The God Vote
Jacques Berlinerblau is associate Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He’s also editor of faith2008.org. Many years ago he received a doctorate in ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literature from New York University. Soon after, for reasons that he himself has never fully understood, he completed another doctorate in theoretical sociology from the New School for Social Research. Feeling sufficiently credentialed to write about and research any topic under the sun, his areas of interest include the Bible, its composition, its interpretation, and in particular the way that it has been dragooned into modern political discourse. To this end his new book is called “Thumpin’ It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today’s Presidential Politics” (Westminster John Knox), described by First Things as “laugh-out-loud funny as well as astute.” He also has published “The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously” (Cambridge:2005). An earlier book, “Heresy in the University: The Black Athena Controversy and the Responsibilities of American Intellectuals” (Rutgers: 1999) probed the manner in which institutions of higher education handle scholarly dissent. He has written extensively in scholarly journals on the subject of heretics, intellectuals, secularism, and Jewish civilization. This confluence of interests accounts, to a great degree, for his fascination with modern Jewish-American literature. A life-long New Yorker, he has recently moved to Washington D.C. with his family and is beguiled by the strange traffic lights that count down the seconds until they finally change colors. Close.
Now that Barack Obama is president-elect we have to figure out how issues pertaining to religion contributed to his victory. I will get to the exit-poll data tomorrow, but tonight I want to float the following theory: On the Faith and Values front Obama won this election, in part, because he avoided all the errors made by the Kerry campaign in 2004.
Not “an Evangelical’s worst nightmare”: Unlike Kerry, who scared the bejesus out of many conservative Christians, Obama gave them no salient reason to loathe him. He was a proud servant of Christ. He had no problem giving a shout out to Jesus. He could thump Bible with the best of them. And–this is very important–he did not give off the dreaded “Petrus-sipping secularist” vibe that always seemed emblazoned across Kerry’s forehead (Readers, I am taking bets: how many times do you think the president-elect mentioned the phrase “Separation of Church and State” in nearly two years of campaigning?).
Sure, Obama was pro-Choice. But he was pro-Choice in that pained, every-abortion-is-a-tragedy sort of way that the Democrats have found so rhetorically effective of late. This doesn’t mean, of course, that Evangelicals would vote for him (the majority did not, though as we shall probably see tomorrow he made small but significant gains). But it does mean that Obama avoided having one quarter of the American electorate passionately campaigning against him. This was a luxury that John Kerry did not have.