On August 15th James Dobson, founder of the neo conservative, fundamental Christian, Focus on the Family organization, spent 18 minutes of his daily radio program railing against a 2 year old speech delivered by Barack Obama regarding his Christianity, and the influence it had in shaping his political views. Dobson accused Obama of “deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology,” while appealing to the “lowest common denominator of morality” abortion rights proponents.
Following Dobson’s attack, the Matthew 25 Network, a new political action committee launched by Democratic operative Mara Vanderslice, who served as John Kerry’s religious outreach coordinator, put out a rebuttal ad on a Christian Radio network. The advertisement starts off with a woman’s voice gently saying “With all these stones being cast at Sen. Obama, it can be hard to know what to believe,” with piano softly playing in the background. “…in Luke, Jesus taught us that we must listen to what a man says, because out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks.” The ad then plays a clip from the speech that Dobson had attacked in his radio show, focusing on the portion where Obama laid out how his salvation at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ had formed his politics.
The Mathew 25 Network PAC is not affiliated with the Obama campaign, and is named for the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, my brethren, you did for me.” The goal of Mathew 25 is to project “a better Christian witness in politics” and to respond to Christian fundamental attacks against Obama in a rapid and affective manner that will appeal to conservative evangelicals in the more conservative areas of the country. Recently Matthew 25 responded to a John McCain ad that appeared to suggest that Obama might be the antichrist.
Matthew 25 was developed in direct response to the Faith in Action Agenda, enacted by the Democratic Party in 2005, in order to reach out to religious voters concerned with issues of poverty, the environment and healthcare. Many democrats believe that the party must get religion to win the Presidential election in 2008, and the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 26th in Denver will open with an interfaith gathering. The event will include a People of Faith Caucus, which will meet throughout the week to hear faith leaders discuss how to mobilize voters.
The Obama campaign itself has been involved in aggressive outreach to the religious population. He recently thrilled many religious and disappointed many secular, supporters by proposing his own version of Bush’s faith-based initiatives. The campaign also employs a religious outreach team, and his team sends out a weekly “American Values Report” highlighting worthy statements by Obama, and including profiles of religious supporters and blog responses to a weekly “values question,” such as, “How do you gauge a candidate’s character?” Soon, the campaign is expected to launch an initiative aimed at reaching out to younger evangelicals through house parties and other events.
Secular and atheist members of the Democratic Party have not been invited to attend the Democratic convention. It seems that Obama’s message of inclusiveness can only be stretched so far, at least when it comes to issues of faith, or the lack there of.
Sources: Salon.com http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/08/15/barack_obama_evangelicals/