The Wrong Kind of Christian? President Obama and Evangelical Voters

I found the article in today’s New York Times about Evangelical voters striking. The attitude of those mentioned in or interviewed for the article seems to be “anyone but Obama.” They would prefer a “big government Republican” to a “big government Democrat.” They would prefer a Mormon and a person with a history of infidelity to Obama. Why? Is he “the wrong kind of Christian” and if so, in what sense? Or is this just more evidence that Evangelicals really do believe that it is “by their fruits you will know them” and that they believe the relevant spiritual and moral fruit includes tax cuts for the rich and has nothing to do with either theology or fidelity to one’s spouse?

Yet more evidence that even conservative, so-called Bible-believing Christians are selective in their reading of the Bible, and in the importance they give to morality and theology of candidates, in ways that they deny being?

  • Anonymous Guest

    Normally I would say that one can’t, in good conscience, vote for any of them. You’ve accurately described the Republican field. As for Obama, it seems funny to highlight his marital fidelity when he’s a mass-murderer. “But he’s faithful to his wife!”

    In this election there is one candidate who is faithful to his wife, a Christian, and a consistent opponent of the Obama and Bush regimes’ programs of torture, mass-murder, domestic surveillance, AND bailouts for the banksters. Do I actually need to name him?

    • Gary

      Only problem is, he needs to zip it concerning pot and heroin legalization. Idea doesn’t sell in Iowa. If he feels that way, OK, but do not verbalize it. He needs to learn to talk alot and say nothing when asked controversial questions, as the other candidates do.

      • Anonymous Guest

        Gary – maybe; you have to give him points for consistency though. If supporting drug prohibition “goes without saying” for Christians, then why doesn’t alcohol prohibition? And if Christians could oppose prohibition of alcohol without being “pro alcoholism,” then can they not oppose prohibition of drugs without being “pro drug use”?

        • Gary

          Anon, I am not saying Paul doesn’t make sense, or that he isn’t consistent. Just saying to get elected, from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t pay to be too honest, and lay all your cards on the table at once. I find it funny, “If supporting drug prohibition “goes without saying” for Christians, then why doesn’t alcohol prohibition?” My answer….have you ever attended a good Catholic, Polish or German wedding reception? (Been to both, and it speaks for itself). I don’t know about evangelicals, but I bet they hit the sauce occassionally too. Actually, I’d vote for Paul, maybe. But the last time I wasted my vote, it was a vote for McCarthy. That didn’t do much good either. I think I may have been the only one to vote for him.

        • Just Sayin’

          “if Christians could oppose prohibition of alcohol without being “pro alcoholism,” then can they not oppose prohibition of drugs without being “pro drug use”?”

          Only if they accepted the comparison in the first place.

    • Cln_dhrty

      why is he a mass murderer?

      • Anonymous Guest

        “why is he a mass murderer?”

        Civilians killed in Iraq since Obama’s election: 14,649 – 16,104.
        Coalition forces killed since Obama’s election: 614 – 1,818.

        He has averaged at least 14 dead Iraqi civilians per day since his inauguration; only ONE DAY’S worth of the innocent dead would rank him among the top 50 serial killers–only 49 serial killers (who were neither medical professionals nor mafia hit men) claimed more than 14 victims total.

        Or was your question rhetorical?

        • Beau Quilter

          @beebe95c5f4696dbc20d0646ec91d56d:disqus 

          Of course, why didn’t we think of that! If Obama had shipped out all of the troops the moment he stepped into office, Iraq would now be the garden of Eden and the rest of us would be flying to Bhagdad for vacation!

          Beautiful logic!

  • Alex A Dalton

    James – I’m thinking about removing you from the list of blogs I read regularly. If your desire to have something negative to say about Evangelicals is so strong, and your reasoning skills are so poor, that you somehow deduce that preferring a Mormon to Obama is evidence of some sort of biased selective “spiritual” criterion for presidents, it is a waste of time to read your posts.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Alex, I would hate to lose a regular reader, but you’re going to have to help me out here. I am not sure what precisely your complaint is. Are you saying that, if we were dealing with a case where it were a Democratic candidate who was a Mormon or who had multiple affairs, and a Republican who was a Christian, those same voters mentioned in the article would not in that instance most likely say “vote for the moral candidate, or the Christian one”? If I have engaged in some sort of poor reasoning, please do help me to see where. I didn’t understand myself to have said what you claimed I did, and so I wonder whether there has been some misunderstanding.

