Your GetReligionistas do not pay much attention to the denominational press, but I still read or scan most of the coverage that comes out of those newsrooms. Every now and then you see quotes and information that you simply don’t see anywhere else. And sometimes, information from column (a) connects with information from column (b).
Take, for example, the story that came from the Baptist left the other day in the wake of the “Potomac Primary” up here in greater D.C. Associated Baptist Press reporter Robert Marus focused part of his story — drawing cheers in GetReligionLand — on the role that religion is playing in the hotter than hot Democratic race for the White House between Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Thus, we learn:
(Obama) won among all Maryland faith groups other than Roman Catholics and Jews. But while Clinton had won Catholics by large margins in earlier contests, she only edged her rival 48-45 percent among the state’s significant Catholic population.
Obama, meanwhile, beat Clinton decisively (61-31 percent) among Democrats who attend religious services weekly or more often. Among those who said they worship more often than weekly, his advantage was even greater: 67 percent to Clinton’s 20 percent.
Clinton still edged Obama among the most faithful Catholics, but she led by less than 10 percentage points.
So that is an interesting mixed signal. Obama seemed to be winning the “pew gap” among Democrats, with the people who attend worship the most. Yet Hillary was still taking the “most faithful Catholics.” You have to ask: How is that term being defined? What issues get tied to that word “faithful”?
Meanwhile, over on the right side of the Baptist aisle, Tom Strode of Baptist Press offered a feature focusing on public-square specialist Richard Land’s views on one of the hot news stories of the current political cycle — attempts by Democrats to increase the faith content of their campaigns in order to reach out to people in pews.
You will not be surprised where Land goes with this topic — pronto.
Talk isn’t enough on the big issue, he says.
… Land said Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are much more comfortable talking about their faith than were Al Gore and John Kerry, the Democrats’ 2000 and 2004 nominees. For now, however, the divide remains on abortion — Democrats support abortion rights in their platform, while Republicans have a pro-life plank in theirs.
“[A]s long as there is a bright-line distinction between the two parties when it comes to the issue of when an unborn citizen’s life can be ended and under what circumstances it can be ended, there’s not going to be a lot of shifting in the so-called values voters,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Values voters” include not only evangelical Christians but traditional mainline Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics as well, Land said.
This leads to the quote that caught my attention and, frankly, I am surprised that this hasn’t shown up in mainstream coverage (at least, I have not seen it). You see, the quote involves a senator from Arizona and Dr. James Dobson and the later’s pledge to sit out the election if John McCain is the GOP nominee.
“Look, I love Dr. Dobson,” Land said. “I have great respect for Dr. Dobson. But it’s been my observation that it’s very difficult to lead conservatives where conservatives don’t want to be led. It’s like trying to herd tomcats who haven’t been neutered. They’re going to decide for themselves.”
There “would have been a significant depression of conservative evangelical voting” if Rudy Giuliani, who supports abortion and homosexual rights, had been the GOP nominee, Land said. “But John McCain has been reliably pro-life his entire congressional career — though not a spotless record, certainly a very reliable record.
“And where he’s weakest among evangelicals is on his economic views,” Land said. “If you were going to prioritize among evangelicals, their social views are first; their foreign policy views are second; and their economic views are third. They vote against their pocketbook all the time and have demonstrated that they do so.”
And there you have it — the divide between cultural conservatives and Libertarian conservatives in a nice, crunchy soundbite.
Which brings us back to the Democrats. If there is a pew gap between Obama and the Clintons (and the few numbers we have suggest that there is), then what is the content of that gap? Is it linked to any particular issues? Just asking.