Ever since Barack Obama began running for president — that is to say, ever since he began running for the U. S. Senate — he has been working overtime to narrow the “God gap,” the deeply partisan divide among the growing block of faith-motivated voters. Obama meets regularly with Christian leaders, infuses religious rhetoric into his speeches and constantly urges “progressives” to approach boldly “matters of faith and values.”
And now, with the election looming, Obama surrogates have begun targeting the Values Voter. One of these groups is called the Matthew 25 Network, a pro-Obama political action committee “resolved around the Gospel values laid out in Matthew 25,” including, most prominently, Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
The Matthew 25 Network Facebook page states that the group hopes to reach out to “targeted religious communities that are key to electoral success for Senator Obama.” It has even begun running political ads on Christian radio stations in swing states to promote its candidate.
For all their religious outreach, however, Obama and his surrogates will find little success courting Values Voters. Because while Obama and his supporters believe closing the “religious rhetoric gap” will be enough to attract faith-based voters, it’s the “substance gap” on important unresolved issues like the meaning of marriage and the sanctity of innocent human life that matters most. These are issues upon which Obama and religious voters could hardly differ more.
Obama may regard these cultural issues as “the old politics,” but they still resonate with most faith-motivated voters. A recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey found twice as many religious voters are conservative than are liberal, and “the connection between religious engagement and political attitudes appears to be especially strong when it comes to hot button social issues such as abortion and homosexuality.” For instance, about six in ten Americans who attend religious services at least once a week say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Clearly, for most religious voters, caring for “the least of my brothers” cannot preclude the pre-born.
Pew’s findings belie the idea that candidates with liberal positions on issues like abortion may be able to generate significant support among regular churchgoers. In fact, as John C. Green, an author of the report and a senior fellow at Pew, told the New York Times, the survey “suggests that the efforts of Democrats to peel away Republican and conservative voters based on economic issues face a real limit because of the role these cultural issues play.”
Obama showed he clearly understands that his cultural liberalism poses a political problem when he appeared to flip-flop on the important issue of a mental health exception for abortion. He recently told an interviewer from a Christian magazine that he didn’t think “mental distress” qualified as a legitimate justification for abortion. Revealingly, after a backlash from the abortion lobby which depends on the “mental health exception” to justify the vast majority of abortions, Obama quickly repudiated that remark. Obama’s abortion flip-flop-flip made plain that he values the abortion industry lobby more than he does his potential pro-life supporters.
Not surprisingly, Obama has so far failed to make inroads with Values Voters. Hillary Clinton beat him among regular churchgoers in most of the Democratic primary states. And a new ABC News poll has Obama receiving about one-quarter of the white evangelical vote. That is only a slight uptick from the 21 percent John Kerry received in 2004 when the Massachusetts liberal faced a much more overtly religious opponent in President Bush than Obama faces now.
There are many reasons why Obama lags so far behind among religious voters. There is his 20-year association with the racist and bizarre pastor Jeremiah Wright and also his remark that small town Americans in swing states cling to religion out of fear. Then there’s the media’s portrayal of the Illinois senator as some sort of secular messiah.
But there is another reason for Obama’s anemic support among religious voters, one that the Matthew 25 Network unwittingly highlights in its mission statement when it states that the network is “a community of Christians… inspired by the Gospel mandate to put our faith into action to care for our neighbor, especially the most vulnerable.” Such rhetoric may attract a few religious voters to Obama. But it will surely backfire for him among the millions of faith-based voters who know Obama’s extremely pro-abortion record. These voters will feel insulted by Obama’s admonition to them to care for their neighbors while the candidate himself steadfastly opposes all efforts to do just that for “the most vulnerable” among us, the unborn.
As the saying goes, faith without works is dead. Obama’s sanctimonious chatter about religion only underscores how little he understands about how those concepts are viewed by the most faith-conscious Americans, for whom actions will speak louder than words alone.