Does Obama Have the Support of Some White Evangelicals In Ohio?
A recent gathering of religious leaders in Ohio indicates that churches don't necessarily march in lock step with the Republican Party. But certain social issues could still make it a tough sell for the president.
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The Rev. Chris Beard is a theological conservative, make no mistake about it. He believes the Bible is the word of God. He believes the Holy Spirit speaks to him directly. He believes, as an article of faith, that abortion and same-sex marriage are wrong.
Still, when a group of religious leaders in Ohio held two days of meetings in Cincinnati recently to talk about economic and racial justice, issues usually associated with the political left, there was Beard, a fourth-generation Pentecostal preacher with a disarming smile, a shaved head and a set of convictions that knock holes in the stereotypes about white evangelical Protestants.
"Conservative biblical interpretation requires embracing the text," Beard said during a break in a daylong symposium on racial equity, a special concern of his. That, he said, "might push us to what society calls progressive engagement."
White evangelical voters are widely presumed to march in lock step with the right wing of the Republican Party. The reality is more nuanced. Some, like Beard, say their faith has led them to question conservative orthodoxy on issues such as immigration, the environment and racial and economic equity.
"Evangelicals," he said, "are quickly discovering the whole Gospel. And that has implications for how we engage the public sphere."
Words like that are music to the ears of President Obama's reelection campaign, which desperately needs to make inroads among people like Beard and his flock, especially in such battleground states as Ohio. It is part of a broad effort in key states to scratch for every possible vote in what is expected to be a nail-biter election.
The meetings that Beard attended were officially nonpartisan, and there was no mention of either Obama or Republican Mitt Romney. Still, they were part of an effort by liberal groups to mobilize religious voters, union voters and others before the election.
"This is like one layer of an overall strategy of building progressive infrastructure in the state," said Kirk Noden, executive director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, an umbrella group for liberal community organizers in Ohio. He said it was especially important to target white evangelicals.
"We can't just say, 'You don't agree with us on 100% of the issues so we can't talk to you,' " he said.
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times
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