Minnery disappointed by religious outreach, not thrilled with McCain
Tom Minnery, a senior vice president with Focus on the Family, is attending many of the religious outreach events at the Democratic National Convention this week. He spoke with me about the Democrat's religious outreach and the challenges Sen. John McCain has to overcome with evangelical voters.
What do you think so far?
I was entirely disappointed in their supposed outreach to conservative evangelical believers. It was a fraud. There was a panel, a faith forum, how can progressives work with conservative, religious people. Not a single conservative among then nine speakers and it was tired old leftist dogma. There was absolutely no discussion about responsible fatherhood. There was not a single solution proposed that didn't involve the government.
What did you think about the interfaith service?
It's interfaith as long as it's on the left. I didn't see a prominent conservative leader speak. Rev. [Blake] who spoke about the evil of abortion, I suspect he won't be part of the interfaith dialogue in the future. It doesn't exist. What a shame. I was hoping to see if there was real fruit in this dialogue in the supposed reach out to conservatives. They now have a candidate Barack Obama who is comfortable talking about religion, but his is a traditional liberal theological viewpoint and they went with the flow. Jim Wallis is an increasing disappointment. He may be evangelical theologically, but politically he's liberal. Rick Warren said last week in that interview with the Wall Street Journal that his book is an agenda of the Democratic Party and I agree with that.
What about the Democrats' efforts to reduce abortion?
There's only a reason that abortions should be reduced, and that's for the very same reason it should be eliminated. If it's not life, what's the problem with it?
What about John McCain? He's struggled to talk about his own faith.
He does. I'm not sure of the extent of his saving faith if there is one. We as evangelicals would have hoped to hear a lot more. I hope those who are Christians who are around him are talking to him. He usually talks about that Vietnam soldier's faith. It loosened his bonds, scratching a cross in the dirt, I've heard that about six times. He does seem to have viable Judeo-Christian worldview, which means that things of God are significant, the church needs to be vigorous and independent, he knows the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.
What objections do evangelicals raise about him as a candidate?
He's inconsistent on the abortion issue, given his view of the stem-cell research side of it. He has caused great mischief for a lot of organizations including our own who try to do issue advertising to let people know how the politicians stand during the election. We can't do that because of McCain-Feingold. Finally, the Supreme Court knocked that part of it out, but there's an increasing number of regulations that we have to deal with, so we don't appreciate that. I think that his joining the gang of 14 to take control over the Supreme Court justices was ineffective. Obviously we'd like a candidate that supports the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Barack Obama has hired people like Joshua DuBois and John McCain has Marlys Popma. Can you compare their religious outreach and whether it'll work?
We've heard more from Marlys more than we've heard from Joshua, probably not a surprise. I think that evangelicals are sophisticated enough to know that you're never going to get a perfect candidate, so you gotta take the best you can get. It's been difficult for [Dr. Dobson]. The selection of a vice president will be significant.
There are rumors that he could choose a pro-choice candidate.
I don't think he will. I hope he will not be that dumb. He's the candidate who's trying to appeal to moderates and independents. He needs somebody on the ticket who would appeal to conservatives. It'll be interesting if it's Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney seems to be a genuine convert on the marriage issue, on the abortion issue, although there are a small number of evangelicals who really despise him. Mitt Romney's statements from his own campaign against Ted Kennedy for U.S. Senate in which each vied to be more liberal, those things still reverberate.
What about his Mormon faith?
There's a concern, sure. I think that would dampen some enthusiasm. I think evangelical voters are sophisticated enough to know that Mitt Romney did not seem to turn the state house in Boston into a Mormon temple and he probably won't turn his office in the White House into a Mormon temple. Republicans tend to give the next nomination to the guy who's waiting. Secondly, McCain's age is a factor ... although his mother's in her 90s.