If Sarah Palin Is What It Takes to Galvanize American Evangelicals… September 12, 2008Written by John …well, what else is there to say? 0 Responses to “If Sarah Palin Is What It Takes to Galvanize American Evangelicals…” Drew September 12, 2008 Oy Vey? Preacherman September 12, 2008 Dr. Stackhouse, I have learn so much from you. Interesting thoughts and post. It is my opinion that evangelicals this election year is going to be voting for Obama. He is a man who inspires and has true leadership qualities. I hope you have a great weekend. Keep up the great work you do with this blog. It is one of my favs. tallandrew September 13, 2008 She’s not galvanizing them all, according to this: http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1839190,00.html?cnn=yes Antipode September 13, 2008 I too am mildly disturbed. The Ancient Mariner September 13, 2008 Perhaps that a little more understanding of what’s actually going on might be in order? thesmartguys September 13, 2008 disturbed? oh vey? obama inspires? i think you need to get some new readers douglasvgibbs September 13, 2008 In response to preacherman, why would Evangelicals vote for Obama? His stances and comments are in opposition to Christianity. He claims to be a Christian, but in opposition to John 14:6 declares there is many ways to heaven aside from Christ, he not only supports abortion but the most horrendous examples of it like partial birth abortion and infanticide, and his pastor teaches black liberation theology which limits the gift of salvation to only blacks rather than all that accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. If there are Evangelicals that are voting for Obama, they are not taking these things into account. kelvin September 14, 2008 douglas, please find out more about Obama’s pastor before sounding off. Also, please read the previous posts on this blog before too quickly defining Christianity. Obama isn’t prefect. He may even be a bad choice but his ticket is the better of the two. If you choose the other, then you will not be taking, for instance, “lying” into account – seen a Mccain ad? Finally, for all of s who agree with the present post, throwing up our hands and despairing is one thing, though it will not alter parochial realities that fuel Palin-types. we need to get out and star trying to change minds….I implore you …made your donation yet? mac September 15, 2008 Of course it is the liberals who are comparing Obama to Jesus (Donna Brazile, Susan Sarandon, Tom Brokaw, Rep. Steven Cohen (D-Ten)). Evangelicals should vote for Obama because we don’t want to be like those other bitter (read religious right) Americans who ‘cling to their guns and religion’…hey, kinda like Sarah Palin. N Turner September 15, 2008 Stick with theology. Stick with Canada. You’re out of your depth on this topic. Seriously. John Stackhouse September 15, 2008 Okay, folks, let’s save the cheap and easy shots for the blogs that trade in them. What indeed is there to say . . . that might help someone understand and respond to what’s going on in this election? N Turner September 16, 2008 Your initial volley was not “a cheap and easy shot”???? You’re more out of your depth than I thought. An just wee-ist bit touchy, EH? John Stackhouse September 16, 2008 O-o-o-okay…. And now let’s resume the actual conversation. I’m still interested to know what readers do think about how you read Sarah Palin’s candidacy and its putative “galvanizing” of American evangelicals. That’s the focus–not the election in general. N Turner September 16, 2008 John, you initially came at this topic like a latenight comedian: “Sarah Palin. Whatta joke, eh?” And please don’t deny the tenor, as it is clear a few of your readers got your point precisely … and agreed with it. Does it seem even remotely possible to you that Governor Palin’s candidacy has any merit? Any? If you, like Jim Wallis and others, think it is in vogue this time around to embrace (or even, endorse) Obama, simply because he is NOT A REPUBLICAN, then it is an attempt to swing the evangelical pendulum in the other direction — but just as mindlessly as it alleged that evangelicals have followed the Republicans. However, let me give you a little credit (more than you were willing to give Governor Palin, I might add). You are clearly a very bright guy; a scholar our movement can be proud of (that’s why I read your blog!) You may tempted to find Obama appealing because he is educated and urbane. You may think his answers are nuanced, and not equivocating. You may think he is the champion of the poor; a Robin Hood, perhaps, taking from the rich and giving to the poor (is THAT what we should consider is the CHRISTIAN way of governing?) You may think he will restore America’s standing in the world (however, is that necessary? Harper and Sarkozy let their electorates know they were openly sympathetic to the U. S. … and they won!) Conversely, you may find Governor Palin to be inexperienced (more so than Obama?) You may think she has virtually no foreign affairs experience (you would be obliged to think the same of Obama, save the committee meetings he has been privy to). N Turner September 16, 2008 continued …. N Turner September 16, 2008 But, I would ask you to consider … Despite Obama’s declaration that Jesus is his Lord and Saviour, he believes there is more than one way to the Father. Why is that important for consideration in a political race? It is not implausible that Obama is trying to ‘play’ the evangelical community (you see, I AM coming to the point … lol). Plus, there is the added concern that he has been influenced to some degree by Black Liberation Theology, a Marxist co-opting of the Gospel. I am not an alarmist, but these things must be considered by the evangelical community, and might also have created the NEED for a Sarah Palin. Now, specifically, why else might her candidacy galvanize evangelicals? The LIFE issues are FOREMOST. You see, I think many in the U. S. electorate have come to a visceral reaction that on the war and the economy — the marquee issues this time around — the Democrats and Republicans are pretty much going to do the same thing … eventually get out of Iraq, and NOT cut taxes, and employ some regulation of the markets. That leaves the LIFE issues (abortion, stem cell, euthanasia) and judicial appointments very volatile. The Republican base was cool toward McCain, disbelieving that he is really their kind of guy. Iconically, Sarah Palin sent the signal that on the volatile issues I mentioned, McCain could be depended on. I realize that things are different in Canada, but in the United States it still matters to evangelicals that, once the issues have been identified and debated, the candidates are humbly seeking the God of the Bible. Of the four candidates in this race, I think that Palin is the only one that has the same ‘DNA’ (spiritually) as the evangelicals. If she were truly UNqualified altogether, her beliefs would be unimportant (evangelicals aren’t strictly playing identity politics … they were among the voices decrying Harriet Miers’ Supreme Court nomination, remember). But, being just as qualified as Obama, the evangelicals found comfort in her candidacy. Is that worthy of your derision? Joey September 16, 2008 N Turner- If the issue is simply finding the candidate who is most similar to me in terms of spiritual DNA (for example, core evangelical doctrinal commitments such as the sufficiency of Christ or even those that emanate from an adherence to Scripture, such as opposition to abortion), then you are likely correct–Sarah Palin is perhaps THE candidate worthy of an evangelical’s vote. BUT it seems to me that our involvement in politics is unfortunately much more complicated than the aforementioned. As important as the issues of stem cell research and abortion are–and it is difficult to overstate their importance–it is not at all clear to this American voter that these are the trump issues in an election. This is particularly true because of the way these issues can and have been used in rather cynical and fear-mongering ways to scare up evangelical votes. These are arguments that have been made since Roe v. Wade was passed, and it is unfortunatley difficult to see what progress has been made under 20 out of the last 28 years of of Republican leadership in the White House (and many years of leadership in Congress). I will likely be a supporter of Obama because he presents something different in a politician that I have ever seen in my short voting life. First, his understanding of democracy is the most helpful I have ever heard from a national politician. He invites public participation and conversation and actually asks something of the American citizen (including intellectually–see his speech on race). I find this friendly towards Christian convictions. Second, he invites people to bring their convictions to the table in dialogue. His is not a naked public square that so many democrats support. Neither is it the sacred public square of so many republicans. While I disagree with and find troubling his stance on abortion, I am encouraged by his other overtures on the issue–easier adoption, limiting unwanted pregnancies, etc. And third, Obama for me offers a way forward out of the gridlock of common political partisanship. In my opinion, our two party system is a dead end as it stands. It seems to me Obama offers something better, something more generous which calls upon the best of the American people rather than playing on our worst fears. Which is why I am so discouraged by Palin. Her speech at the RNC, in which she mocked Obama for being a community organizer and made endless references to “small-town values” (what exactly are those again?) seemed pretty vacuous to me. It was more about presentation than substance, it seemed–and this seems to me to be the larger problem with Palin. I may be able to check off certain core evangelical doctrines on her resume, but what happens when we get past that? Not much, I am afraid… N Turner September 16, 2008 JOEY said: “it is unfortunately difficult to see what progress has been made under 20 out of the last 28 years of of Republican leadership in the White House (and many years of leadership in Congress).” Really? Having read that, I DO believe your later statement about your youth. I doubt — very seriously — that you know how our present legal posture on abortion was arrived at and how it might be changed. (Hence, your inability to discern any progress). Roe v. Wade was a legal decision, decided upon by Supreme Court justices — not law enacted by your state or federal representatives (it IS important to you that we be governed by elected representatives, right?) President Bush (43) appointed two strict constructionist justices (Roberts and Alito)that would probably view Roe v. Wade as a poor decision. That is as much as any president can do about Roe v. Wade. However, it is NOT little. When you couple Roberts and Alito with Scalia and Thomas (who are also strict constructionist justices), you are just ONE vote short of possibly overturning of Roe v. Wade. With liberal, activist Justice Stevens on the verge of retirement, hopefully — even in your youthfulness — you can see why it might be important in this election to vote for McCain (who has promised to appoint strict constructionst judges). Hopefully, you also see now why a Canadian theologian like John Stackhouse is out of his depth when speaking out derisively against Governor Palin. N Turner September 16, 2008 BTW, young Joey, overturning Roe v. Wade would not, necessarily, be the end of legalized abortion. But, it would, more than likely, throw the issue into the 50 state legislatures where LAW could be voted on by ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES, not appointed justices. You took Civics in high school, right? N Turner September 16, 2008 JOEY SAID: “I will likely be a supporter of Obama because he presents something different in a politician that I have ever seen in my short voting life.” Like many youthful voters, you indicate a decision made on style. I think style is important in a politician. I wish I could more fully advocate the styles of McCain and Palin. However, I suspect Senator Obama’s style blinds many to his positions and background (this guy is as liberal as the day is long, and I will be happy to list my reasons for believing that). I plead with you to be more discerning in this area. N Turner September 16, 2008 JOEY SAID: “limiting unwanted pregnancies” Now, you seem naive. Joey, exactly how is he going to do that? By having a good heart-to-heart chat with America? For heaven’s sake. N Turner September 16, 2008 JOEY SAID: “In my opinion, our two party system is a dead end as it stands.” Me, too. I am libertarian, but the party that bears that name in America is populated by kooks. America needs at least one more viable party, but that takes lots and lots of money. I am not happy with a McCain-Palin ticket. But, I am downright grieved by Senator Obama. John Stackhouse September 16, 2008 Oh, dear. Just when the conversation was getting civil and substantial again… Well, in brief, here’s why I raised the question about Sarah Palin’s candidacy galvanizing evangelicals: 1. If these evangelicals didn’t think there were enough substantial issues on the table before, why think so now? 2. Do these evangelicals really think the McCain/Palin administration will proceed to move on so-called life issues when the Reagan and Bush (both) administrations did so little? 3. If these evangelicals didn’t see enough differences to get excited about between McCain/GOP and Obama/Democrats before, why get excited now? 4. If evangelicals were put off by Senator Obama’s “lack of experience” (interpret that how you will), why embrace Governor Palin? I’m honestly puzzled–and, frankly, dismayed–that in an election that is this important (as every U.S. election is–for everyone in the world) between candidates of such striking differences and such undeniable impressiveness in their respective ways, that someone as previously politically inconsequential as Sarah Palin would make this much difference. The comments above are helping me, even if some of them confirm me in my dismay. (And, for the record, not only do I have more than a nodding acquaintance with things American, as two American graduate degrees in religion and culture might suggest, plus ten years’ living in the U.S., I also am not at all to be easily identified with the political left, having voted in Canadian elections for all three major parties in different contexts, and am currently supporting the Conservative Party in our own federal election. Let’s try to avoid the knee-jerk dichtomies of “You’re critical of Sarah Palin? You must be a liberal,” etc.) N Turner September 16, 2008 JOEY SAID: “she mocked Obama for being a community organizer” Joey, what is a community organizer? Are you ASSUMING that it is some Mother Teresa-type figure working 20 hours a day to lift up the downtrodden. Is it possible, young Joey, that a community organizer is really a POLITICAL organizer? I suggest you do some research rather than