People looking for signs of theological sanity in this land can take heart from the fact that only 33 pastors endorsed a presidential candidate as part of a “pulpit freedom” demonstration on September 28.
Barack Obama promised to practice a different kind of politics, a politics that would stick to the issues. Yet his campaign has produced an ad that shows an old photo of McCain, wearing an out-of-style suit and large glasses, in an effort to convey the message that McCain is an old, out-of-touch man, someone who doesn’t even know how to use the Internet or even send an e-mail message.
Described by the Los Angeles Times as the “preeminent student of the relationship between religion and American politics,”John Green has conducted surveys on religion for every presidential election since 1992.
Speakers at the Republican National Convention mentioned God 43 times; speakers at the Democratic Convention, 22 times. One thing was clear: American civil religion is alive and well. At both events God was regularly invoked as the guide and protector of American greatness.
The confetti and popping balloons had barely subsided at the end of the Republican National Convention when John McCain’s media-shy Southern Baptist pastor delivered a closing prayer bordering on a plea for God’s endorsement.
The blogosphere was abuzz with sermon snippets from Pentecostal and charismatic churches once attended by GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. In them, pastors declare that people who die without Christ “have a horrible, horrible surprise” awaiting them and refer to America as a “Christian nation.”
Reflecting on the “disestablishment” of the mainline Protestant churches, Walter Brueggemann once observed that those churches and their members are for the time being living in a kind of exile. He offered the further challenging and comforting observation that though exile entails humiliation and suffering, it is not necessarily a bad place to be.
When introducing the presidential forum at Saddleback Church last month, Rick Warren noted that the separation of church and state does not mean the separation of faith and politics. He was right about that. Warren or any other pastor is entitled—as the government is not—to ask Barack Obama and John McCain about their faith in Jesus and to judge them accordingly.
A veteran of Democratic Party politics and a former aide to representatives Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and James Clyburn (D., S.C.), Burns Strider was senior adviser and director of faith-based outreach for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.