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An Occasional Note on the Campaigns No. 14

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

An Occasional Note on the Campaigns No. 14

This Saturday, Senators Obama and McCain will each be questioned for an hour by the leader of Saddleback Church, Dr. Rick Warren, in Lake Forest, Southern California. The event will be carried live by CNN and Fox News, as well as being streamed live here at the Saddleback website.

The Saddleback Civil Forum, as it’s called, was described back in July in the church’s press release as “the only joint campaign event prior to each party’s national convention.” Since the two candidates will be questioned separately—Obama first, as decided by a coin toss—it’s difficult to see what’s “joint” about it, apart from the haze of fuzzy reporting surrounding the event.

Much of the fuzziness in any reporting about religious issues in the U.S. is the media’s loose interpretation of the word “evangelical”. Mainstream pollsters the media rely on for their reports lump mere “born-again” Christians in with evangelicals, according to the Barna Group--which has been conducting polls since 1984 in pursuit of its aim “to use our strengths in partnership with Christian ministries and individuals to be a catalyst in moral and spiritual transformation in the United States.”

As a result, those other polls and the media reports that stem from them are giving a distorted picture of what percentage of the vote Obama and McCain will get from evangelicals in November. Just this week, the Barna Group released a report of its own poll results using its more refined categorization of religious communities to dice and slice the numbers. The report can be read here.

All these efforts by the candidates to appear righteous at all times have me—for once—in agreement with conservative commentator George Will who said on last Sunday’s “This Week” that he wondered since when the President of the United States had also to be the nation’s pastor.



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