assuming? You do want to know the truth, right? N Turner September 16, 2008 DR JOHN SAID: “Let’s try to avoid the knee-jerk dichtomies of ‘You’re critical of Sarah Palin? You must be a liberal.'” I suggest, then, that you open future discussions with a less dismissive attitude. Do REALLY believe that the HEAD of the Democratic ticket is rich in experience? Get serious. N Turner September 16, 2008 DR JOHN SAID: “If these evangelicals didn’t think there were enough substantial issues on the table before, why think so now?” They were dismayed at McCain’s victory. Many of the evangelicals are textbook conservatives (I am not, I am libertarian). So, shame on them for being petulant. Palin’s candidacy — while not ideal in my sight — galvanized the evangelicals (Pentecostals of course; Southern Baptists like Richard Land; high-profile types like James Dobson), because, whether we like it or not, identity politics is a motivating force. For the life of me, I just cannot see why this stuff is so hard to understand! I suppose it has something to do with the anti-Bush mood was is so fashionable (“Bush lied to us!” “Bush is an idiot!” “Bush is incurious!” “Bush did nothing about abortion!”). But, it is not smart to jump from the Bush frying pan into the Obama fire. N Turner September 16, 2008 WHY AN EVANGELICAL SHOULD not VOTE FOR SENATOR OBAMA: — A lack of foreign affairs experience (tut, tut … before you say that jive about Sara Palin, puhleeze note we are talking about the top of ticket here) — A lack of executive experience (when coupled with the lack of foreign affairs experience, we are sliding real fast now) — The confusion about his religious allegiance (He says Jesus is his Lord and Saviour. However, he does NOT believe Jesus is the only way to the Father. His former church of 20 years is avowed to the tenets of Black Liberation Theology. When speaking to liberals in San Francisco, he speaks of Midwesterners clinging to God and guns. Whenever he speaks well of a church, it is in the context of “social gospel”, as though he is unaware of any other Gospel.) — His advocacy of third-trimester abortion. When these points are considered (and as experienced campaign watchers know, I have watered them down from the inflamed rhetoric that attends them on right-wing blogs and right-wing talk shows), I am not sure why there is ANY evangelical movement toward him at all. Jim Wallis is wrong. N Turner September 16, 2008 DR JOHN SAID: “as two American graduate degrees in religion and culture might suggest, plus ten years’ living in the U.S.” I know quite a few Canadians, Mexicans, Moroccans, Guyanese, Venezuelans, etc who come to live in this country and not only bring their prejudices against the U. S. with them, but take them home, as well. On a friendlier note, I am glad you are for Harper. John Stackhouse September 16, 2008 Okay, I think Brother Turner has made his position and his persona pretty clear. Let’s hear from others now, please… R. Short September 16, 2008 Dr. Stackhouse, Nobody else will talk because we don’t want to be bullied by NTurner. Why do you allow such incivility on your blog? I’m not interested in name calling and put downs. As Christians, we need to model how to have civil discussions without resorting to mocking one another. John Stackhouse September 16, 2008 I quite agree, and not just Christians, of course, but citizens. Vigorous, humorous, teasing, and even sarcastic expressions are all welcome here, but not the sort of nonsense we’ve been receiving from Brother Turner at his worse moments. (He did raise some plausible issues along the way, to be sure.) Brother Turner has carried on his distinctive style of interaction with me privately, but I have freed this blog from any more of that sort of thing from him. Carry on, friends. RCochran September 16, 2008 It has been said a couple times (in one way or another) in this thread that Bush and other Pro-Life presidents haven’t done anything about abortion. This simply isn’t true. Roe v. Wade is, of course, the watershed decision on the matter, but there are other important decisions that have been made that Bush, in particular, has greatly influenced. The best example is on the issue of partial birth abortion. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 ruling that a Nebraska law banning partial birth was unconstitutional. This was before Bush’s nominees to the Supreme Court were on the bench. Since then, Bush has put two justices on the bench, and the issue of partial birth abortion returned to the Supreme Court in 2005 (I believe that was the year). In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the national ban on partial birth abortions; a decision that likely would not have been made without Bush’s nominees. So, will McCain/Palin do anything more about the abortion issue? Well, that depends on whether or not a justice retires or dies. And, if that happens, I know who I’d prefer doing the nominations. Hint: It’s not the one who is willing to put “those tough decisions” into the hands of a 17 year old