  • Gary

    I should say I also voted for McGovern in 72. Not a good track record, so no one should take my advice. Same subject though… antiwar. But the majority of the people of the U.S. seem to like war, for some reason. Explain that from a “Christian” nation. Only conclusion I can come to, is the OT takes precedent over the NT for them.

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  • Alex A Dalton

    James, you wrote “They would prefer a ‘big government Republican’ to a ‘big government Democrat.’ They would prefer a Mormon and a person with a history of infidelity to Obama. Why?”

    And then you go on to give us two reasons:

    1. Obama is the wrong sort of Christian
    2. Selective adherence to principles in scripture.

    Really? How about considering the fact that Evangelicals are simply not happy with Obama’s record as President? Or how about the simple fact that Obama is a Democrat, and they are Republicans and would prefer to have a Republican in office?

    None of the statements quoted, or the observations made by yourself, make either of the options you gave more probable. Let me know if I need to clarify…You seem to advocate critical thought on your blog but lately I see a tendency to hastily grab anything you can and use it as a tool to bludgeon the percieved opposition.

    • Just Sayin’

      1. Obama is the wrong sort of Christian2. Selective adherence to principles in scripture.

      Bang on both times!  That’s precisely why many American evangelicals don’t like him.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Alex, I have no doubt that there are some Evangelical Republicans who would view Obama in the terms that you do. Indeed, some Democrats are not happy with the president’s record either.

      But would you agree that there are some who would be happy to tout the Christian credentials of a candidate if he were associated with a party they like, and conversely, would be happy to depict Obama as being a Muslim rather than have to acknowledge that he shares the same faith as them but not the same political and economic views?

      I certainly did not mean to generalize about Evangelicals or Republicans, but was referring to the sorts of views expressed in the New York Times article to which I linked in the original post. 

      To put it another way, is it your sense that I am completely wrong about all Evangelical Republicans, or that I gave the impression that all were characterized by the views I spoke of?

    • Beau Quilter

      @b2245449a0a87c3fe07c5adb29fd5354:disqus 
      What???

      You quote Jim as saying “They would prefer a ‘big government Republican’ to a ‘big government Democrat.’”

      Then you say, ” how about [considering] the simple fact that Obama is a Democrat, and they are Republicans and would prefer to have a Republican in office?”

      … um … what exactly are you saying that James hasn’t already said.

      Now, if you’re suggesting that Evangelicals vote against Obama purely on the basis of his record as president, then you clearly are not listening to very many Evangelicals. 

      As a prime example, there’s the evangelical Republican candidate who just ran an ad accusing Obama of running a “war on religion”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Martin Luther is quoted as saying he would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian, and I think that is the issue for the evangelical voter. While they may have wanted a Bachman or Snatorum more, electability is always an important issue and is why Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan never took off. While Obama is an upstanding moral charachter in his personal life and checks the box that says protestant, the evangelical crowd does have positions on homosexuality and abortion that the president isn’t in line with. Their is an attachemnt to with the modern evangelical movement in America and America’s democratic capitalist tradition (not that it is America’s only tradstion) that O seems out of step with. Seeing Obama’s last chuch in action probably didn’t impress, and certailnly the guy doesn’t where his faith as prominently as Jimmy Carter.

    Frankly the part about this election that makes me happiest is the lack of attention the evangelical issues are getting. I would like to think that marital fidelity, homosexuality, personal faith and abortion will be local issues and not the standards of American political discourse they where in the past. Perry is only embracing them as a last hope to get support. I would be willing to bet both Gingrinch and Rommney are pretty un-interested in all thoses issues and if they win, none of them will be in debt to the moral majority set.

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  • Paul D.

    I’m with Anonymous Guest. Obama is the wrong sort of Christian because he is a party to mass murder, torture, and kidnapping among other things. Mind you, Newt and Romney would do no different in his place.

    Also, I’m not American, so I have no need to express any support for the American democratic system or the general righteousness of US foreign policy.

