An evangelical supporter’s disappointment in Obama

David P. Gushee, a well-known and widely-respected ethicist and evangelical voice who supported Barack Obama, expresses what sounds like some buyer’s remorse in a March 16 column at USA Today titled, “Mr. President, we need more than lip service”:

“I knew from the beginning that if Obama took typical Democratic positions on abortion-related issues, this centrist evangelical friendliness toward him and his administration would be tested. I knew that during the campaign he had hewed closely to the standard Democratic pro-choice line. But his party’s platform also promised a commitment to abortion-reduction efforts, and he has echoed that language. Some of us continue to dream that he will roll out a major abortion-reduction initiative. All too familiar Such an initiative has not been offered. But what has occurred are a series of disappointingly typical Democratic abortion-related moves…”


Gushee cites the Mexico City policy reversal, the stem cell decision, the conscience clause regulation reversal, and the Sebelius nomination. And he rues his silence, and his acquiescence in requests for his support against his Christian instincts, especially because he has received little in return.

“…[T]his kind of calculation is precisely what has gotten Christian political activists in trouble in the past, not just for 40 years but for 1,600 years. We gain access to Caesar in order to affect policy; we hold onto access even if it involves compromising some of what we want in policy; in the end, we can easily forget what policies we were after in the first place. I think this definitely happened to the Christian right. It doesn’t need to be repeated by the Christian center or left.”


Gushee still has hope, but as he says, “we need more than lip service on these crucial issues.”

At First Things, Keith Pavlischek wags a finger (and even a tongue) at Gushee for being a mug.

But the Obama Administration ought to listen to its friends rather than just dismissing its foes.   

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posted March 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

Of course, Obama’s friends are the loyal Democrats who have fought for 30 years for civil liberties, responsible public health policy, and protecting a woman’s right to choose. Bowing to pressure from pro-life supporters who have been fairly fickle and disloyal is a slap in the face to those in the party–and the progressive movement–who are committed to responsible public health policy and important research.
I think we need to be careful about staying inside the religious bubble, as if those are the only concerns that matter and those are the only constituencies who need to be given attention. The Bush policy Mexico City, conscience clauses, and stem cells were a slap in the face to liberals and progressives and they expect Obama to reverse them.

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posted March 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm

The radical religious right are NOT “friends” of the Obama Administration.

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posted March 19, 2009 at 12:37 am

Interestingly enough, the countries that have the lowest abortion rates are the ones where access to abortion is legal, safe, and protected. I also think that economic issues contribute to the demand for abortion, which seems to be priority #1 with the Obama administration these days (and rightfully so, in my opinion).

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