Obama and the Churchgoing

In South Carolina, the more frequently Democratic primary voters said they went to church, the more they were likely to vote for Barack Obama. This represents something of a departure from New Hampshire, where he won both the most and the least frequent attenders. What I think it mostly means is that black church mobilization was working well for Obama in Palmettoland. It would be interesting to know if non-black voters (as the CNN table has it) skewed the same way when it came to church attendance, but the cross-tabs weren’t posted. I’m inclined to doubt it.


Since the Los Angeles Times reported on MIke Huckabee’s fundraising woes–staff cuts, minimal ad buys in Florida–a few days ago there’s been little sign that things are picking up for him. What I’ve been puzzling over is why. Sure, the Washington Post described the rank and file of the religious right as “poor, uneducated and easy to command” ten years ago, but it wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. If “values voters” are quite well off, thank you, why aren’t they ponying up for the guy who is carrying their standard? Has this segment of the GOP coalition simply never been looked to for political contributions, as opposed to votes?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Protestants object to rosaries in Anglican cathedral LONDON (RNS) The dean of the Anglican St. Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin says his church will continue selling rosary beads despite opposition from Protestants in neighboring Northern Ireland who claim it should not peddle “things that are Roman Catholic.” The Very Rev. Robert MacCarthy told the Belfast Telegraph newspaper that the cathedral has been selling rosary beads for 37 years and the business is now worth more than $100,000 a year. Wallace Thompson, secretary of the Northern Ireland-based Evangelical Protestant Society, insists that “in a Protestant church, I don’t think they should be selling things that are Roman Catholic.” A Protestant church such as St. Patrick’s, he said, “should stock Protestant literature, not things like that.” The Evangelical Protestant Society, which claims around 3,000 supporters, is one of the most hard-line anti-Catholic organizations operating in Northern Ireland _ a province where religious fervor and politics have often proved a turbulent mix.

Killers hooked on crocheting as a `small part’ of atonement

c. 2008 Religion News Service SALEM, Ore. _ Pepe Rivas uses his thick fingers to work a plastic crochet hook through some yarn as he sits in a folding chair at the end of a drafty concrete room. Like the two dozen men sitting around him, Rivas, 38, didn’t pick up a crochet hook until a few years ago. But his rough hands now move expertly, knotting and tying as he transforms a sagging ball of yarn into an airy scarf.

GUEST COMMENTARY: The religious test failed by voters and candidates

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Eight years ago, when George W. Bush declared that Jesus was his favorite philosopher, suppose someone had asked a follow-up question. “Mr. Bush, Jesus invited his followers to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek. How will that guide your foreign policy, especially in the event, say, of an attack on the United States?” Or: “Gov. Bush, your favorite philosopher expressed concern for the tiniest sparrow. How will that sentiment be reflected in your administration’s environmental policies?” Or: “Jesus called his followers to care for `the least of these.’

Jim Martin: Fire John Gibson

Jim Martin over at the America magazine blog takes issue with Fox’s John Gibson’s comments following the death of actor Heath Ledger: Ledger’s most famous role was playing Ennis Del Mar, the gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination. In the film, he says aloud to his dead friend, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Yesterday on his radio show, Mr. Gibson played that audio clip and said, “Aaah, well, I guess he found out how to quit you!” He later called Ledger a “weirdo.” You can hear it here: “Gibson on Ledger” Apparently, a person’s death is laughable, and he forfeits his dignity as a person, if he accepted a film role as a gay man.

Preaching without Politics?

has an interesting interview with mega-church pastor Joel Osteen who has
remained a neutral figure in the presidential election. While Osteen yields
enormous power from his 40,000 plus congregation and television following, he
does not believe it prudent to mix faith and politics. Osteen: "If one of the
presidential candidates were to attend, they certainly deserve honor. I think
we’d make an exception on that. I think we say we don’t let them speak because,
well, who wouldn’t want to come to speak to 40,000 people here?

On the Other Hand

Focus on the Family’s new online candidate guide is must-see for anyone following religion and the campaign. As Michael Scherer points out on Time Magazine’s Swampcast blog, the thing amounts to a kick in the rear for Mike Huckabee and a covert endorsement of Mitt Romney. (McCain gets serious criticism on campaign finance, though moderated by praise on abortion.) Apparently, Focus added some praise for Huckabee after catching hell for stinting on it–and that’s what you’ll see. In any event, this is pure three-legged-stool analysis, with Romney anointed as the only candidate on three legs. To me, however, the most interesting statement comes at the end of the Romney clip, where Tom Minnery, Focus Action’s senior vice president of government and public policy, says, “Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith, and I appreciate his acknowledging that.”


