This is an historic presidential election. And a night when I am so proud to be a person of faith and an American.
People in record numbers turned out to vote signaling a desire for change, for a new direction for our country domestically, as well on the world stage.
The economy did not trump faith-based issues, though the economy was an overriding concern. The linkage John McCain with the economic policies of George W. Bush was disastrous.
Faith/value issues have remained strong both at the national level and even more so at the local level. California’s Proposition 4 and Proposition 8 dealt with abortion and homosexuality, the two issues that remain at the forefront for conservative evangelical voters. These propositions engaged and mobilized churches both conservative and liberal in profound ways.
Today’s conservative evangelicals are the political children of the religious political activism of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson. They continue to have influence among evangelicals in a variety of churches, and in a wide array of age groups. Often this group focuses on two social issues, homosexuality and abortion. This voting block continues to lean towards the Republican viewpoint.
Faith based issues did drive religious conservatives into the political process, but a new group of Christians with a broader perspective on the role faith in culture voted in this election and helped bring about the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
Obama did not pick up a substantial religious vote because he is/was a member of the United Church of Christ. The categories of liberal/mainline and conservative/evangelical are no longer helpful. Obama picked up a good portion of the religious vote for reasons beyond the liberal/mainline and conservative/evangelical distinctions.
People of faith did not vote for Barack Obama because of his mainline affiliation. Mainline religious groups certainly voted the Democratic ticket and helped Obama win the presidency. They remain a significant voice in American society. This mainline vote is expected, but this is not the big story.
A shift in the ways that people of faith engage in American society has occurred. There is a renewed vigor, and a new sense of hope among people of faith.
This is a group of people who hold to strong convictions of faith, with a heart of great compassion, and with a spirit of humility and generosity.
This group voted for Obama because he represents a new vision for the country. Obama’s values connected with the values of this emerging people of faith in the US.
This viewpoint with spokespeople such as Jim Wallis of Sojourners and author/pastor Brian McLaren speak to issues of faith without the label of mainline and evangelical, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat.
There is a group of people of faith who cannot be boxed into mainline and evangelical categories. They would reject both labels. These people of faith, often younger, but certainly represented by people of all age groups, hold a view that their religion (mostly Christian, but not exclusively), is not just about sin management and getting people ready for heaven.
Their faith is as much about how they as people of faith seek to do good in the world as followers of the ways of Jesus. They are not restricted to the two social agenda items of the conservative religious right. This group would have a broader perspective on abortion and homosexuality, recognizing the complexity of the issue, not settling for easy solutions, but also stress the importance of dealing with issues of poverty and economic injustice, immigration, health care, HIV/AIDS, war and genocide, and the environment.
These people of faith came out to vote for Barack Obama, believing that the church is to have a voice in the public square, and to act for the good, hoping for a new America, and helped him win the presidency.
Tonight, a new vision for the United States was given chance. The next four years will be a chance to see that vision become reality. May people of faith across this country come together, pray for our soon to be president, get involved at local levels to make communities better. And as we act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly before our Lord–may God bless the United States of America