  • Alex A Dalton

    James: But would you agree that there are some who would be happy to tout the Christian credentials of a candidate if he were associated with a party they like, and conversely, would be happy to depict Obama as being a Muslim rather than have to acknowledge that he shares the same faith as them but not the same political and economic views?Alex:  Sure James, but this would be a red herring. This has nothing to do with the statements of the evangelicals in the article you cited to make your point, unless you are a mind-reader. There is no indiciation from any of the quotes in the article that these evangelicals hold those views (and there’s nothing particularly troublesome about the first view). So the point I raised still stands.  
    James: I certainly did not mean to generalize about Evangelicals or Republicans, but was referring to the sorts of views expressed in the New York Times article to which I linked in the original post. Alex: From the article, we know that Plaats is undecided on which Rep. candidate he will vote for, Romney is percieved as “too slick”, an advocate for “big-government”, and his Mormonism is troubling to some. Many don’t trust Gingrich bc of his behavior. Other than Peitzman’s comment that Romney is better than Obama, there’s not much about Obama at all in this article to justify your comments.

    • Alex A Dalton

      James: But would you agree that there are some who would be happy to tout the Christian credentials of a candidate if he were associated with a party they like, and conversely, would be happy to depict Obama as being a Muslim rather than have to acknowledge that he shares the same faith as them but not the same political and economic views?Alex:  Sure James, but this would be a red herring. This has nothing to do with the statements of the evangelicals in the article you cited to make your point, unless you are a mind-reader. There is no indiciation from any of the quotes in the article that these evangelicals hold those views (and there’s nothing particularly troublesome about the first view). So the point I raised still stands.  James: I certainly did not mean to generalize about Evangelicals or Republicans, but was referring to the sorts of views expressed in the New York Times article to which I linked in the original post. Alex: From the article, we know that Plaats is undecided on which Rep. candidate he will vote for, Romney is percieved as “too slick”, an advocate for “big-government”, and his Mormonism is troubling to some. Many don’t trust Gingrich bc of his behavior. Other than Peitzman’s comment that Romney is better than Obama, there’s not much about Obama at all in this article to justify your comments.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    My point, again, was simply that some of those who are likely to consider Mormon beliefs objectionable in most other circumstances seem willing to overlook them in a Republican candidate, and those who tend to consider being a Christian as so important as to trump everything else when it comes to other situations (e.g. choosing a handyman from the Christian businesses directory) seem to discard that principle if the Christian candidate is from the “wrong” party.

    Again, I am trying to avoid generalizing. There are definitely Evangelicals who are consistent in saying that Romney’s Mormonism and Gingrich’s infidelity are major issues for them. My point is that some Evangelicals regard the attempt to downplay doctrinal differences for an emphasis on the “fruit” of right praxis as something that liberals do which they reject, and yet some of them have been willing to use that very same approach to claim that Romney is acceptable.

    My point was not about Evangelicals in general or Christians in general or Republicans in general, but about those who are willing forego their principles when it is politically expedient. And I suspect that that is something that many liberals and conservatives could agree in criticizing.

  • Alex A Dalton

    James: My point, again, was simply that some of those who are likely to
    consider Mormon beliefs objectionable in most other circumstances seem
    willing to overlook them in a Republican candidate

    Alex: Very muddled reasoning. Right, they are willing to overlook them as rendering someone unworthy of their vote, particularly if the alternative is Obama. From this, it doesn’t follow that a) said Evangelicals theologically prefer Mormonism to Obama’s brand of Christianity or b) said Evangelicals selectively interpret scriptures. So again, what’s the issue?

    You then go on to make more (apparently accidental) ridiculous generalizations (e.g., “tend to consider being a Christian…choosing a handyman…”). From what study did we derive these tendencies? And on what basis do you assert that these Evangelicals from the article have these tendencies? And if I choose a handyman from a Christian business directory, does it even follow that being a Christian trumps *anything* at all? Would it follow that I’m also the sort of person who would choose a handyman *inferior* in his trade, just because he’s Christian? No, all else being equal, I might choose a Christian handyman for any number of reasons though.

    At the end of all this, I’m not sure who your point was even directed towards since you deny that the target is any larger body, but your points also clearly do not apply to those mentioned in the article.

    May I ask if you have any formal training in logic? And I am not asking that question to be rude. There are just several gaping holes in your reasoning. BTW, I don’t even consider myself an evangelical, nor do I vote or even care about politics.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I do not have formal training in logic. Feel free to respond by saying that it shows. :-)

    It may be that the NY Times article got me thinking about people I have had conversations with and read things by previously, whose views may ultimately be different from those explicitly mentioned in the article.

    So if it turns out that this post included poor logic and free association, will you give up on my blog altogether, or do I still have a shot at trying to do better in the future? :-)

  • Alex A Dalton

    James – I appreciate your humility and for that I will continue reading.

