Obama Wooing Conservative Christians, Angering "Religious Right"

Another day, another story on how Democrats are making inroads among the religious right (broadly defined here to encompass evangelicals): John Broder's Tuesday piece, "Obama Courting Evangelicals Once Loyal to Bush."



Back on June 9, the Times ran a front-page story looking at the issue from the other end - "McCain Extends His Outreach, but Evangelicals Are Still Wary." Both have positive resonance for the Obama campaign.



Broder wrote for Tuesday's edition:


Mr. Obama and his advisers are seeking support not only among relatively moderate evangelicals like [pastor Susan] Speakman, who voted for Mr. Bush in 2000 but backed Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, in 2004 because of her opposition to the war. They are also trying to take advantage of signs that some conservative Christians are rethinking their politics, urged along by a new generation of leadership and intensified concern about issues including climate change, genocide, AIDS and poverty.


Between now and November, the Obama forces are planning as many as 1,000 house parties and dozens of Christian rock concerts, gatherings of religious leaders, campus visits and telephone conference calls to bring together voters of all ages motivated by their faith to engage in politics. It is the most intensive effort yet by a Democratic candidate to reach out to self-identified evangelical or born-again Christians and to try to pry them away from their historical attachment to the Republican Party.


Broder seemed to concede a lot to Obama in this paragraph:


Mr. Obama is building his appeal in part on calls to heal political rifts and address human suffering. He is also drawing on his own characteristics and story, including his embrace of Christianity as an adult, a facility with biblical language and imagery and comfort in talking about how his religious beliefs animate his approach to public life.


The Times again rode to the defense of Obama against "false" attacks:


But the subject of religion has become entangled in the false rumor that he is a Muslim. And it has been complicated by the effects of his association with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose brand of black liberation theology brought religion, race and patriotism into the campaign in ways not helpful to Mr. Obama. He also faces significant hurdles in appealing to religious voters because of his tolerance for abortion and same-sex marriage.


Obama more than merely "tolerates" abortion. As an Illinois legislator in 2002, he voted against legislation to protect babies who survived late-term abortions because he did not want to concede their personhood, a position even the abortion-rights group NARAL didn't endorse.


In contrast with the moderate tone Broder takes with Obama's appeal to the religious left, his description of religious conservativesis littered with labels:


It appears that Mr. Obama's religious outreach efforts will be met by an increasingly intense reaction from the religious right.


James C. Dobson, one of the most prominent evangelical leaders on the right, accused Mr. Obama last week of employing a deviant reading of Scripture and a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution" to justify his theology and world view.


The lobbying arm of another leading conservative Christian organization, the Family Research Council, began running advertisements last week highlighting Mr. Obama's support for abortion rights and accusing him of hypocrisy for saying that he stands for family responsibility.