in crisis. It’s a shame that folks like Brother Turner are willing to question the faith of anyone who would vote for Obama. There are many reasons why an evangelical should reconsider a vote for McCain/Palin. However, any evangelical considering voting for Obama must remember that Obama believes that a woman simply has a “right to choose”… without qualification! In other words, Obama doesn’t believe that abortion is permissible only when the mother’s life is at risk, or in the case or rape or incest or even mental retardation, but for any reason at all! If the pregnancy is an inconvenience, well, “I trust women to make those tough decisions,” Obama says. This is the man who may nominate a justice or two over the next eight years. And that is one of the good reasons (there are many bad ones) that Palin galvanizes evangelical support. Dr. Stackhouse, I believe that there is much else to say after all… mhumphrey September 16, 2008 I too find myself watching with excitement about what the course will be for the United States and the world, and it is equally surprising to hear the response of our evangelical friends to Sarah Palin. More concerning, however, is to consider the faith we evangelicals tend to place in politics and political leaders. I have many good friends who are very excited about Obama and ready to rally behind him in November “because he promises hope and real change”. Likewise I have many republican friends who are seriously scared that without McCain in office to “protect us and the world from evil” we will all surely perish. I want to ask “So then which Caesar is going to bring in the Kingdom of God this year?” As to the attraction of Sarah Palin, I think we tend to like her as a role model. We are very good at focusing in on the candidates personal lives – their ethics, their *public* theologies, and their secret sins of the past. She embodies much of what we hope to see in a 21st century woman. She has a family (which we like to focus on), she is a mother, she reads her Bible, and to top it off she maintains a successful career and good fashion sense. Now of course these things have a valid place in the overall discussion, but when we use these points to argue that because they are ‘godly’ (or appear as such on evening television – whether FOX or NBC) they therefore ought to be in leadership, it seems we have gotten way off course. As for evaluating candidates, perhaps we would be wise to consider instead the nature of the Kingdom and promises of God for the world, and evaluate our involvements in the polis according to that vision. This immediately throws us into tension. God is ultimately going to bring about Peaceful Shalom, so to that end I support a candidate who works for Peace. However, ultimately God is also going to destroy evil, so thus I want a candidate who wrestles with the reality of evil in the world and seeks to restrain it. But can we work to both bring about Peace and restrain evil? How? Mmm tension. Ultimately the Kingdom of God promises life and breath and bread to all, thus we are wise to support the so-called ‘life’ issues, though it is hard to support these so robustly without also thinking about the quality of life which we defend. Thus, what ought we to do about the global food crises which many American-based corporations are heavily implicated in, the global privatization of water, the accumulating third world debt and the growing gap between rich and poor even in the ‘homeland.’ Well it seems we ought to be behind a candidate who works to bring about justice and supports the flourishing of life in all respects, not merely at the natal stage. However, abortion is a serious matter and thus we ought to support candidates who handle this with wisdom and care. Likewise, we must be alert enough to the world around us to hear the many other serious matters of our cultural moment and respond AS Christians who believe that Jesus is Lord of the cosmos. What issues are they? Environment? Economy? Education? So what are we as the Body of Christ going to be doing while the powers of the world argue over who is its Savior? (republican or democrat) It is not enough to sit at home and watch billion-dollar caesar campaigns and ponder who among the candidates is the most moral and actually has a quiet time. I am not arguing for a withdraw from the discussion or a cynical anarchism. Rather, I believe we must begin and end every political discussion as Christians with the affirmation “Jesus is Lord” and the prayer that He be revealed on earth as it is in heaven. If we are engaging OUR entire lives in God’s kingdom work then we might rightly evaluate all political claims against the trustworthy promises of God. But if our faith is disconnected from the work of the Kingdom and only linked to private notions of morality and theology than it is easy to focus on these points in who we like and dislike, even in the world of politics. Adam September 17, 2008 Professor Stackhouse, Your post is poignantly described by Andrew Klavan: http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=OTBkMzVjNWJjOWIzNGM0ZjM1ZjIxNTYxYmZkMGFjZDk= Respectfully, I have to agree with Brother Turner here, you are out of your depth on this topic. John Stackhouse September 17, 2008 Brother Adam, Please notice that I BEGAN a conversation on this thread with a PROVOCATION. It is not my last word on the subject; it isn’t even my first. It was a question, put sharply, intended to elicit response to what is, as I put in #23, really a series of sub-questions each of which I, at least, think is substantial. I’m looking forward to a little more actual response to the actual question(s) I posed, rather than (a) generic campaigning for one side or the other, or (b) insults to one side or the other for being so manifestly sinful or stupid as not to see The Plain Truth of the matter… timothycairns September 17, 2008 I think Dr Stackhouse you started the cheap shots, to be involved in handwringing about those who responded in kind is churlish in the extreme. Rather than engage in meaningful debate you chose to take the easy shot at Sarah Palin. I am a little disappointed that a man of your intellect has gone down the populist route. You set the cheap tone of the debate. I am glad that in the comments section you have attempted to addressed this, with a few more reasoned remarks. I have to say I agree with the comments of rcochrane above. jordinT September 17, 2008 I am in agreement with #36 and also agree with the comments of rocharane above. Adam (34) is dead on with the link posted of Andrew Klavan. It is EXACTLY how I took your “provocation,” Dr. Stackhouse. There are better ways to elicit responses. RCochran September 17, 2008 1. Evangelicals knew there were enough substantial issues on the table before. They just didn’t like their options for men who would speak to those issues. Right or wrong, now they believe they do… and a woman they can be proud of to boot. 2. I answered that in my previous post #32. The Regan and Bush administrations did do something about at least one life issue, abortion, by their nominations to the Supreme Court. 3. Because they now have an individual who not only believes like them, but also seems to lives it out. This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why many evangelicals don’t care for McCain. McCain’s life is not a shining example of moral righteousness. Personally, I’m with most evangelicals on this one. A person’s character is more than just a “bonus”; it’s at the heart of how a person makes decisions. Palin, from what we know of her, seems to be one who not only believes consistently with many evangelicals, but also consistently lives it out. 4. Do you really think that “lack of experience” is what put evangelicals off of Obama? I don’t. John Stackhouse September 17, 2008 Thanks for this substantive engagement, RCochran. Quick replies: 1. You may not like the men who will speak to this or that issue. But since you have a choice, unless you think the choices amount to pretty much the same thing, why not vigorously support your preferred choice? If you don’t, you’re then NOT opposing the choice you don’t like. This evangelical attitude of waiting until they quite like a candidate–and many observers were indeed wondering if evangelicals would “just stay home,” as indeed some of their leaders threatened they would–seems a remarkably juvenile attitude to me. 2. I’m glad you’re pleased about what eight years of Reagan, four years of Bush Sr., and eight years of Bush Jr. accomplished on that single front. I should have thought you’d see the cup as mostly empty rather than as having a little water in it, as, frankly, most conservative evangelical leaders have ruefully conceded. (I have a longish article coming out in Christianity Today magazine in a month discussing a raft of new books by evangelicals on politics in which this theme is discussed.) 3. It will be interesting to see if Sarah Palin’s life “is a shining example of moral righteousness.” I was in Alaska briefly this summer and not everyone there sees her that way, to put it mildly, as the press is now reporting. I entirely agree with you regarding character, and I think it remains to be seen how Mayor and Governor Palin’s character lines up with evangelical standards. 4. “Lack of experience” is certainly not why evangelicals backed off Obama–of course not. But it is something they were happy to charge him with until Governor Palin came along, no? Again, please understand that I am NOT a Democrat (I’m a Canadian!) and I have considerable respect for both Senator McCain and Senator Obama as well as considerable concern about each of them. My interest here is in American evangelicalism and what it says about American evangelicals that Sarah Palin would make this sort of difference. timothycairns September 17, 2008 1. Election campaigns are all about what Americans call “The big mo” or a bandwagon effect. People want to think that if they turn up to vote they are going to be on the winning team. If the public perceive their cause will not prevail or if they are not