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 McCain3. 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.
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
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.
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: