Friday, June 13, 2008

Can Obama Win Over Religious Conservatives? He's Certainly Trying.

Barack Obama is aggressively reaching out to religious conservatives and though he has to hide and distort his record when trying too woo them, his efforts are paying off in positive publicity that no doubt he will further exploit in the coming months.

Below are excerpts and links (David Brody of CBN News and Steve Strang) regarding Obama's recent meeting with such leaders as Franklin Graham and Max Lucado. You'd do well to also look at this Jill Stanek post which not only discusses the meeting with religious conservatives but a more wide-ranging campaign whereby Obama, a fellow who is as abortion-happy as any politician around, is cleverly being re-cast as a pro-lifer!

From David Brody of CBN News:

Folks, I've been telling you for awhile now, the rules of the game have definitely changed during this election. Obama has made religion a very important part of the presidential race. He is reaching out to conservative and liberal religious leaders alike.

The fact that Billy Graham's son, his successor, met with Obama before he met with McCain says a lot about Obama's religious outreach efforts. They are being VERY pro-active.

Look, it's not as if McCain's religious outreach team isn't present. They are working behind the scenes too but Obama has been clear from day one that reaching out to faith voters was going to be a top priority. Obama's team made an important statement when they invited conservative religious leaders who WOULD NOT see eye to eye with Obama...

And a follow-up report by Brody:

More now on Barack Obama's meeting with religious leaders in Chicago this afternoon. As we first reported on The Brody File, Obama is meeting with influential mega-pastor TD Jakes and pro-life Catholic constitutional law professor Doug Kmiec. Read more here on that. That's a big deal. A really big deal. The fact that these two conservative men are meeting with Obama may be a signal that Obama's campaign is ready to break down the traditional wall of separation between conservatives and liberals when it comes to religious talk. Read the discussion parts of the meeting here.

This meeting with Obama is made up of religious leaders from several denominations including Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants and Catholics. There are about 30 people there and these are leaders from Chicago and outside Chicago. Some in the meeting have shown their support for him. Others have not. I'm told that the meeting consisted of prayer as well and it lasted two hours. A campaign source tells me that besides Jakes and Kmiec, other religious leaders in the room today include Religious leaders include Rich Cizik with the conservative National Association of Evangelicals, best selling Christian author Max Lucado, Luis Cortes, Paul Corts, Cameron Strang, Bishop Phillip Cousin, Rev Stephen Thurston, Glenn Palmberg and Dr T Dewitt Smith. This campaign source tells me:

"Reaching out to the faith community is a priority for Barack Obama and will be a priority under an Obama Administration. This is one of several meetings he will have over the coming months with religious leaders."

Folks, this is an important development. It shows that the game has changed. Old rules don't apply. We're in uncharted territory. John McCain's religious outreach team has to now step to the plate and work hard for faith voters. It's not automatic.

From Steve Strang, the founder of Charisma Magazine:

Sen. Obama personally took time to meet each person and shake their hand. He’s not as large a man as I envisioned from seeing him on television. But, he’s warm and personable --- obviously one of the reasons why people like him. He seemed to remember names well. He hugged a couple of the participants—mostly the black preachers who attended. He also seemed to be on top of the issues; and he’s obviously very intelligent.

The questions were mostly “softball” questions in my opinion. I was concerned after three or four general questions that we wouldn’t ask the most important questions. So I raised my hand and he called on me. I said, “Senator, I want to ask a question I'm sure you are expecting regarding your position on abortion. I represent a segment of the church where nearly everyone considers the issue of supporting life to be the most important issue and where nearly everyone would be opposed to abortion. I want to ask what your stand on abortion is and if you believe what I think you believe, how you justify that with your Christian faith and why you think we should vote for you.”

Since his response was “off-the-record,” I can say that the time he took to answer was probably 15 minutes. He came across as thoughtful and much more of a “centrist” than what I would have expected. He did not appear to be the crazy leftist that is being supported by George Soros and his radical leftist friends. Sen. Obama looked me in the eye as he answered my question, almost as if it were a one-on-one interview. I had already read the chapter on “faith” in his book the “Audacity of Hope.” If you want to know how he answered the question, read that chapter. In other words, other than his demeanor and obvious attempt to win over the Christian leaders in the room, he didn’t say anything new.

I knew personally about one-third of the people in the room. I had heard of another third of the invitees. Some of the people from the more liberal part of the church were unknown to me. Those from the evangelical community tended to be more the ones who are interested in global warming and social justice as well as the two issues conservative Christians are known for—pro-life and pro-family...

But, we’re not electing the person we think is the most righteous. We’re voting on the one we think will lead America in the right direction for the next four years. Whether Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton or any of the other Democrats had gotten the nomination, I believe the policies they espouse are dangerous not only to the security of our country if they are weak in the battle against terrorism, but they will hurt businesses if there is more governmental interference. And, on the moral issues such as the sanctity of marriage, it’s absolutely scary to think of what will happen if same sex marriage is allowed in this nation. At the same time, the next president will probably nominate not one but several Supreme Court justices to replace some elderly justices who obviously can’t live forever...

There’s probably a lot more that I could say about the meeting. But the most significant thing is just the fact that the meeting was held and that several dozen prominent leaders took time to meet with Sen. Obama who I believe won over the loyalties of many.

I urge Sen. John McCain to have a similar meeting—or several such meetings. There is a lot of latent support for him in the Christian community. But after being “still armed” by the McCain camp, while being wooed by the Obama camp, this may be the first time a majority of evangelicals will vote for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter, who talked of being “born again” and got many evangelical votes in 1976...