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September 2008 CACE eJournal

From the Director:

We are awash in a multimedia sea that offers us promise and peril as technological advances speedily emerge and become part of our everyday lives. Great opportunities and challenges for moral discernment also emerge. With this in mind, the CACE annual theme for 2008-2009 is “What’s The Frequency: Authentic Living in a 5000 Channel Universe.” Join us this year as we provide a number of opportunities to pursue Christian moral discernment. We will have several speakers, a concert, and a conference, and you are warmly invited to walk with us as we seek to live faithful and wise lives, navigating the constantly changing seas of our multimedia world.

Be sure to check out the info regarding Dr. Stephen Macek's visit to Wheaton on October 13th.

Vince Bacote, Ph.D
Director of CACE


Upcoming Events:

Monday, October 13th, 7:30 PM Blanchard 339
Dr. Stephen Macek, North Central College
"Urban Nightmares: Media and the Moral Panic Over the City"
Co-sponsored with Urban Studies Department.

Winner of the Urban Communication Foundation's 2006 Jane Jacobs Publication Award:

"For the past twenty-five years, American culture has been marked by an almost palpable sense of anxiety about the nation's inner cities. Urban America has been consistently depicted as a site of moral decay and uncontrollable violence, held in stark contrast to the allegedly moral, orderly suburbs and exurbs.

In his award winning book Urban Nightmares, Steve Macek documents the scope of alarmist representations of the city, examines the ideologies that informed them, and exposes the interests they ultimately served." Dr. Macek is an assistant professor of Speech Communication at North Central College where he teach courses in media studies, urban studies, persuasion and gender/women studies.

Wednesday, November 5th, 7:00 PM Coray Gym
Dr. Duane Litfin and Dr. Richard Mouw
"The Evangelical Manifesto: After the Election"

Wednesday-Friday, November 12-14th, 7:00 PM Barrows Auditorium
Christian Moral Formation Lectureship featuring Mark Joseph
"The Nature of Power: From Washington to Hollywood, Understanding and Navigating the Power Structures of Popular Culture." 

CACE Feature

Interview: Dr. Amy E. Black on the Evangelical Manifesto and the Intersection of Faith and Politics

Q: What does the Evangelical Manifesto mean for evangelicals and their relationship to politics?

A: If we go back to a related statement, the NAE statement, “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Responsibility,” in general what we are looking at are groups of religious leaders getting together who either define themselves as evangelical or are defined as evangelical, and trying to come to some agreements together that they can put down in writing to help explain what we are doing in politics and how we can work together.

I think it is helpful in the sense that it is moving us towards something in writing that we can reflect on, argue with, agree with. It also helps expand the constellation of issues seen as relevant to evangelical voters.

It is also symptomatic of the lack of unity within evangelicalism. Unlike our Catholic brothers and sisters who can say ‘these are the writings and teachings of the church, here in the catechism, here in our official writings,’ protestant evangelicals represent a broad number of denominations, political theologies, and perspectives, and they are trying to find a way to define themselves and their relationship to politics. These kinds of documents are one way some leaders and groups have chosen to do that.

Q: Having conducted a lot of study on faith and politics, what do you see evangelical influence being in this election and after this election, especially given the evangelical role in previous elections?

A: Depending on how far we go back, I think it is interesting, especially for students to remember, that the close association between evangelicals and the Republican Party is fairly new.

1976 was the first time in decades that evangelicals were beginning to think and act as a block. For much of the twentieth century most evangelicals had not been involved in politics, and had intentionally separated themselves from politics. They were energized in 1976 by Jimmy Carter. They were energized by a Democratic President.

Over time, many of those voters and interest groups who supported Carter became disillusioned with some as his work as President. We saw in 1980 a dramatic shift, and many of those same leaders who supported Carter moved their support to the Republican Party and in particular the person of Ronald Reagan.

Since that time there has been a growing connection between evangelical voters and Republicans. That is not to say that all evangelicals vote Republican, by any stretch of the imagination, but a majority do, usually super majorities do. But it is important to recognize that it has not always been unidirectional and probably will not always be that way.

Q: How do you think that the relationship between evangelical voters and the candidates will play out in 2008?

A: It is definitely an interesting year, and a lot of the norms and expectations that we have seen in the past four or five elections are very different this year.

For example, we typically think of the Republican being the most outspoken about his or her faith and the candidate that is connecting most directly with the faith-based voters. In recent elections, Democratic campaigns have either done very little or no outreach to evangelicals. That has been changing. The Obama campaign has a focus on reaching out to evangelical voters, and all the major Democratic candidates did the same thing. That is new.

There is also a language difference that has been interesting. Both Obama and McCain have spoken about their faith and identify themselves as Christians. But compared to recent Presidential campaigns, if you look at Obama and McCain’s writings, and at their public speeches, Barack Obama is much more comfortable talking about his faith in a personal way, describing his faith narrative and conversion. The types of language that he uses and the richness of the discussion look very much like what many evangelicals would want and expect to hear in someone’s faith story.

By contrast, Senator McCain’s discussions of faith are very different. The rhetoric is not nearly as personal. He is reluctant to talk on a personal basis about his faith. If someone is reluctant to talk about their faith, it does not at all say what their faith is, but it is a rhetorical difference, a style difference, and a personal difference. We are used to seeing it sort of the opposite, where the Democrat is more reluctant to speak publicly about his or her faith. That is an interesting flip.

I think when people look at the two candidates, obviously one’s personal faith story is not the primary reason why most people vote, but it’s a part of the equation and a confusing one.

Dr. Amy E. Black is an associate professor of politics and international relations at Wheaton College. Her publications include "Beyond Left and Right: Helping Christians Make Sense of American Politics" and "Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush's Faith Based Initiatives"