Strange Bedfellows: Obama and Evangelicals

Younger evangelicals are also increasingly convinced that helping people out of poverty is a way toward reducing the number of abortions. Obama, like his former contender Sen. Hillary Clinton, D- N.Y., has pushed an agenda to reduce the number of abortions by lifting women out of poverty, Campolo said.

In an unscientific online poll conducted early in the primaries by Relevant Magazine, a publication aimed at college-aged Christians, 28.7 percent of respondents to the question "Who would Jesus vote for?" picked Obama, 4 percent more than preacher and former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, and nearly five times as many votes than John McCain received.

Many young evangelicals are drawn to Obama because he is willing to discuss openly his own faith, something McCain rarely does.

"There has been a great deal of criticism for Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright. But there is no talk of McCain's pastor, because he doesn't have one. He simply is not a religious person in the way many evangelicals want their president to be. McCain represents a good secular person. They regard him highly, but they don't see him as a person of faith," he said.

Obama's campaign is leading the initiative, but a number of community-based and college-based groups have worked to raise grass-roots support.

The recently created Matthew 25 Network is a public action committee set up to encourage Christians to vote Democratic.

"There was a real desire and interest for a place that's appropriate for Christians to talk about faith and share the values in Chapter 25 of the Book of Matthew in which Jesus calls on us to care for the least among us," said Mara Vanderslice, the PAC's founder, who did similar outreach for the Kerry campaign in 2004.

"Americans see the price of gas going above $4, they're losing their jobs, their children are going overseas to fight and when they bow their heads, those are the issues -- not abortion or gay marriage – that they're really praying about."

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