  • Susan

    As a Catholic, my main reason for opposing Obama’s presidency is his stalwart support for abortion and abortion providers.

    All the main Republican candidates are willing to put strong limits on abortion, and I’d rather have a Mormon in office who is right on this fundamental issue than a “Christian” who sees babies as a punishment and supports Planned Parenthood 100%.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=662663242 Richard Williams

    could someone just list the various social issues that could make obama the wrong kind of christian?

    i see abortion, the wars, homosexual marriage listed thus far.

    i’m not a social conservative so i really don’t understand people’s depth of passion for these things, is there any way to see them in a ordered list of how strongly or how many people are involved in them?
    i read the news and don’t know how to gauge the passion that people bring to each issue. 

    they just kind of blend into a general conservative mindset for me, without much distinction, i’m afraid.

    • Susan

      Another big one for me is education funding – property taxes are not the way to do it, and government schools are failing our children.  Vouchers are necessary to provide a quality education to all children. 

      Democrats are beholden to unions, and this clouds their judgment when it comes to the voucher issue – who cares if the impoverished child gets educated, as long as the teacher keeps her government job and pension.

      Also, the push for contraception.  Morally reprehensible.

      Democrats in my state do things like try to outlaw crisis pregnancy centers.

      Democrats in my state defend partial birth abortion.

      Tort reform – democrats decry the rise in medical costs, but ignore a major underlying reason, massive torts, because they are beholden to the personal injury attorneys, who make massive profits off of others’ misfortune.

      • Anonymous

        i’m not particularly interested in abortion as a topic, but in the few days that have pasted since i read this thread i have come to think about the passion with you express the issue. is there a place online where anti-abortionists talk about related issues? capital punishment, contraception have already been mentioned. my particular interest is just in reading how people express these strong convictions as they relate to establishing priorities.

        for example, J.McG wrote below:
        quote:

        A someone who can appreciate being concerned for the unborn, it has always seemed to me that the other party tends to be pro-life only in the sense of caring for the unborn. Once you are born, you are on your own, sink or swim, succeed in business or live in poverty, obey the law or face execution. ”

        anti-abortionists in general, as social conservatives, are anti-statists as well, so they tend not to support govt interference in the marketplace and therefore oppose mandatory seat belts and child seats as infringement of individual rights/responsibilities.

        anyhow, where can i read more comments like these? i’m intrigued. 

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    A someone who can appreciate being concerned for the unborn, it has always seemed to me that the other party tends to be pro-life only in the sense of caring for the unborn. Once you are born, you are on your own, sink or swim, succeed in business or live in poverty, obey the law or face execution. And so while I understand the desire to support a candidate who is concerned about the unborn, it doesn’t seem to me obvious that one should them choose one who ignores the well-being of the born.

    Again, this is not a criticism of Christians being concerned about abortion. It is a criticism of supporting candidates who are opposed to abortion and yet seem not to be “pro-life” in other important respects.

    Why do Christians so often choose to align their votes and values with one party rather than put forward an independent candidate whose values actually reflect genuinely Christian emphases across the board?

  • Susan

    Without life, nothing else matters.  And to say that Democrats will feed the poor is disingenuous when they are unabashed about promoting policies that eliminate poverty by eliminating the poor.

    The party that claims to do so much for African Americans supports policies which see half of them eliminated before birth. 

    Concerned for the unborn – that’s a little mild.  There’s genocide going on, and we’re patting ourselves on the back about our environmentalism and our free lunch programs.

    Life is fundamental – in a good way.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Again, why engage in a “lesser of two evils” argument or denigration of the other party as worse, instead of adopting the stance that your principles demand that you support a candidate and/or a party that is different than both of the major parties in the U. S.? Why accept that the best we can do is choose the party we dislike least, rather than taking a stand on priinciples? Why allow the impression to be given that what Christianity means in the political, economic and social arenas is Republicanism?

    • Susan

      And to your point, James, about supporting a third party candidate – I am all for it!  I am not loyal to the GOP, only to the unborn, and to my principles as a committed Christian.

  • Susan

    James, if I could find a Democrat who was pro-life, and anti-death penalty, I would strongly consider voting for him.  I would definitely vote for him if his opponent were not pro-life.

    Life is fundamental – if you think its alright to kill the unborn in the womb, all self-congratulation regarding the corporal works of mercy is meaningless.


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