November 4, 2008 | 6:13 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Christians last night, looking for God’s mercy and guidance as Americans prepared to vote, began a 24-hour prayer vigil. Many are as concerned with a state ballot measure—Proposition 8 from right here in California—as they are with the presidential election.
There is, of course, debate among Christians, even socially conservative evangelicals, about who they think would best represent their values. (The Pray Vote Pray shirt also comes in red.) The majority of Protestant ministers like John McCain. So do most people in the pews. But on his blog, Rob J presents a convincing “conservative Christian case for supporting Obama.”
You can also add Don Miller, who wrote “Blue Like Jazz” and delivered an invocation at the Democratic National Convention, to that list of youngish evangelicals who have made the move from the right to the left, at least for this election. Miller explains his journey from Reagan Republican to Obama Democrat, from whitebread childhood on the Gulf Coast to Oregonian liberalism here. It’s a fairly long blog post, good and personal, but this excerpt after the jump will give you the gist:
Our theology insinuated that shortly after original sin, once Adam and Eve at the apple, they registered as Democrats and went on with their lives, trying to create large governments that would enable lazy people through expensive social programs. We believed we were right and they were wrong, our ideas were Biblical and their ideas were pagan. And we did not know, exactly, who “they” were. Our church wasn’t on a bus line, and our church programs catered to a slim demographic, and so “they” didn’t come to our church. We were all of the same race, the same theological disposition. Our conservative, moral ethos transcended politics. We looked down on Methodists and Catholics because they drank and danced. In fact, when one of the elders at our church visited a western bar with his wife and another couple, presumably to participate in a line-dancing event, our pastor had him paged at the dance hall and told him to meet him in his office, immediately at the church. He was forced to resign as an elder, scolded by the pastor and later committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and three children, along with a grieving, confused church.
Having met the enemy, I discovered the enemy wasn’t who I thought they were. They were flawed, even as we were flawed, but they were no less patriotic, and no less good. And what’s more, they weren’t out to get us like my conservative friends had told me. I began to see, honestly, the far conservative right, the radical right (not the balanced, objective right) as being paranoid. The advertisements on conservative radio talk shows were about guns and alarm systems.
I wondered how I could be made to feel so prejudiced against Democrats. And then I took a hard look at the culture I was raised in. I realized every church I’d ever attended had been an insular community. Every church had been far off in the suburbs, off a bus line, protected from the poor and marginalized and, quite honestly, racial minorities. It’s not that these churches did this intentionally. I don’t believe that. The decisions to reside in the suburbs had to do with property value and opportunity. But the end result was an insulated existence.
A few days ago I did an interview with a writer for The Today Show, and after the interview she asked how it was evangelicals could come to believe the many lies being spread about Barack Obama. In answer I came back to the insular nature of the suburban church. “When we’ve never met people,” I said, “we are easily manipulated into demonizing them. We are easily made to fear.” And I’ll add there has been a great deal of fear in this campaign. I just received a letter, yesterday, from a prominent church leader in Georgia that accused Michelle Obama, who I have met and found to be a lovely and humble woman, of being be a racist. This was not a small-town backwards preacher, this was a best-selling Christian author, who, honestly, should be ashamed of himself.
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