Clergy: Faith-based vote could be diverse

From a faith perspective, the presidential vote is shaping up to be more diversified than in elections past, several area leaders are saying.

When Gov. Sarah Palin walked onto the podium the first time during this election year, several faith communities took greater notice, reading up on her background as a political leader, as a mother and as someone who chose to give birth to a child she knew beforehand suffered from Down syndrome.

“She invigorates some evangelicals and some Catholics. There’s no question about that,” said Jon Mok-Lamme, pastor of Sojourners Church in Grand Junction. “Even more so, you see a diversity of opinion and concerns about her candidacy, even within the faith communities.”

Mok-Lamme said Leith Anderson, who is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, “expressed concern about Sarah Palin’s lack of experience.”

“I just think evangelicals are looking at a broader range of issues,” he said. “This election, you find them saying things you would not expect them to say.”

Some ministers and students with campus ministries were attending Palin’s speech in Grand Junction on Monday, said Leslie McAninch, director of the Christ Center, which houses events for all Mesa State College campus ministries.

Leaders said they know students went to the Grand Junction appearances by Sen. Barack Obama and Palin, perhaps more for the sense of history than being for or against a particular candidate. Mok-Lamme said a large group of Episcopalian students attended Obama’s appearance.

One thing several leaders of different faiths echoed is a concern about the character attacks they have noticed in campaign ads.

Pastor Mike Burr of Koinonia Church in Grand Junction, whose Web site says it “is in closest agreement with the progressive voices of the larger Christian church,” said his congregation places weight in a candidate’s character.

“Any particular dogmatic stance doesn’t seem to be as important as the character they demonstrate,” Burr said.

He said there are Palin events at which people in the audience have said some mean-spirited things about Obama.

“I applaud John McCain for saying, ‘Look, Senator Obama is a good, decent man,’ ” Burr said.

“It appears to me that conservative churches don’t seem to be as enthusiastic about Sen. McCain as they were about George Bush in 2004,” Burr added.

Mok-Lamme said he has seen people of faith still struggling with their vote.

“I had a woman talk to me this week who was really concerned with Obama’s position on abortion. She’s also struggling with the Republican Party because abortion has increased in the last few years,”

Mok-Lamme said. “She feels that if she’s a ‘whole-life’ person, how could she not be for withdrawing from Iraq? There’s somebody struggling with a broad range of issues.”

Local churches are stopping short of telling congregations exactly how to vote, because doing so would endanger their nonprofit status and the tax exemptions that go with it.

For example, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in downtown Grand Junction this weekend passed out a question-and-answer sheet about voting, which said it would not tell people who to vote for, but which encouraged them to examine their faith values while voting.

In an article that ran Friday by the Catholic News Association, Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver, who is one of the most respected archbishops in Catholic circles nationwide, disagreed with a Catholic professor’s promotion of Sen. Obama. The archbishop reportedly said he is “the most committed ‘abortion-rights’ presidential candidate ... since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973.”

Darrin Crowe, a pastor at Heart of Junction Southern Baptist church, said, “People I’m dealing with seem to have a sense of an ability to connect with (Palin) a lot more than some of the others.”

Even among them, he said, opinions vary.

“People have things they value, and even people of faith value different things,” Crowe said.


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