Bible Girl meets Obama (kind of)

bible girl 02The other day, I went to an interesting Pew Forum event linked to the new books by E.J. Dionne ("Souled Out") and Amy Sullivan ("The Party Faithful"). They should have included another book on a related topic -- "Why Democrats Are Blue" -- but you knew I would say that. If the relationship between Democrats and evangelical progressives interests you, then you'll want to watch this Pew site for the upcoming video version of the session and, I would imagine, a transcript, as well. I also hope to write on the topic eventually.

But one question kept coming up over and over: What are pro-life progressives supposed to do in a voting booth? Do they vote for conservative Republicans who vote for some restrictions on abortion (and, from time to time, put pro-life justices on the U.S. Supreme Court)? Or do they vote for their fellow Democrats who are enthusiastically in favor of the current abortion-rights regime and, in fact, are pledged to defend the status quo and even expand it? This is the key issue behind what could emerge as a crucial pack of swing voters (especially pro-life Catholics and mainliners).

Into this scene walks Barack Obama, a candidate who appeals to pro-life liberals on every possible level except for his stands on hard issues of ancient Christian moral theology linked to marriage and unborn life. The situation is tearing a lot of people up.

Which brings us to one of the most amazing writers in America on topics of religion and the news, which would be Julie "Bible Girl" Lyons at the Dallas Observer. She has taken some time off, but she is back. We do not, as a rule, write much about opinion columns. But but this one puts some very newsworthy issues into reporter-friendly terms. For an intro to her, check out her 5Q+1 interview.

For starters, it helps to know that she is a white Christian who worships in a predominately black Pentecostal church. She set out to talk to black evangelicals, all pro-life, about the logic of their support for Obama. She did this after going with them to an Obama rally.

Here is part of the essay that came out of that. The abortion question simply will not go away:

I'm one of those people who was never passionate about this issue until I had a child of my own -- kind of like the folks who don't care about famine in faraway places until they see the pictures of starving children. God touched my conscience one day concerning abortion; today I call myself a pro-life Democrat and passionately oppose it.

I see it as an elemental thing: the value of life. You couldn't identify an issue that cuts to the core more than that. I won't say I'm the deepest thinker on this subject. It's just simple to me. I will put no other god before me, neither will I play God and make decisions reserved solely for him. Every time man has been given the power to decide who deserves to live and who deserves to die, hideous things have resulted.

The Middle Passage. The Holocaust. The Nazis' extermination of the mentally retarded and gypsies. Genocide in Armenia, Rwanda, Darfur. The executions of innocents in Texas and other states. Abortion.

My questions continued to haunt me. I started quizzing my black evangelical friends about their support for Obama. How do you reconcile his support for abortion and gay marriage with your Christian beliefs? I asked. Black evangelicals, by and large, see both as clearly contrary to their faith.

The conversations are painful and complex and, for Lyons, not very convincing. Then again, she feels the same way about many conservatives when it comes to race and justice. Here is the key: She finds it hard to ignore issues on which centuries of Christian teaching are clear.

That cuts both ways. Thus, she concludes:

As voters, we deal in a continuum of hope and reality. We don't get everything we want. Well, whoever said the world would understand or approve of followers of Jesus Christ?

I believe that Barack Obama will be our next president; the hand of God is upon him. ... If he does become president, I will pray for him, and I will honor and support him in whatever he does that isn't in conflict with the Word of God.

But I will not give him my vote.

This is not your usual voice on the left. I think she is part of a larger story.

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