Can the GOP hold evangelicals and Catholics?

Will Sarah Palin nail down the evangelical vote for the GOP?

Analysts from the Pew Forum say it’s not clear. Evangelicals like Palin, for sure, but identify less with the GOP than in the past…

f15a362add1e4df89bec505341897da4.jpg“Evangelical voters have displayed a great deal of dissatisfaction with the current state of things, including the Republican Party,” said John Greene, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Washington-based Pew Research Center, said that McCain’s post-convention bounce may not last:

“In (economic) conditions like this, we typically don’t see the incumbent party winning elections,” Keeter said.

Greene also said: “The white Catholic community is evenly divided between Obama and McCain — quite a difference from 2004.”

The end of Christian History (as we’ve known it)

I always enjoyed Christian History magazine, where I could learn about Jonathan Edwards, the history of Pentecostalism, C.S. Lewis, the Puritans, you name it.

But the issue that just arrived was wrapped in a sleeve saying “Last Printed Issue.”

images3.jpegI wasn’t surprised. Circulation was probably small. And the whole print world is facing a slow, steady demise.

The people who published Christian History — part of the Christianity Today empire — will continue to produce a website, For $12 a year, you can access all the new material on the website and get access to their archives.

They have a free, three-month trial membership available.

If you’re a history buff, give it a shot. Christian history is, after all, a large part of European and American history.

I’ll still miss the magazine, though. The final cover story is “Key Moments in the History and Faith & the American Presidency.”

The Christian view on torture

57 percent of white evangelicals in the South say that torture can sometimes or often be used to gain important information, compared to 48 percent of the general public, according to a new poll for Faith in Public Life.

What does this mean? I’m not quite sure, as the difference isn’t that great.

Faith in Public Life is a liberal to moderate group — a counterbalance to the Religious Right — that opposes the use of torture.

About their findings, they say:

• While a majority of white evangelical Christians in the South think that torture is often or sometimes justified, they are significantly more likely to oppose torture if they rely on Christian teachings or beliefs to form their views on the issue.
• A majority of white evangelical Christians in the South agree with the Golden Rule argument against torture—that the U.S. government should not use methods against our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers.

Faith in Public Life’s message seems to be that if white evangelicals really think about the Christian message they will change their tune on torture.

“Presenting people with this argument and identifying with the golden rule really does engage a different part of people’s psyche and a part of their heart, their soul, and really does shift their views on torture,” said Robert Jones, president of Public Religion Research, which was commissioned to conduct the poll.

Remembering an American Muslim leader

I didn’t get a chance yesterday to mention the death of Imam W.D. Mohammed, probably one of the least-known influential religious leaders in America.

His father was Elijah Muhammad, the long-time leader of the Nation of Islam and a self-described prophet. Elijah Muhammad promoted a form of God-ordained black supremacy and became a prominent figure for many when Muhammad Ali became a member of the Nation of Islam.

ph2008090902961.jpgWhite serving time in prison for refusing military service, W.D. Mohammed studied the Quran closely and determined that the Nation of Islam’s teachings — his father’s teachings — were not true Islam. After his father died in 1975, W.D. Mohammed disbanded the Nation of Islam and urged its members to become followers of mainstream Islam.

Many African-American Muslims followed him.

During the late 1970s, Louis Farrakhan re-started the Nation of Islam and the two black Muslim worlds continued independently. Farrakhan and W.D. Mohammed reconciled in recent years.

W.D. Mohammed became the first Muslim to deliver the invocation before the U.S. Senate and prayed at President Clinton’s two inaugural interfaith services. He talked often about hs pride in being an American.

In a news story about W.D. Mohammed’s death, the AP quoted Jimmy Jones, a religion prof at Manhattanville College and an imam:

Jimmy Jones, a Muslim chaplain and religion professor at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., joined Mohammed’s movement in 1979, during the transition toward orthodox Islam.

“He asked the believers to stop reading and learning what his father had taught and start listening to him,” Jones said after learning of Mohammed’s death from a movement leader.

Mohammed changed his name several times from his birth name, Wallace Muhammad, to Warith Deen Muhammad and W.D. Mohammed. Jones said the renaming partly reflected the imam’s struggle to maintain a triple identity: Muslim, African-American and American.

“He was trying to move a community that called itself an Islamic community closer to Islam without losing its roots and trying to situate itself in the context of American culture,” Jones said.

Kennedy’s book unkind to archbishop of NY

The other day, I mentioned Kerry Kennedy’s new book, “Being Catholic Now,” and some tough words within for Cardinals Egan and George from Anne Burke, the first chair of a review board that advised the U.S. bishops on dealing with sex abuse.

I’ve been continuing to skip around the book as I prepare to talk with Kennedy.

20_21_350_oreilly_bill.jpgI hit on another tough criticism of Egan from none other than Bill O’Reilly. He says:

…the Church doesn’t have any leadership in the clergy. The cardinal of New York never comes out of his mansion. What’s he doing? Go up to Harlem, tell people who you are, why you do what you do, and what you believe, instead of sitting up there in your mansion, doing jack and closing Catholic schools.

Doing jack. Yeesh.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, many people have wondered over the years (at least to me) what the media-shy archbishop of New York has been up to. But I think that Egan’s two very public statements on abortion — the first directed at Rudy Giuliani, the second at Nancy Pelosi — have captured the imagination of many pro-life Catholics.

