Saturday, November 07, 2009
Jesus For President
In a certain sense, it may have been only natural that a Presidential candidate who campaigned on a message of hope would embrace -- and, in turn, be embraced by -- a religion whose message so often aspires to be a message of hope.
The de-hijacking (or perhaps re-hijacking) of Christian faith from the religious right certainly came as a surprise for those who had long grown accustomed to the association of Evangelical Christianity with conservative (and particularly Republican) politics.
But there were clearly large portions of the American Evangelical vote that were simply waiting to be de-hijacked.
In Like Father, Like Son (a book actually about Ernest and Preston Manning and the religious themes within their political careers), Lloyd Mackey splits Evangelical Christianity into seven categories. These categories demonstrate the oft-ignored variety amongst Evangelical Christians.
Mackey's first category of Evangelical Christians was Mainstream Evangelical Churches,
The second category is the Penecostal assemblies (featured so prominently and comically in Borat), who use emotion as a tool of worship.
Simililar to Penecostal assemblies, Evangelical Churches of the Charismatic Tradition also use emotion as a tool of worship. The key difference is that while the Penecostal assemblies developed out of distinctly Protestant traditions, Churches of the Charismatic Tradition derived from Catholic traditions.
A large portion of Evangelical Christians (particularly in Canada, but also in the United States) are Evangelicals in mainstream churches, who promote Evangelical traditions within the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and mainstream Baptist churches.
Reformed Evangelical churches are heavily influenced by the Calvinist philosophy, which believes that God's outreach is irresistable, and thus that God chooses whom to reach out to -- who invariably believe -- and whom not to.
Evangelical churches stemming from the tradition of Holiness include the Salvation Army Church. These churches tend to subscribe to the Social Gospel. (Interestingly enough, George W Bush's United Methodist Church subscribes to the social gospel.)
Mackey also classifies Evengelicals who immigrate from other countries -- Ethnic Evangelicals -- as their own particular segment, and notes that Ethnic Evangelicals have traditionally supported whichever political party is in power then they arrive in the country.
In paying attention to Obama's campaign style, it becomes immediately apparent that his campaign offered a great deal of appeal to Penecostal Assemblies, Ethnic Evangelicals and Churches of the Charistmatic and Holiness Traditions.
The de-hijacking of the Evangelical vote was certainly abetted by John McCain's reluctance to pursue the religious vote, in particular vast portions of the Evangelical vote.
But it's apparent that Obama is the kind of leader who would simply appeal to large portions of Evangelical Christianity, as defined by Lloyd Mackey.
Hopefully, the swing of so many Evangelical Christians toward Barack Obama will promote better understanding of the nuances of Evangelical Christianity.