My take-away from the oh-so-genteel Republican debate last night is that we’re headed for a McCain-Huckabee ticket. If the GOP is, as Beltway folks like to say, a three-legged stool, that would give them two of the three (the foreign policy and the religious conservatives), leaving Romney with the third (economic conservatives). I presume that Huckabee would take the VP nod under any circumstances, but McCain’s sweet-tempered question of him (in the candidates-ask-each-other segment) about the impact of the “Fair Tax” on the poor seemed the perfect expression of an alliance in the making, with McCain sending out the signal that he too cares about the least among us. The GOP money guys will never forgive McCain for his unorthodoxy on tax cuts and campaign finance reform, but South Carolina showed that evangelicals don’t hold his 2000 outburst against those “agents of intolerance” against him. With Huckabee out mobilizing the church crowd, he only becomes more formidable.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Creationists launch scientific journal (RNS) Answers in Genesis, the Christian ministry that founded the $27 million Creation Museum in Kentucky last year, has now launched an online technical journal to publish studies consistent with its biblical views. The Answers Research Journal will disseminate research conducted by creationist theologians and scientists “that are consistent with the biblical account of origins.” Ken Hamm, president of Answers in Genesis, said submissions will be peer- reviewed, but the journal’s guidelines discourage asking non-creationists to conduct those reviews. The journal is needed because of academic bias in most scientific journals against creationists, Hamm said. “As soon as you overtly say it’s to do with creation, they say it’s not science and refuse to publish it,” he said.

COMMENTARY: Combatting, communicating and creating at Sundance

c. 2008 Religion News Service PARK CITY, Utah _ I’m writing from Sundance 2008, and opening night illustrates why some religious folks hate this film festival while others love it. The “combatants,” Christians who bemoan the deterioration of American civilization as reflected in today’s films, will be disgusted that Sundance opened with the dark comedy “In Bruges.” It tells the suspenseful, twisted tale of two London hit men ordered to take a forced vacation in Bruges, Belgium, and how their subsequent time in exile goes awry. Geoffrey Gilmore, the director of the Sundance Festival said, “In many ways, `In Bruges’ is a quintessential Sundance film _ it’s brutal, philosophical, funny, and totally original … .” “It’s about killing people,” he added, “but it’s funny.” The idea that killing can be an entertaining or funny proposition goes to the heart of what many religious people find appalling about today’s media, which they see as desensitized to the violence permeating our nation.

Jesus wants your vote _ and he needs a running mate

c. 2008 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ He walked on water, he turned water to wine, and now he wants to be your candidate for president. That’s right, it’s Jesus, ready to lead the free world after President Bush leaves the White House next year. There’s only one hitch: he doesn’t have a platform. Or, for that matter, a running mate.

Jesus wants your vote _ and he needs a running mate

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In spite of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder that have nagged her since she was a teenager, 20-year-old Krissee is determined to keep the self-destructive manifestations of both conditions in check. It hasn’t been easy, says Krissee, who asked that her last name not be used. “To this day, I still want to do it,” she said. “It” was pulling out her hair, a strand at a time, until she was essentially bald.

The hardest job in the world

Episcopal bishop keeps her cool in the hot seat RNS’ Dan Burke writes about Episcopal presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in this week’s full text article, linked above. Quote: “She has the hardest job in the world,” said Diana Butler Bass, an Episcopalian and author of “Christianity for the Rest of Us,” who had high praise for Jefferts Schori’s leadership. “What a terrible time to come into a job.”

Mercury Caution as Lent Approaches

Just in time for Lent-which starts Feb. 6-Oceana, a Washington-based conservation group, has issued a new report called “Hold the Mercury: How to Avoid Mercury When Buying Fish.” The group notes in its news release that the food of choice for practicing Catholics on Lenten Fridays could have mercury levels that pose health risks. So, they suggest holding the tuna. “If seafood is on the Lent menu, wild salmon or tilapia might be a safer choice so women and kids can get the nutritional benefits of fish without the risks,” recommends Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s senior campaign director.