As I wrote recently, my gut feeling is that these statements will become a large part of Egan’s legacy. He’ll go down, I bet, as a thorn in the side of pro-choice Catholic politicians.

Many bloggers have hailed Egan as a hero, especially in regard to his blistering attack on Pelosi for suggesting on TV that the Catholic Church has historically been unable to make up its mind about abortion.

Then, when Joe Biden appeared on “Meet the Press,” both he and Tom Brokaw cited Egan’s statement. Brokaw said:

When I asked the speaker what advice she would give him about when life began, she said the church has struggled with this issue for a long time, especially in the last 50 years or so. Her archbishop and others across the country had a very strong refutation to her views on all this; I guess the strongest probably came from Edward Cardinal Egan, who’s the Archbishop of New York. He said, “Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being `chooses’ to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.” Those are very strong words.

I wonder what O’Reilly thinks about those very strong words.

In Kennedy’s book, by the way, O’Reilly takes credit for the downfall of Cardinal Bernard Law. “I got him removed from office in Boston,” he said.

7 years later, don’t get complacent

On the 7th anniversary of 9/11…

Fears of another terrorist attack have lessened. People talk about it much less than a few years ago, in my experience. But it’s worth noting that experts say we are far from safe.

The just-completed trial of eight Britons accused of plotting to blow up transatlantic flights revealed some scary things, according to the LA Times.

And the bipartisan Partnership for a Secure America gives the federal government a “C” in terms of overall efforts to prevent a nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

“The threat of a new major terrorist attack on the United States is still very real,” says the introduction of a report to be released today, according to the Wash Post.

Image of Darwin said to appear on courthouse wall

If you like The Onion’s brand of humor (as I often do), you might get a kick out of this story:

images2.jpegDAYTON, TN—A steady stream of devoted evolutionists continued to gather in this small Tennessee town today to witness what many believe is an image of Charles Darwin—author of The Origin Of Species and founder of the modern evolutionary movement—made manifest on a concrete wall in downtown Dayton.

There are a bunch of great fake quotes, like this one:

“I have never felt closer to Darwin’s ideas,” said zoologist Fred Granger, who waited in line for 16 hours to view the stain. “May his name be praised and his theories on natural selection echo in all the halls of naturalistic observation forever.”

And this one:

“It’s a stain on a wall, and nothing more,” said the Rev. Clement McCoy, a professor at Oral Roberts University and prominent opponent of evolutionary theory. “Anything else is the delusional fantasy of a fanatical evolutionist mindset that sees only what it wishes to see in the hopes of validating a baseless, illogical belief system. I only hope these heretics see the error of their ways before our Most Powerful God smites them all in His vengeance.”

Good stuff….

No penalty for praying

Another football note:

a_prayer_195.jpgYou may know that the NFL is sometimes referred to as the “No Fun League,” in part because of the league’s quashing of celebrations on the field.

Cowboys star Terrell Owens got a 15-year penalty the other day for getting into a sprinter’s stance at the goal-line after scoring a TD.

Mike Pereira, head of officials for the NFL, tells the NYT that players have to stay on their feet when celebrating. But there’s one exception: They can kneel to pray.

“I do not want to get struck by lightning,” he said.

Echoes of Cuomo in abortion debate

First Nancy Pelosi questioned whether the Catholic Church has always been clear about abortion. Not surprisingly, a posse of bishops swarmed around her words.

Now the bishops are going after Joe Biden’s “Meet the Press” comments about abortion, which are much more classically Democratic.

Asked when life begins, Biden said: “Look, I know when it begins for me. It’s a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I am prepared to accept the teachings in my church.”

cuomo.jpgThen he said that he cannot “impose” his views on others. This is the Catholic, pro-choice position defined by Mario Cuomo in his famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) speech at Notre Dame in 1984.

Among many other things, he said:

Now, certainly, we should not be forced to mold Catholic morality to conform to disagreement by non-Catholics, however sincere they are, however severe their disagreement. Our bishops should be teachers, not pollsters. They should not change what we Catholics believe in order to ease our consciences or please our friends or protect the Church from criticism. But if the breadth and intensity and sincerity of opposition to Church teaching shouldn’t be allowed to shape our Catholic morality, it can’t help but determine our ability — our realistic, political ability — to translate our Catholic morality into civil law, a law not for the believers who don’t need it but for the disbelievers who reject it.

And it’s here, in our attempt to find a political answer to abortion — an answer beyond our private observance of Catholic morality — that we encounter controversy within and without the Church over how and in what degree to press the case that our morality should be everybody else’s morality. I repeat, there is no Church teaching that mandates the best political course for making our belief everyone’s rule, for spreading this part of our Catholicism. There is neither an encyclical nor a catechism that spells out a political strategy for achieving legislative goals. And so the Catholic trying to make moral and prudent judgments in the political realm must discern which, if any, of the actions one could take would be best.

Of course, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference didn’t accept Cuomo’s position then.

And they don’t accept Biden’s now.

Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, say in a statement: “However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a ‘personal and private’ matter of religious faith, one which cannot be ‘imposed’ on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter.”

Here’s the full statement:

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, issued the following statement:

Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press” (see On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.
Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.
However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter. The Church recognizes that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.
The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception (see The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.
The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. This is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into those who have moral values and those who do not and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.
While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.