The first non-evangelical evangelical president?

By Simon Barrow
May 8, 2008

Over on the Wall Street Journal blog, Steven Waldman president and editor-in-chief of, has some interesting things to say about Barack Obama and the evangelical vote.

Obama has a real chance at winning substantial evangelical support.

First, evangelicals are in a period of de-alignment from the Republican Party. The leading evangelical pollster George Barna found that only 29% of “born again” Christians now say they support Republicans, compared with 62% in 2004. That doesn’t mean they’ll flock to Democrats -– they could end up voting Republican just as much ever -– but large numbers are up for grabs.

Second, Sen. Obama has been working harder for their support than any other Democrat in recent memory. In his book “The Audacity of Hope”, instead of describing the religious right as a grotesque, right-wing power grab (as many on the left do), Sen. Obama said that its rise stemmed from Christians “feeling mocked and under attack.” Far from casting them as bigots, he declared that “most evangelicals are more tolerant than the media would have us believe.”

Sen. Obama has ripped Democrats for their failure to tap into the moral and even religious underpinnings of their views. “If we progressives shed some of our own biases, we might recognize the values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of the country,” he wrote.

Third, he sounds evangelical. In an interview with the leading evangelical publication Christianity Today, he said, “I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful.”

This is a far cry from Howard Dean who as a candidate in 2004 talked about Job being his favorite book in the New Testament.

Finally, Sen. Obama’s race may actually be a plus with some evangelicals. Lauren Winner, a popular young evangelical author and assistant professor of divinity at Duke University, predicts that evangelicals will go for Sen. Obama “in droves” not only because Sen. Obama seems to embody “good values” but also because the black church “strikes white Christians as ‘real religion,’ ‘real Christianity’ in a way that Clinton’s Methodism or McCain’s Episcopalianism do not.”

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