22.9.08

Donald Miller Endorsing Barack Obama

As you may have read already, Donald Miller will be joining the "Barack Obama: Faith, Family and Values Tour". The tour will include stints in battleground states, and Don begins campaigning in Colorado this week. The first forum is being held Colorado Springs tomorrow. Should be a tough crowd.

I've sent Don some questions, and he's hoping to get the answers back to me tonight if nothing comes up.

John Pattison and I were privileged to sit in as objective observers on a phone conversation last week between Don and Barack Obama campaign members (along with others who I'm reluctant to name here, if only to respect their privacy). These were the primary focuses:

1. Abortion - Obama plans to decrease abortion rates through combatting the societal ills like fatherlessness and poverty.

2. Barna Group Poll - The Barna Research Group, which conducts polls and research directed at the Christian community, recently published a poll showing Obama leading among 18 out of 19 faith segments. The only faith segment Obama did not lead in were those described as "evangelical born-again Christians". Here's a breakdown of the Christian faith groups and their percentages:
Non-evangelical born-again Christians: 43% for Obama against 31% for McCain

Notional Christians: 44% for Obama against 28% for McCain

Catholics: 39% for Obama against 29% for McCain

Protestants: 43% for Obama against 34% for McCain

Evangelical born-again Christians: 17% for Obama against 61% for McCain

3. The Culture War - The discussion also touched on examining the rhetoric of the "Culture War" and the possibility of launching a website devoted to breaking down the cultural differences being used to drive Americans apart.

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Back to the Barna Group's poll. Obviously, there is a huge discrepancy between "evangelical born-again Christians" and "non-evangelical born-again Christians". Where mainstream polls link "evangelicals" together, the Barna Group asks nine additional questions to determine whether someone is "evangelical" or not. Here's the criteria directly from the site:

Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as "born again."

"Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."

Non-evangelical born again Christians meet the born again criteria described above, but not the evangelical criteria.

Notional Christians are those who consider themselves to be Christian but do not meet the born again criteria.

It's interesting to note the theological minutiae at play here. I'd be curious to see which one of those seven criteria causes the most dramatic swing.

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Obviously, Don's open support of Barack Obama will be drawing some fire.

But before you jump in on the criticism (like some other folks), take the time to hear Don's reasoning. I'm not suggesting it will or should change your mind...I'm just asking you to listen thoughtfully.

I expressed my concerns to Don, and he explained his position to me last week over the phone. As I said above, we'll be posting his responses to those concerns (and others) tonight or tomorrow.

(Update: Flying out to Colorado early this morning, Don didn't have time to respond. He says he'll get back to me in the next few days.)

In the meantime, here's Don discussing some aspects of his decision:

6 comments:

  1. I'm interested to see (or hear) what happens on this tour, it's exciting to think that there is a chance for some real dialogue involving faith and politics to take place.

    But I have to say I'm disappointed that all three speakers for the tour are men. It seems that the predominant issue is about Obama's pro-choice status. And while I understand that abortion is not only a "women's issue", I would appreciate hearing more thoughtful commentary from the female perspective.

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  2. Melody,

    I couldn't agree more on all points.

    One wonders if the Obama campaign is thinking about those evangelicals who are still uncomfortable sitting under the teaching of a woman. I kind of doubt that's what they're thinking - and it wouldn't be justified regardless.

    I also agree when you say that you would appreciate hearing more thoughtful commentary from the female perspective. No matter where one stands on the abortion debate, it is undeniable that the pro-life stance has traditionally been articulated by men. No wonder some women wonder if the "anti-choice" position is just another example of patriarchy.

    John

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  3. I must have been living in a cave because I did not even realize that Miller gave the benediction at the Democratic National Convention. I youTubed it (yes I use youTube as a verb) and I resonated a lot with the words of his prayer.

    From his interview, I would think Miller was an independent instead of a democrat. But the lines of politics are easily blurred these days. Is he an independent, simply supporting the democrats in this election?

    I honestly have mixed feelings about how involved Christians should be in politics. I grew up persuaded that God, in Derek Webb's words was a "white middle-class republican." I later saw how wrong I was, but the Democratic Party is also very, very flawed in terms of ethics. I guess we will see what happens with this tour!

    I just pray and hope that he's careful about this whole ordeal, but I think he knows that. :)

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  4. The Dem's have Don-- a winsome, intelligent, sane evangelical.

    And we Republicans have... uhm... uh.. uhm... uhm... D'oh!

    Sigh...


    In all seriousness, love the face Christianity at large is moving away from baptizing on party and demonizing the other.

    Both parties need godly influence subverting them from within.

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  5. John-It's always encouraging to have a smart person agree with you, so thanks for that. And I sure hope they aren't worried about "sitting uder the teaching of a woman" since most of the people I know who are still on the fence about Obama due to his stance on abortion are women. They need the demographic.

    Janelle-I agree with your concerns about Christians getting too involved in politics. It's a dangerous path. I've toyed with the idea of making the choice to abstain from voting. But I have become so tired of one party standing up and saying that they speak for me because we both go to church on Sunday.

    I don't believe that the republicans or the democrats are persuing God's plan for this world, but that's not their job. Their faith is in political structures. As a Christian, I think that God calls me to represent the poor & the oppressed in every area of my life, including my country's politics. And it seems to me that the first step in that process is to let our faith inform our politics and never let our politics inform our faith.

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  6. There is a new article on lifenews.com that says only 15 people showed up to their first event. I don't think most Christians are going to be fooled into thinking Obama is ever going to get the Democratic party to embrace more pro-life values. He isn't even moderately pro-life himself. Look at his voting record; it's about actions NOT words. What has he done? What, specifically, will he do? I have yet to hear.

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