energised by an optimism that they might win then they tend not to turn out and vote. Given that election coverage has mainly been the liberal elites fawning over the big celebrity Obama, the perception has been that McCain will lose. Indeed many conservative voters probably thought there was no point in turning out. Their guy wasn’t as dynamic as the other guy. To use modern parlance – Obama was just plain sexy. But maverick McCain brought sexy back to the Republican ticket. His choice of Palin gave the other side a shot in the arm. In an election that has been covered in terms of how big a celebrity is, Sarah Palin gave the Republicans and the Evangelical right a celebrity to believe in. In the academic elite of the academy we may balk at the mass stupidity that is the national electorate (of any country not just America), but this is what the media has turned the election into. Its all about energy, the mo, the bandwagon, who can win. In Palin the right got their momentum, plain and simple. You may baulk and scoff, but the left got energised by the celebrity of their candidate (football stadium speeches, celebrity endorsements, dancing on Ellen etc) now the conservatives are doing the same. We may not like it, but that’s the modern election and neither side has a monopoly on this stupidity. In the days of Abraham Lincoln people queued round the block to hear five hour in-depth debates on the issues, now its all about the five second sound bite. As a political junky it’s sad but true. Both sides feed off the inane celebrity. Its not just the preserve of the evangelical right, just read the sycophantic religious left blogs and their Obama idolisation. After reading them I wonder shouldn’t we just get Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul to decide the election? This waiting to be energised is a preserve of the entire electorate – so let’s lay off the evangelicals a bit here! 2. As far as I know, and I am sure there are people much better informed on the supreme court than I, but two justices are about to retire. One is ninety odd years old, and we must assume is going to die in the next number of years (sorry to be blunt) and the other is fairly ill. Both are on the side of the five more liberal jurists. That means that the next President will likely appoint the swing vote to the court. Who do you want to build on the Regan (well O’Connor aside), Bush sr and jr appointees? Obama or McCain? It’s a real possibility that they will appoint a judge who will make a real difference in the area of family and reproductive rights/responsibilities. So will the cup remain with only a dribble of water in it? Maybe, but I think McCain has more potential to turn on the tap than Obama, maybe that’s just eternal optimism, but time will tell. 3. So you talked to a few Alaskans. That’s great, but as someone who worked in political strategy, helping to craft successful winning campaigns, I can tell you that straw poll data, gathered from you friends, brothers, uncles, wife’s woman’s group, or whatever, is virtually meaningless. It all depends who you talk to! Palin has had approval ratings as high as 92%! Indeed the last poll taken has her approval rating at 82%. So what does that mean? Well about one fifth of people in Alaska do not like her and four fifths think she has done, at the very least, a reasonable job. An approval rating that high is neither to be scoffed at or dismissed just because you talked to a few people in Alaska! Politics is a crazy game and people will just not like you no matter what you do. I think I will take the opinion polls, scientific conducted as evidence of Palin’s popularity rather than a few casual chats in Alaska. 4. Experience is not something the Obama camp want to bring up. Correct me if I am wrong but this election is to an executive branch of government. Palin has executive experience, Obama has none (well apart from running a Presidential campaign in a Democratic year, that despite all factors pointing to an easy win, the polls tell us is neck and neck, so not very impressive Barack!). The difference in Palin and Obama is this – Palin is second on the ticket, Obama is top of the ticket. It seems to me that the Democrats are suffering buyers remorse with Obama. He has merely been a Senator for four years, and has spent three of those campaigning for President. As a number two, the bright hope for the future, his experience is plausible. The junior member of the ticket to a more seasoned campaigner (Hillary?) would have seemed more appropriate. Palin is bottom of the ticket, the rising star, the one for Presidential glory in time. That’s the difference. Ryan is correct. Evangelicals did not back Obama because of a lack of experience. Its something else. Palin has energised the base, she has energised woman, she has energised the McCain campaign. Let’s see what she can do for McCain come November. Its still Obama’s to lose and if he doesn’t pull out of the spin he is in he will lose. RCochran September 17, 2008 Dr. Stackhouse, what do you think it