Desperately Seeking Evangelicals

It seems that everyday there is a new story in the news about how evangelical Christians are "up for grabs" in this year's election. On Sunday there was this article on about Shane Claiborne's "Jesus For President" tour, in which the dreadlocked neo-monk said, "With the respectability and the power of the church comes the temptation to prostitute our identity for every political agenda." Well said.

Then on Tuesday there was a story about Obama "reaching out" to evangelicals--a story that featured quotes from who else but Emergent guru Brian McLaren, who claimed that "there's a very, very sizable percentage -- I think between a third and half -- of evangelicals, especially younger [evangelicals], who are very open to somebody with a new vision." I wonder who he means?

Meanwhile McCain continues to all but ignore evangelicals, adding fuel to the "up for grabs" fire that is so eagerly announced by the mainstream press. He did muster a meeting with Billy Graham last weekend, which seemed more symbolic than anything. I love Billy Graham very much, but is the 89-year-old really the best person McCain should tap to get some evangelical momentum on his side? While McCain continues to cater to the over-80 set, Obama is busy inspiring the formation of young Christian political action committees, like the Matthew 25 Network.

But is anyone else a little weary of all this "seeking the evangelical vote" spiritual gerrymandering? Obama plays his evangelical card with characteristic finesse, but ten years ago would he be caught dead with the e-word label? I doubt it. And McCain… well at least he isn't trying to pretend he is or ever was a card-carrying evangelical. He straight-up flaunts his ambivalence to the Dobsons of the world… and that earns him more than a little respect in my book. He's not trying to be someone he isn't.

I'm not saying Obama is lying through his teeth; I honestly do think he is sincere in his Christian faith. But in the terms with which evangelicals historically define themselves, Obama clearly does not fit the bill. And that is fine. Christians: it IS okay to vote for someone who is not exactly like you! We should be voting on the issues and qualifications of the candidates, not their church-going practices.

I guess I'm just fatigued by the whole idea that I—as an evangelical—am part of some monolithic group that will sway the election. Am I not free to vote for the person I think will be a better president for us? Do I really have to be "courted" and convinced by the candidates that my Christian point of view will be reinforced by them as president? That's what happened when George W. Bush ran for president in 2000. And did everything become Christian and wonderful in America? Far from it.