The presidential candidate for the Democrats held a closed-door meeting in a friend’s law office in downtown Chicago with about 30 Christian evangelicals. In typical Bush style, Obama insisted the discussions be kept secret and remain off the record. He tried unsuccessfully to prevent anyone from making statements to the press. That didn’t work and slowly the word got out. Sounds like a Republican tactic to me.
Obama’s campaign concealed the names of the attending preachers at the June 10 meeting from the press, but interviews with some of the participants gives us a good idea of what went on in secret.
One of the ministers attending the meeting was African-American Kirbvjon Caldwell. Caldwell presides over the largest Methodist congregation in Houston-based Windsor Village. He was a former bond dealer before he saw the economic light of opportunities in preaching the Word of God. He has always been at the forefront of black supporters for Bush. He introduced Bush at the 2000 Republican National Convention, gave the benedictions for Bush’s 2001 and 2006 inaugurations and guided Bush’s daughter, Jenna, through her wedding vows. In return for Caldwell’s support, Bush has given his missions large, federal faith-based grants.
Another unnamed minister, comparing Obama to Sen. John McCain, questioned the lack of political commitment of McCain. He reminded Obama that McCain was a divorced man, demonstrating his lack of religious commitment. He said McCain swore on the Senate floor and that he seemed to be uncomfortable with public expression of his faith. Steven Strange, a right-wing Pentecostal, noted the comment “seemed to be saying that if Christians can support a flawed candidate like John McCain, the implication was, why couldn’t they support a candidate with flawed policies like Obama? Sounds like Obama might just steal away the Republican Christian base.
According to Warren Smith, editor of the “Evangelical Press News Service” that will never happen, “McCain won‘t have any trouble convincing evangelicals he’s on their side.” He said, “the only reason they’re holding back their support is to see how much they can get out of him.” Typical politics. Support the highest bidder regardless of their moral principles.
And maybe he is right. In a Washington Post/ABC poll taken among white evangelicals in June, McCain had a 68 to 22 percent advantage over Obama.
The attendance of Steven Strange at the meeting really should be an indication the Christian right is jumping off Bush’s political ship sent by God.
Strange is a multimillionaire. He publishes an evangelical magazine, “Charisma,” and signed on to the World Evangelical Alliance. Their goal is to convert all Jews and everyone else to Christianity. However, unlike Bush’s Republican method of conversion by force, they preach conversion by persuasion.
Time Magazine labeled Strange as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. Strange has been a Bush favorite ever since he published “The Faith of George W. Bush” in 2003. Stang said “We didn’t write it to help Bush, but it no doubt helped elect him.”
Strange is also close to Pastor John Hagee. Hagee endorsed McCain and McCain accepted the endorsement. But after criticism from the Democrats he later rejected Hageee's support. The Democrats jumped on McCain and noted that Hagee said the Catholic Church conspired with Nazis against the Jews and that Hurricane Katrina was god’s retribution for homosexual sin. Hagee has also made demeaning remarks about owning slaves and women’s rights.
After the meeting, Obama pledged to expand Bush’s faith-based initiatives and form the council for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships. These partnerships would be a conduit for federal funds from the paychecks of the taxpayer to the golden pockets of the ministries with their own political agenda.
Obama said federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And the money will only go to those programs that actually work. If that’s the case, why not just give the money directly to the secular projects that work?
It all sounds like the George W. Bush strategy of trading federal grant money for the evangelical votes. But why shouldn’t Obama follow in George’s footsteps? The God squad worked for Bush. I’m sure it will work for Obama.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.thefarsidechronicles.com.