says about American Evangelicalism? Does evangelical excitement about her concern you because she isn’t experienced? Or is there more? If that’s your primary problem…fair enough. I share your concern. She is not ready to be the most powerful person on the planet. But, this begs the question, do you then share the same dismay about younger/emergent/Wallis/McClaren type evangelicals and their starry-eyed wonder of Obama? Could you have also posted a blog that said, “If Barack Obama is what it takes to galvanize younger evangelical support… then what else is there to say?” Or is there something else about Palin that raises your eyebrows? mhumphrey September 17, 2008 I’m not quite seeing why the public image of a candidate as broadcasted over national television has become the basis for evangelicals to so abruptly rise up and back Palin. Of course this is the sort of thing we should expect from the world abroad who is thrown about by all sorts of shifting winds, but it is curious that evangelicals were so quiet and now are coming out of the woodwork. While the character of a person is undoubtedly central to their service in public office, I fear when evangelicals are so quick to back a candidate based on popular image. This, I suggest to fellow bloggers, is the likely meaning behind Stackhouse’s (admittedly) sarcastic question. Yes, he might have expressed dismay over the starry-eyed wonder for Obama, he might have done many other things, but I submit that arguing over who is the best (or worst) candidate ought to be a secondary question for Christians. What is more concerning is how quickly we are won over by public image and temporal promises – no matter who they come from. Perhaps this could lead to more vital questions about Christian involvement in political life and what motivates the evangelical community to step up and support someone or thing. Perhaps it is a populist campaign, but shouldn’t Christians, even evangelicals, know better? RCochran September 18, 2008 Dr. Stackhouse, I am curious to hear what you think the excitement about Palin says about the state of American Evangelicalism…without sarcasm and self-righteousness, of course! I think you can do it. Justbennett September 18, 2008 Funny that John has caught so much flak for such short and somewhat vague post. Funny that people feel a responsibility to slap him on the wrists. (rather than respond to his sentiment) I think: 1. Palin hasn’t galvanized evies as much as “they” say. 2. The alleged evangelical response is somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy. You know, kinda like the recession? The media offered that McCain selected palin to get evy support. We evies heard that and got our hackles up. “And so what if we DO support her? That Liberal Elite media won’t scare us away from our beliefs!” Personally, I haven’t seen anything different about Palin. She’s exagerated her accomplishments and hidden her embarassments and failures. Just like any polititian. It is easy to be seen as a reformer when you are new. So it doesn’t energize me. I would love to be an BO supporter. He seems to be honest and thoughtful. The kinda guy you want to follow. But I simply disagree with some of his direction. I thought this election might be different. I respected both men. Now I’m not sure. Jeremiah September 21, 2008 I did not want to comment on American politics in a forum like this because I am not an American. Anyhow let me say few things because American politics has global effect. Pro-life and pro-choice are issues important for evangelical Christians. Most Christians that I know here, India, supported Bush on his first election. I did that, perhaps, most importantly because those American Evangelical Christians we trust supported him. Our faith ‘crashed’ when he invaded Iraq. It seems to me that if we are to be consistent we need to be pro-life not only for those yet to be born babies in the US, but also for the born babies and adults in Iraq. Since US prez is the most influential person on earth his concern for the those who die of hunger is as important as his view for those unborn babies. If we truly believe that Jesus is the Lord of the whole cosmos and that all who worship him as Lord and Savior belong to the same family, I guess evangelical Christians in the US need to keep this in mind. I have my sympathy for the black and also for women. Therefore, I am undecided whom to pray for. But just because Sarah Palin is a die hard evangelical Christian, and she has got some things right I would not pray for her. Because Bush got some things right we prayed for him, but it backfired… it’s a shame, at least here, to call oneself an evangelical because of Iraq invasion. N Turner September 22, 2008 Jeremiah, Was it also a shame to be known as a Moslem, given that Saddam Hussein had savaged his own countrymen and aggresed against Iran in a war that cost scores of thousands — on both sides — their lives? John Stackhouse September 22, 2008 I think we’ll call it quits here, too. Thanks, friends. × Comments are closed.