Start your post-election life right

If you’re not totally exhausted from staying up to watch the returns…

and if you’re capable of refocusing from Obama-mania to something else…

I’ll be speaking at Wainwright House in Rye tonight at 7 p.m. about my book, “Can God Intervene? How Religion Explains Natural Disasters.”

The info is HERE.

The election is over, people…

And the religious impact was…

…not all that great.

green.jpgI just got off a conference call with the Pew Forum’s John Green, the man on the intersection of faith and politics. He spent the night poring through the exit polls.

Let’s just say that the ’08 race will not be remembered like the ’04 race, when evangelicals were credited with lifting George Bush on their shoulders and carrying him to victory.

This time around, there were no major religious swings. But most religious groups moved somewhat to the left.

Last time, Bush won Catholics 52% to 47%. This time, Obama took Catholics 54-45.

But McCain held white Catholics 52-47. Obama’s big gains were with Hispanic Catholics and black Catholics — whose votes may not have been driven by the faith factor.

Evangelicals held steady.

In 04, Bush won 78% of the white evangelical vote. This time, Obama pushed hard to make inroads among evangelicals. But he did only 4% better than John Kerry.

Ethnicity appears to have played a bigger role than religion, Green conceded (as a “religion guy,” he’s looking at things through a religion lens).

Black support for the Democrat went from 88% in 04 to 95% in 08. Hispanics went from 53% Dem in 04 to 66% Dem in 08.

Asians went from 56% Dem in 04 to 61% Dem on 08.

Religiously unaffiliated folks, who went 67% for Kerry, went 75% for Obama.

People who attend a house of worship weekly or more went 55% for McCain, down from 61% for Bush in 04.

So most groups, religious and otherwise, with liberal or moderate leanings increased their Democratic support.

And white evangelicals and Catholics — two large traditional groups — moved just a couple of tentative steps to the left.

The ’08 race was not about religion, it seems.

Adams (sort of), Coolidge, Obama

And the United Church of Christ guy takes it!

Obama will be either the second or third president from the Congregationalist tradition.

Second or third?

Calvin Coolidge was definitely a Congregationalist. John Adams was raised a Congregationalist but became a Unitarian. So there you go.

d4711189da864b48bb53f877a71b6b86.jpgThe United Church of Christ is perhaps the most liberal of the mainline Protestant denominations. Following the Congregationalist tradition, which dates back to England in the late 16th century, the UCC believes in the autonomy of each individual congregation.

Some initial reactions to the election:

Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference (in a letter to the winner):

Dear President-elect Obama,

I write to you, in my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to express our congratulations on your historic election as President of the United States. The people of our country have entrusted you with a great responsibility. As Catholic Bishops, we offer our prayers that God give you strength and wisdom to meet the coming challenges.

Our country is confronting many uncertainties. We pray that you will use the powers of your office to meet them with a special concern to defend the most vulnerable among us and heal the divisions in our country and our world. We stand ready to work with you in defense and support of the life and dignity of every human person.

May God bless you and Vice President-elect Biden as you prepare to assume your duties in service to our country and its citizens.

Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches (in a letter to the winner):

Blessings on you, and congratulations. Now that the electorate has made its decision, we at the National Council of Churches urge all Americans to come together to uphold you with our hands, our hearts and our prayers.

Only rarely in our history has a president-elect faced immediate challenges of such fierce magnitude. The leaders of this Council pledge to you our unstinting support in the difficult days to come. All of us are dependent on God’s loving mercy, and we will regularly pray for you and others elected to high leadership. May your wisdom and discernment serve you well, and may your health never wane.

Mr. President-Elect, the 45-million Christians represented by the member communions of the National Council of Churches stand ready to work with you to respond to the realities that a loving God places before us each day. In doing so, we are guided by several basic principles:

That those living in poverty are deeply loved of God; that all God’s people are entitled to equal opportunities for justice, shelter, education, and health care; And that war, even when it is necessary to defend ourselves or the weak or the oppressed, is never the will of God.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations:

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil rights and advocacy group, offers its congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama on his historic election to our nation’s highest office. President-elect Obama’s victory sends the unmistakable message that America is a nation that offers equal opportunity to people of all backgrounds.

“While congratulating President-elect Obama on his win, we also recognize the heavy burden placed on those in a leadership role. To be effective, any person in a position of authority needs the support and sound advice of those he or she leads.

“We look forward to having the opportunity to work with the Obama administration in protecting the civil rights of all Americans, projecting an accurate image of America in the Muslim world and playing a positive role in securing our nation.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life:

Americans have made a grave mistake in electing Barack Obama to the presidency. Yet America herself remains great and is not a mistake, which is why so many of her citizens will continue, with even greater energy and determination, to defend her founding principles.

The man elected to the Presidency said during the campaign that he does not know when a human being starts to have human rights. How can one govern from that starting point of ignorance? Governing is about protecting human rights; to do it successfully, you have to know where they come from, and when they begin.

Which will be the ‘swing faith?’

