Sandbagged at Saddleback

Evangelical voters simply can't vote for somebody who's pro-choice, Rick Warren tells BeliefNet -- after Obama's visit.

Published August 19, 2008 10:20AM (EDT)

Tom Schaller broke it all down in War Room earlier, but I can't quite leave it alone. Now Rick Warren tells BeliefNet that Barack Obama is going to have to do more than "talk faith" to win evangelical votes, and compares an evangelical Christian voting for a pro-choice politician to a Jew voting for a Holocaust denier. I understand why many people say it was good for Obama to go to Warren's church nonetheless; I didn't feel that way, and I feel even less that way today. I loved Mike Madden's fair and informative stories on Saddleback Church this weekend (you'll find them here and here) but I thought it was telling he didn't find a single church member who said he or she would vote for Obama.

I was also shocked by how disrespectfully Warren dismissed Obama supporters' complaints about John McCain not being in a "cone of silence" where he couldn't hear the questions as "sour grapes" -- which kind of implies Obama lost the contest. The fact is, Warren knew that McCain hadn't arrived yet when he started the event, but he nonetheless told the audience the GOP contender was in a "cone of silence" that sounded very much like a green room without television or radio. That sounds like a lie, Rick, and lying is wrong. It breaks one of the Ten Commandments.

I know some liberals love Rick Warren, but to me he seems like yet another preening narcissistic televangelist -- especially as he was high-fiving Obama about their multimillion-dollar book deals, and kvetching about how $250,000 a year in Orange County isn't "rich." Let's think about the least of our brothers, OK, Rick? I understand why Obama visited Saddleback, especially given the persistence of the Muslim smears. Obama going to Warren's church is a little like McCain going to the NAACP: It's not about winning over the audience in the room; you're appealing to a wider group of voters who want their president to be inclusive and reach out widely.

In McCain's case, that target audience is independents and moderates who are unhappy that the GOP has done so little to reach non-white voters, and who'll be relieved to see him showing the NAACP respect. In Obama's case, it was Democrats and independents of faith, as well as those who want to see the party fight for the votes of Christians, not cede them to the GOP. I consider myself in the category of Obama's wider audience, but I feel much the way I did Saturday night: I admire his courage, his patience and his tolerance, but I think he played an appallingly rigged game.

By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections