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Young Christian voters show disconnect with religious right

RELEVANT magazine just released a poll of Christian voters between the ages of 18-34, and the results…well  , they may surprise you.

Now, I think it’s best to take polls with a huge grain of salt. Or perhaps a hallucinogen ic substance. But if the results of the RELEVANT magazine survey are to be taken at face value, they show a remarkable disconnect between the political concerns of young Christian voters, and the political agendas being set by Focus on the Family, Club for Growth, the Christian Coalition and the like.

Among the more surprising results:

  • When asked WWJVF (”Who Would Jesus Vote For”), 28 percent said Sen. Barack Obama, compared to 24 percent who said Gov. Mike Huckabee.
  • When asked whether they thought the U.S. should have universal health care, 59 percent said yes.
  • When asked whether churches should be able to support candidates, 62 percent said no.
  • For those who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, 33 percent said that if they had to do it over again, they would change their vote.

There are more results here, and also a press release about the poll posted here. The spin? Well, according to RELEVANT co-founder and publisher Cameron Strang, “Young Christians simply don’t seem to feel a connection to the traditional religious right. Many differ strongly on domestic policy issues, namely issues that affect the poor, and are dissatisfied with America’s foreign policy and war. In general, we’re seeing that twentysometh ing Christians hold strongly to conservative moral values, but at the same time don’t feel that their personal moral beliefs need to be legislated to people who don’t agree with them. It’s an interesting paradox, and is creating clear division between this generation and the religious right.”

Does this spell the end of groups like Focus or the Christian Coalition? Certainly not. But if these results are real, it does prove that the influence these groups once had in influencing religious voters might be on the wane, making way for a little common sense and tolerance.


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Jewish leaders condemn email rumors about Obama’s faith

If you’ve got a Republican family member, or several like I do, chances are you’ve seen one of those anti-Barack Obama emails, suggesting that he’s a terrorist in sheep’s clothing, and that he’s posing as a Christian to be elected President but then will come out as a Muslim and handover the United States to Al-Qaeda. It almost sounds like a future episode of 24, right?

So far, ninety percent of this country has been able to tell that this email, and other emails like it, are completely ludicrous, hateful, manipulative and beyond Swiftboating . Unfortunatel y, there’s that 10 percent that keeps flexing their right to be idiots.

As the NY Times reports this morning, nine Jewish leaders have released an open letter condemning these anti-Obama emails, calling them hateful and saying that “attempts of this sort to mislead and inflame voters should not be part of our political discourse and should be rebuffed by all who believe in our democracy.”

Kol Hakavod!

(It means well done in Hebrew. I think.)

Though these nine leaders have not endorsed any candidate, they are responding to reports that these anti-Obama Muslim rumors are being spread deliberately among Jewish constituenci es. And while the emails have been derided by many political pundits and politicians  (including Hillary…thou gh people affiliated with her Iowa campaign were caught forwarding the emails), the viral email has been so persistent that it came up in last night’s Democratic debate in Nevada, and is repeatedly referred to on countless numbers of blogs, including in the comments section of this one.

For the record, Barack Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ. So the lesson for today? Don’t believe everything you read in your email, especially if it comes from that dopey uncle or that pompous brother-in-l aw.


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The Great Perplexity for Catholic Voters

New Hampshire polls close in just a few hours, but in the build-up to today’s primary, Manchester’s Catholic Bishop John B. McCormack gave an insightful quote that hints at the proverbial wall that many Catholics all over the country will be beating their heads against in the struggle to determine how to cast their vote. “Some candidates advance proposals that fail to mirror the commitment of the church to the protection of all human life. In many cases, these same candidates advance other policies and proposals that can be supported in light of church teaching. This frequent mixture of laudable and unacceptable positions causes great perplexity,” said Bishop McCormack.

What’s a Catholic to do when (1) it’s a moral responsibili ty to vote, (2) it’s a moral responsibili ty to vote for the candidate who best espouses the Church’s moral teachings, particularly on respecting life, and (3) no candidate on either side of the political aisle fits into the “perfect” mold of the Church’s moral teachings?

Now that’s a dilemma. Thank God I belong to the United Church of Christ now.

The battle for the Catholic vote will likely rev up in the coming weeks and months, as we get out of primary election mode and into general election hysteria. Who knows what lurks in the hearts (or empty vessels they pretend are hearts!) of political operatives and pollsters this year in terms of nabbing the Catholic vote. One thing is almost for certain: the right is going to argue that Democrats are unsuitable because of issues like abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, and gay marriage. The left is going to argue that Republicans are unsuitable because of issues like poverty, immigration, health care, education, and most importantly, war. Who’s right?

Well, if you look at what the institutiona l Church (i.e. The Catholic Bishops Conference) has said, here’s their take on the number one issue that should inform a Catholic voter’s conscience in 2008 (quoted directly from Faithful Citizenship, released every Presidential Election season by the Bishops):


The right to life and the dignity of the human person.
Human life is sacred. Direct attacks on innocent human beings are never morally acceptable. Within our own society, life is under direct attack from abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, and the destruction of human embryos for research. These intrinsic evils must always be opposed. This teaching also compels us as Catholics to oppose genocide, torture, unjust war, and the unnecessary use of the death penalty, as well as to pursue peace and help overcome poverty, racism, and other conditions that demean human life.

Talk about triangulatio n! Did Mark Penn write this for the bishops?

Whether it’s McCain, Romney, Giuliani or Huckabee who ends up the eventual GOP nominee, clearly they don’t fit the bill given their records on issues like war, the death penalty, and torture (particularl y Romney, who wouldn’t rule out using waterboardin g as an interrogatio n technique). And that’s not a liberal Massachusett s blogger saying this…that’s the institutiona l Catholic Church.

On the Dem side, it gets trickier. Sure, you can argue (like the right will) that Obama and Clinton support abortion rights and support stem cell research, thus Catholics in good conscience shouldn’t vote for them. But when you peel back the layers of these complex issues, particularly abortion, and start to look at which party’s platform might actually lead to a reduction in abortion rates and teen pregnancy rates because of how it handles issues like economic justice, poverty, health care, and education, the waters get much muddier. That’s because Obama’s and Clinton’s principles seem to line up more with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching than, say, a war hawk, someone who wants to jail clergy for feeding illegal immigrants, those who would execute entire populations of prisoners, and those who would condone torture.

So the great perplexity for Catholic Voters, and Bishop McCormack put it, might just be turning away from the rants and raves of Bill Donohue, Phyllis Schlafly, Deal Hudson and others who would sabotage Catholic Social Teaching to fit their own political sympathies, and looking more deeply at the moral teachings of the Church.


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Beyond the Starbucks drinking elite

That’s a line from the latest article on Sen. Barack Obama, as he makes a much heralded media push to win over the hearts and minds of blue collar workers and red state voters. Ironically, I read the article tonight at a Starbucks, cashing in a gift card someone gave me.

That Obama (who’s secret service code name – Renegade – is decidedly one of the coolest secret service names out there) needs to move beyond the elite crowd is pretty much common knowledge. To do this, he’ll give a speech tomorrow in Iowa entitled “Reclaimin g the American Dream,” which as politico.com reports, will seek to expand Obama’s base beyond the “NPR-liste ning, Starbucks-dr inking, Prius-drivin g, Times-readin g” stereotype that has become a shorthand for his appeal to the party’s elite.

Obama’s “Reclaimin g the American Dream,” speech comes on the heels of an article in Time Magazine that talks about Obama’s red state appeal. Per Time:

Political organizing for Democrats in red states like Nebraska can often feel a bit like leading AA meetings. But that hasn’t deterred more than 300 Nebraskans from forming a dozen groups for Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and they aren’t the only ones. On Monday, the Obama campaign announced that over 300 Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans had decided to cross party lines to support Obama. At Obama events in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia and Georgia, a good 20% of audiences routinely raise their hands when emcees ask for Republicans in the crowd. A “Republicans for Obama” website has 11 state chapters with 146 members. An August University of Iowa even found Obama running third in the state among Republican candidates, behind Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani but ahead of both Fred Thompson and John McCain. And a national Gallup poll this month also found that nearly as many Republicans like Obama — 39% — than the 43% that dislike him, compared with the 78% of Republicans who held an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton.

Then there’s the Obama machine in South Carolina, which is seeking to highlight the candidate’ s strong faith background, and his commitment to civil rights. Sure, Obama flubbed it when he brought on an anti-gay pastor to lead a major campaign concert in the Palmetto State (notice the backtracking and media floundering that ensued), but the results of his “40 Days of Faith and Family” tour across the state will certainly surpass any fallout from that rookie mistake. Need proof? Obama appeared in the town of Manning, SC last week for a campaign stop. A whopping 25% of the town showed up! (A poll released last week showed him ten points behind Hillary Clinton in the state. The next one won’t.)

What does all of this mean? Probably a number of different things, but my take is that instead of getting rough in response to Hillary Clinton’s campaign (like many activists and pundits are imploring him to do), Obama’s going to do something that’s probably much smarter – he’s going to aggressively make the case that he’s more electable than Clinton is, in places as varied as Iowa, South Carolina, and as Time magazine suggests, Nebraska. Might that argument have enough sway to pull him through Iowa and New Hampshire? It’s hard to say. But it’s a valiant effort at moving his campaign to the next level (something that, sadly, Bill Bradley couldn’t do in 2000).

Stay tuned. The Iowa caucuses are less than two months away (January 3). (Need even more proof that we’re getting nearer to the caucuses? It snowed nearly 3 inches in my hometown last night. Winter and Iowa are almost here!)


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