR check this month goes out to Matt Stoller.

Live blogging Saddleback forum 7 August 16, 2008

Posted by Zack in California | 7 comments

“The Vietnamese guard drew a cross in the dirt, and for a moment we were just two Christians worshiping together.”

OK. I guess McCain has some powerful ways of bonding with these folks too. That is a reference to the secret means of identification among early Christians under the Roman empire of drawing the symbol of a fish in the dirt (same as the one you see on the back of all those minivans).

…And then:

Warren: “Does evil exist? And if it does, should we negotiate with it, struggle with it, or defeat it?”

McCain: “Defeat it.”

Obama’s answer to the same question was meandering and unmemorable.

And just now on education. McCain, “…And find bad teachers another line of work.”

He’s just doing so good. Maybe, at least, this strong performance is coming early enough that Obama & his debate prep-ers will snap into better shape fast.

Live blogging Saddleback forum 6 August 16, 2008

Posted by Zack in California | write a comment

Wow. McCain is doing really well. He’s so relaxed and natural. What’s going on? He was supposed to be old and spent and out of touch. But he’s being so much more engaging than Obama was. I think… Right?

He’s even making jokes about how we have to imitate the French on energy policy.

OOOOH — and he’s getting a chance to tell that story about how he refused to leave the camp early.

“It took a lot of prayer. A LOT of prayer,” he said.

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Live blogging Saddleback forum 5 August 16, 2008

Posted by Zack in California | 4 comments

OK - I take back some of my initial over-enthusiasm for Obama’s performance. I think he did not meet the high expectations of evangelical leaders who are secretly plugging for him. Too many of his answers were vague. He just didn’t seem fully prepared. On a lot of those questions, he had wide open doors. He could have nailed them. But he just kind of went around in circles. A little John Kerryesque, I fear to say.

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Live blogging Saddleback forum 4 August 16, 2008

Posted by Zack in California | write a comment

Make sure you watch the forum on C-SPAN, not Fox. Then you get to watch the super hip Saddleback band that comes on during the breaks.

That was sarcasm. This church was formed in the 80’s. So this is a boomer-based megachurch.

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Live blogging Saddleback forum 3 August 16, 2008

Posted by Zack in California | 1 comment

OK. I think Obama actually really blew the abortion answer. Warren teed it right up for him. Obama should have strongly supported a woman’s right to choose (his position) while coming out very strong for “life.” But he just kind of mumbled on that one.

I know that several evangelical leaders recently gave his staff plenty of preparation for how to win the hearts of evangelicals on “life” while sticking with his support for Roe V. Wade, specifically for this Saddleback event. Maybe those staffers do not have direct access to Barack for debate prep? Barack would have benefited from a heavy dose of their direct involvement in his prep.

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Live blogging Saddleback forum 2 August 16, 2008

Posted by Zack in California | write a comment

Notice the applause when Barack said he was against an amendment against gay marriage?

Oh — and just were a lot more applause for civil rights for gays.

Of course, as expected, there were also applause for Barack’s anti-gay marriage answer, “marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Live blogging Saddleback forum 1 August 16, 2008

Posted by Zack in California | 5 comments

Obama is absolutely going to kill McCain in this Saddleback forum. He already has just in the first few minutes. He just threw out a phrase made popular by Rick Warren’s purpose driven life, “It’s not about me.” He did it naturally, just like he was on exactly the same wavelength as this mass of white suburban evangelicals who have ALL read Warren’s book.

In other words, he is culturally bonding with these folks easily and naturally just like Bush did.

In his campaign, McCain has already made clear that he has no idea who these people are. I’ve heard about a number of conservative evangelical leaders—even those who have endorsed McCain—who can not even get their calls returned by McCain campaign staffers let alone McCain himself. Meanwhile, Obama has met and spoken with many of the same leaders—yes, even those who have endorsed McCain. Obama staffers are actively seeking input from key evangelical leaders including those who have not endorsed.

OK — we’ll wait to see how McCain fares.

By the way. There has been a little criticism of this event. Why should we have to watch a church-sponsored debate? Why should it be televised? But this is a normal thing. In this campaign we will also be watching events sponsored by African-American groups, Latino groups, young people’s groups, etc… Warren is a leader of a large constituency. Some research says there are 100 million born again Christians in America. Why not let them have their event with the candidates?

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Will the real pro-life party please stand up? August 15, 2008

Posted by Zack in Florida | 8 comments

Joel Hunter is a conservative, Republican megachurch pastor in Central Florida. He’s giving the Democrats some free advice, if they care to hear it: Even if you stick with Roe V. Wade, you can show evangelicals that you are the pro-life party by showing us how you will actually reduce abortions—and how you will support “life” in other areas besides abortion. From Steve Waldman’s Beliefnet column today:

Hunter makes a practical argument: providing women with economic help in carrying babies to term can actually reduce the number of abortions more, and more quickly, than focusing on overturning Roe v. Wade. “With eight years of Bush the abortion rates have not declined. Every indication is that with financial support and different forms of supporting pregnant mother and then some post birth help also we could come close to 50% reduction in abortions. That’s huge. That’s huge.”

Continuing with the same culture war paradigm is therefore morally dubious. “If we insist on keeping this an ideological war we’re literally not saving the babies we could save. The Democrats have a huge opportunity here to really steal the thunder from those who are seen as traditionally pro life.”

Keep a look out for other Christian leaders popping up with the same message. What’s causing this is the complete failure of the Republicans to reduce abortions, even with 20 years of Republican presidency since the rise of the Christian right. Many Christians are finally getting fed up.

In my opinion, the Republican line on abortion—the singular focus on banning it—was just a cynical ploy. I know that many GOP leaders were sincere, but overall the strategy was simply to oppose abortion symbolically while doing nothing to reduce abortions in real life. Moreover, there is evidence from history and from around the world that banning abortion would not even reduce abortions (have we ever banned anything successfully?).

Pro-life Christians are finally getting this. If the Democrats take Joel Hunter’s advice, and stand up as the real “pro-life party,” they will not find formerly Republican Christians falling into lock step with them. Many of these Christians are so burned by their experience with the GOP that they will not join another party. However, in their pro-life calculations at the voting booth, many will choose the Democrat.

But how many? That depends on Obama, and if he will take Joel Hunter’s advice. If Obama can boldly articulate a pro-life platform to reduce abortion, care for children and families, reduce arms and prevent war then he could bring about a seismic shift in electoral politics that makes the “Reagan Democrat” phenomenon look like nothing.

For many pro-choice advocates, that will feel like a concession. But has the status quo stand off worked any better for them over the past few decades? Abortion is still legal, but access to safe abortions for women who choose them has all but disappeared for many working class and rural women—right alongside other medical and social services. For sure, embracing a politics of “life” is a risk for pro-choice advocates. But Christian leaders who reject the status quo are taken an arguably greater risk: with their own congregations, with their national reputations and with anti-abortion extremists.

Only one thing is certain: It’s going to be fascinating to watch how change and risk will be embraced or rejected by various advocates on both sides of the debate through this election and an Obama presidency.

[UPDATE: I cross posted this at HuffingtonPost. Please go check out the comments over there, which could get interesting if they feature the post.]