Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama's Religion Outreach

Obama's campaign thinks they have a real opportunity to attract younger Evangelicals, and they are taking steps to get these voters:

The “Joshua Generation Project” - a name based on the biblical story of Joshua and his generation, which led the Israelites into the Promised Land – aims to reach out to young people of faith on moral issues such as poverty, Darfur, climate change, and the Iraq war, according to Christian Broadcasting Network’s The Brody File.

“There's unprecedented energy and excitement for Obama among young evangelicals and Catholics,” said a source close to the Obama campaign to CBN’s David Brody on Friday. “The Joshua Generation project will tap into that excitement and provide young people of faith opportunities to stand up for their values and move the campaign forward.'"

The campaign acknowledges that some young faith voters will automatically rule out Obama because of his pro-abortion rights stance, but it hopes others will come aboard when they hear about other values which they see “eye to eye” with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

"Whatever you think of the 'Joshua Generation Project,' you have to give the campaign their due because they are making concerted efforts to NOT ignore faith voters,” Brody commented. “In my reporting, I can tell you this is not a contrived effort. The folks behind this believe in not only the mission of winning over faith voters to Obama but the larger mission of not ignoring faith voters when it comes to politics."



Read it all here. As on eof the first steps in this project, Obama met earlier this week with several Evangelical leaders:

Barack Obama discussed Darfur, the Iraq war, gay rights, abortion and other issues Tuesday with Christian leaders, including conservatives who have been criticized for praising the Democratic presidential candidate.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, a prominent black clergyman who heads a Dallas megachurch, said Obama took questions, listened to participants and discussed his "personal journey of faith."

The discussion "went absolutely everywhere," Jakes told The Associated Press, and "just about every Christian stripe was represented in that room."

Jakes, who does not endorse candidates and said he also hopes to meet with Republican presidential candidate John McCain, said some participants clearly have political differences with Obama. The senator's support for abortion rights and gay rights, among other issues, draws opposition from religious conservatives. Some conservatives have criticized Jakes for praising Obama.

Jakes said the meeting, at a law firm's offices, seemed designed to prompt a wide discussion rather than to result in commitments from either Obama or those attending. Others familiar with the meeting said some participants agreed to attend only because it would be private.

Rich Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella organization for evangelical churches and ministries, said Obama asked participants to share "anything that's on your mind that is of concern to you."

"I think it's important to point out this isn't a group of people who are endorsing Obama," Cizik said in an interview. "People were asked for their insider wisdom and understanding of the religious community."

Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for the Rev. Franklin Graham, said Graham attended and asked Obama whether "he thought Jesus was the way to God, or merely a way." DeMoss declined to discuss Obama's response.

Graham, who succeeded his father as head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, found the senator "impressive" and "warm," DeMoss said.

"He feels that dialogue with someone who may be president is useful whether or not you agree with them on everything or anything," DeMoss said. Graham expects to soon meet with Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Joshua Dubois, the Obama campaign's director of faith outreach, said the meeting included "prominent evangelicals and other faith leaders" who "discussed policy issues and came together in conversation and prayer." Similar sessions will occur "in the months to come," he said.

About 30 people attended, the campaign said, but it released only three names: the Rev. Stephen Thurston, head of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., a historically black denomination; the Rev. T. Dewitt Smith, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., which was home to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders; and Bishop Phillip Robert Cousin Sr., an A.M.E. clergyman and former NAACP board member.

Two sources familiar with the meeting, but who spoke on background because the session was private, said others attending included conservative Catholic constitutional lawyer Doug Kmiec; evangelical author Max Lucado of San Antonio; Cameron Strang, founder of Relevant Media, which is aimed at young Christians; the Rev. Luis Cortes of Esperanza USA; and Paul Corts, president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.



Read it all here.

what is interesting about this approach is that Obama is not pandering to this group--in the sense of changing positions on issues--but rather is attempting a genuine dialogue, including leaders such as Graham who are unlikely to ever support Obama.

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