Which way are Catholics breaking? (Sure, weekly Mass-goers will lean McCain, but what about everyone else?)

Will Obama pull in any of the evangelical support he’s courted?

Which way will mainline Protestants go?

Soon we’ll have preliminary answers to all the questions that have fascinated religion pundits for so, so long.

Religion has played less of an overt role in this campaign than in 2004, although certain issues with religious overtones — namely abortion — are always heavily in the political mix. But one religious group or another is bound to be credited by some with helping swing the Big Race.

Catholics, I’d say, are a good bet to be this year’s “swing faith,” whether a solid majority supports Obama or a large segment stays with the GOP and splits the Catholic vote.

Neither candidate really likes to talk faith. The loser will never have to — and we’re never likely to learn any more about what he believes, deep down.

But the winner will be scrutinized like few before him. When the biographies are written, we’ll know much more about what being a Christian really means him.

Will it be the Episcopalian/Baptist? Or the Congregationalist? Soon, we’ll know.

Political fliers in church parking lots

24 hours from now, we’ll all be talking…exit polls.

Here is the AP’s Eric Gorski with a “final church Sunday before Election Day” wrap-up:

AP Religion Writer

On the final Sunday before Election Day, volunteers for both presidential candidates fanned out to churches in competitive states, congregations bused worshippers to polls to vote early and a battle of wills erupted in church parking lots over the distribution of political literature.Taking political messages to places of worship carries risks. Churches can lose their tax-exempt status if they take positions for or against a candidate directly or indirectly.

Officials with both the John McCain and Barack Obama campaigns said their efforts are careful to keep churches out of trouble, but it’s hard to know whether lines are crossed in such large-scale operations.


The McCain campaign recruited church members to pass out literature, take part in peer-to-peer phone banks and participate in the Republicans’ final 72-hour get-out-the-vote machine that began Sunday, said Bob Heckman, the campaign’s director of conservative outreach.

About 15,000 people volunteered, he said. On Sunday and the past two weekends, volunteers in 14 states who belong to Protestant megachurches, politically active conservative churches and Catholic parishes distributed literature at their churches comparing McCain and Obama on hot-button issues like abortion, gay marriage and judges. “Who Shares Your Values?” the flier says. “You decide.”

The flier also suggests that Obama wants to provide sex education for kindergartners — a claim from a disputed McCain ad about a failed bill from Obama’s days in the Illinois Legislature. Obama has said kindergartners, under the bill, would have been taught to defend themselves against sexual predators.

Heckman said the literature was given out “where appropriate,” including church meeting space, tables outside or car windshields.

Asked whether volunteers were told to get permission from clergy or church staff, Heckman did not directly answer.

“We only urge them to do whatever they think is appropriate or customary within their congregation,” he said. “The one thing we always do make clear is that if a church official would prefer we not distribute literature on church property, we respect their desires.”

One conservative Catholic political activist questioned the effort.

“If this were truly a national effort, the way it was in 2004, it might turn the election,” said Deal Hudson, who helped marshal Catholic support for President Bush. “But it’s too targeted — and targeted because of the lack of resources. The grassroots are there, but it’s a really missed opportunity.” Continue reading

Her daughter’s named Shana

doc49008d0eb536c373162675_thumb.jpgMeet Alysa Stanton, who next year will become the first black female rabbi.

She’s currently studying at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, the main seminary of Reform Judaism.

“I was born Jewish but not to a Jewish womb,” she tells the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle.

She was raised Pentecostal in Cleveland, but grew up in a neighborhood with a large Jewish population. Something clicked and she converted in college.

Needless to say, it hasn’t always been easy.

“When I’ve encountered situations that seem insurmountable, I’ve gone to my creator, and I’ve had many (anguished) moments regarding the racial issue and stereotypes,” Stanton said. “I think it has given me a sense of tenacity. I have learned to think on my feet.”

When it comes to drawing a line between faith and politics, he doesn’t

It’s a falsehood, of course, that only conservative Christians are politically involved.

Talking to the Rev. John Collins and his wife, Sheila, last week was like getting an oral history on the last 40 years or so in liberal activism.

They covered the civil rights movement, segregation in the Methodist church, the impact of King, a bit of Vietnam, planting closings in Ohio during the ’70s, their involvement in Jesse Jackson’s ’84 presidential run, the controversy over America’s plans to put cruise missiles in Europe during the early ’80s, their support for the Sandinistas during the final battles of the Cold War, their support for Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez today, and on and on.

tjndc5-5mdfnhnrq1z11mztpleo_layout.jpgCollins, a Methodist minister who lives in New Rochelle, has been involved in all of it.

On Saturday, Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains — which has itself become a focal point of liberal activism in Westchester — awarded the first annual John Collins Justice Fund Award.

And they gave it to Collins.

I wrote an advance for Saturday’s Journal News/LoHud.

Here’s a snippet of the interview. You can hear me asking Collins why he chose to become a minister instead of fighting for his causes in a more secular way: