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Election '08
Page 2
Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, 2008

Click here for earlier stories.

Click here for items from after the election

Good advice from the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Update -- for Election Day Eve


If you have not done so already, exercise your stewardship of your citizenship and vote on November 4.  



Today, pray for candidates and those who work with them.


Tomorrow, pray for our nation and our brothers and sisters as we vote.


This week, pray for those who are elected and those who are not; pray for our nation as we look forward to whatever change and transition may result from the election.

REMEMBER -- Voting is an act of faith

The message from the Religious Right is still the same:

Be afraid! Be very afraid!!

According to Robert Gagnon, Obama will wage war on Christianity!!!

Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, has just issued (as of November 3) an essay warning us all of “Obama’s Coming War on Historic Christianity over Homosexual Practice and Abortion.”

He begins:

If Obama is elected President this Tuesday he will make it a priority of his administration to pass legislation that will make war against Christians and persons of other religious convictions who believe that homosexual practice and abortion are immoral acts. Persecution will take many forms, as indicated by actions that have already taken place in parts of the United States, Canada, and Western Europe:

---  Compulsory indoctrination of our children in schools (kindergarten up), as also of ourselves in the workplace, that abortion and especially homosexual practice are moral and civil "rights" ...

---  Job discrimination, termination, and the imposition of fines on people who express contrary views toward homosexual practice ...

---  Forced subsidization of abortion and homosexual unions through taxes.

---  Forced offering of goods and services that directly advance and promote homosexual practice and abortion, irrespective of the degree to which the conscience of the provider may be violated. This includes, but is not limited to, adoption services and foster parenting, health care providers and counselors, justices of the peace, those who provide wedding services, the legal profession, print shops, and indeed all businesses with employees.

And there’s more. Lots, lots more.

It’s sad.

Read it all, if you care to >>

Campaign cast relieved to see the finish line

Saritha Prabhu of the Nashville Tennesseean gets inside the heads of some of the plays in the presidential rase, to tell us what they’re really thinking today.

It’s pretty funny. And bipartisan.

Three samples:

Sarah Palin: "I can't wait for all this to be over. Do you know how hard it is to stand and dis Barack Obama all day while wearing 5-inch killer heels? These heels have given me sciatica, and I'll soon be billing Alaskan taxpayers for my medical treatment.”

Barack Obama: "Wow, what a ride it's been, and I'm almost to the finish line. Got to be careful as president, though. No leeway to screw up, none whatsoever, or else people will say, 'See? That's what happens when you elect a black president.' Hmmm, what I'd give now for a good cigarette.”

Piper Palin, Malia and Sasha Obama: "Why are grown-ups crazy?''

The rest of the story >>

Thanks to Gene TeSelle

Need more about the election?     [11-3-08]

Are you suffering from Elective Compulsive Disorder? Can’t get enough of the campaign? Planning to watch all night Tuesday night? Do you need more more more??

Well, here's one more item that may help.


How Running a Campaign Is Like Building a Megachurch

The model for the modern political campaign is the evangelical megachurch.

Slate magazine offers a provocative slant on the way this campaign has been running.

The author (whose name is Bishop, no less) begins:

This isn't a partisan observation. Both George Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama adopted the basic organizing techniques that many ministers have been using since the 1970s to grow their churches to stupendous size. And why not? They work.

The megachurch was built on an idea born in India by an American missionary. Donald McGavran spent half a century overseas, and he used much of that time to discover the way churches could convert large numbers of people to Christianity. McGavran observed that converts didn't come to the church one by one. They came in groups. And those groups were socially coherent—castes, villages, or families. The key to church growth wasn't in bringing individuals to Christianity but in converting groups, peoples. And these groups would come if they were appealed to as a "homogenous unit."

The essay concludes:

Politicians have been packaging image from the beginning: McKinley sitting on the front porch, Truman speaking from the back of a train, Madison Avenue selling a new Nixon. In the end, however, the message was the same: "Vote for me." Campaigns today are doing something different. They attempt to manage behavior by creating a social environment that encourages people to vote for themselves. The most important message a campaign has to convey is one of flattery, that the candidate is "just like us."

Self-government, however, is the opposite of self-love. Democracy is about meeting and coming to terms with people who look, talk, believe, and think differently from us. Government might work better if that democratic exercise began for voters during the campaign rather than the day after inauguration.

The full article >>

We'd welcome your comments about this perspective.
(Or any further thoughts about the campaign and the election.)
Just send a note,
and we'll share it here.

And if you missed John McCain's and quasi-Sarah Palin's brilliant performance on Saturday Night Live, here it is.   [11-3-08]
Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Be Not Afraid

Jim Wallis of Sojourners offers this bit of pre-election advice, in the face of increasing efforts from the Right “ to stir the fears of the electorate that ‘he’ [Obama, of course] is not really like ‘them.’ ”

He says also:

Regardless of whether one favors Obama or McCain, this development should be of concern to all Americans, and especially people of faith. There is now a new spiritual dimension to this election, and it is decidedly evil. Christians believe that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear...” (1 John 4:18.) There are, of course, good and decent motivations to vote either way in this election. Strong people of faith will be marking different boxes on Election Day, but for people of faith there will be a spiritual decision to be made as well. Will we put our trust in the power of fear or hope?

More >>

Presbyterian Kay Hagan, candidate for Senate in North Carolina, is labeled “Godless”

So says Elizabeth Dole, defending her seat in the Senate in a TV ad that calls her challenger, Kay Hagan (who has taught Sunday school in her church) Godless and accuses her (falsely, need we add?) of associating with a group called Godless Americans PAC.

So now, kids – be scared of your Sunday school teacher!

The report from Campbell Brown of CNN >>

AOL offers links to Dole's ad, and Hagan's response >>

Two more takes on problems of voter suppression, and charges against ACORN

ACORN Fights Back Against Voter Suppression
Releases 30-Second Ad, Announces Lawsuits

On Oct. 29, ACORN released its first-ever 30-second ad on voter suppression, calling on Sen. John McCain to put an end to these tactics. ACORN also announced lawsuits intended to combat a series of attempts at voter suppression.  Click here >>


If the GOP had listened to ACORN's advice, the mortgage industry wouldn't be in meltdown

An article in The Nation argues that, in spite of all the accusations against the community organizing group ACORN, they have been urging for years that Congress should “protect borrowers from the banking industry's irresponsible, risky and predatory practices – subprime loans, racial discrimination (called "redlining") and rip-off fees. ACORN has persistently called for stronger regulations on banks, private mortgage companies, mortgage brokers and rating agencies. For years, ACORN has alerted public officials that the industry was hoodwinking many families into taking out risky loans they couldn't afford and whose fine print they couldn't understand.”

More on voting problems

Voter fraud? No, the real problem is voter suppression – but it’s not getting the attention.

David Morris, vice president of the Institute for local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., writes about this in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

It’s worth reading, to put some of the flap over ACORN and voter registration into perspective. Voter fraud has been rarer than getting killed by lightning, he says. “An analysis of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004 percent.”

The real problem, says Moarris, is “election fraud – voter suppression by election officials and state governments – is widespread and validated.” He cites the New York Times’ investigative report that "tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law." And that doesn’t include “efforts by state officials and private parties to discourage, intimidate or challenge eligible voters.”

The full essay >>

More on voting concerns

bulleta statement from the PC(USA) on voting rights and election reform
bulletpractical suggestions to ensure your vote is counted
On taxes and the redistribution of wealth

We’ve all heard quite a lot lately about people who want to “raise taxes and redistribute wealth.”

Well, Dr. William (Beau) Weston, who teaches sociology at Presbyterian-related Centre College in Kentucky, has offered one of the most concise clarifications of this question that I’ve seen.

Here it is, from his creatively titled blog, “gruntledcenter”

All Taxes Redistribute Wealth – That's What They Are For

There has been some very foolish talk on the campaign trail lately that one side is bad because they want to use taxes to redistribute wealth. This is silly – all taxes redistribute wealth. They take from everyone to serve the common good. We all pay taxes so we can all have roads and schools and mail and security and thousands of other common goods. Some of our taxes go to individuals for their individual needs, such as school loans or medicare payments. Even the small fraction of Americans receiving straight-up welfare in order to take better care of their kids are serving the common good. The Earned Income Tax Credit is better than old-fashioned welfare because it only goes to people who are working, and only goes to working people who do not make quite enough to take care of their kids.

Rich people get back less money in services because they need them less, and poor people get more because they need them more. That is just. That improves the common good.

See it on Weston’s blog >>

We received this note (within a couple hours of posting this item)  from the Rev. Herb Valentine, Moderator of the 203rd General Assembly, and a strong Witherspoon member:

You should send the Weston tax observation to Obama and Biden.  Perhaps you  should consider sending it to McCain and Palin -- they could use an update on the purpose of taxes.

With election one week away, PC(USA) releases voting rights and election reform report

‘Lift Every Voice’ sent to members of Congress, election officials

by Jerry L. Van Marter
Presbyterian News Service
[posted here 10-27-08]

LOUISVILLE — October 27, 2008 --- Adding its voice to the widespread public concern for possible voter disenfranchisement, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) today (Oct. 27) released a report entitled, Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Electoral Reform.

Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Electoral Reform cover

The report — which includes the full text of a policy statement adopted by the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA) in June in San Jose, CA — is being sent to all members of the U.S. Congress, as well as to state election officials and congregations in state capitals that are most likely to contain church members involved in the electoral process.

[WebWeaver's note:  This document is available online, as a 32-page PDF document, at ]

The report expresses concern for the historically low rate of voting in the United States and proposes a range of reforms designed to spur greater voter turnout. “Low voter participation in U.S. elections weakens the health of American democracy," says the study.

The report’s recommendations seek to “increase voter participation,” “to ensure equality and fairness,” “to provide for greater accountability,” and “to renew and broaden democratic practice.” 

Specifically, as summarized in a cover letter by the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the resolution calls for:

bulletextension of the amended Voting Rights Act of 1965 and opposes all measures that would disenfranchise voters on the basis of race or other condition;
bulletre-enfranchisement of felons who have paid their debt to society and “full voting rights” for the District of Columbia;
bulletverifiability of voting machine totals, as well as “best practices” in the administration of elections;
bulletopposition to “caging,” “purging lists,” special ID requirements, and other arbitrary challenges and intimidation of voters;
bulletpublic funding and lobbying restrictions designed to curb favoritism and conflicts of interest;
bulletefforts to rotate primaries and deal with consequences of the Electoral College, such as a national popular vote based in an affirmative right to vote; and
bulletother reforms such as “instant run-off voting” and “proportional voting,” a voting holiday or weekend voting, non-partisan election commissions, universal voter registration, and more.”

“Through such statements, the General Assembly speaks to both the church itself and to the larger society in line with the Reformed Christian tradition of public responsibility described in the document,” said ACSWP Coordinator Christian Iosso.

“The democratic — small d — ethos of our Church pervades this document,’ Parsons states in his cover letter. “Our church is named for presbyters, or elders, elected by congregations to serve on governing councils. Our democratic ethos, in other words, is part of our own life as a body of Christians at every level.”

The 217th General Assembly in 2006 voiced continuing concern over the confused 2000 presidential voting in Florida, including voting machine errors and the implementation of the Voting Rights Act.

The Assembly authorized a study and the ACSWP assembled a team that included three political scientists, three lawyers, two ethicists, a pastor, an educator, and one former election official. Their report, Lift Every Voice, was approved by this year’s Assembly.

The report states: “Accountability is demanded of every political figure in the Bible story. Because of sin in human personal and social life, transparency and the enforcement of principles of equality and liberty are required as a condition of a fair common life. Both citizens and officials are accountable for their custody of the democratic-representative process. To deny anyone a fair vote is a sin.

“Reinhold Niebuhr’s aphorism that ‘[human] capacity for justice makes democracy possible but [human] capacity for injustice makes democracy necessary’ is a fair summary of the possibilities of our political life as we strive to make it as participatory, just and accountable as possible.”

The full text of Lift Every Voice  is posted on the ACSWP Web site. Questions and comments can be directed to Iosso by email by phone at (800) 728-7228, ext. 5814; or to ACSWP Associate Belinda Curry by email or by phone at (800) 728-7228, ext. 5813.

The full text of the cover letter to Members of Congress accompanying the report, dated Oct. 27:

Dear Senators and Representatives:

We enclose a copy of the resolution, Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Electoral Reform, adopted this year by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s General Assembly in San Jose, California. This booklet, including its cover, is also available online. We are sharing it with State election commissions and particularly with the congregations of our church located in every state capital.

We send it to you on the eve of our general election, understanding that you and your staffs will be campaigning hard right up to Election Day. This resolution is not simply for this November 4: it is for the full enfranchisement of U.S. citizens, a larger and longer-term task that we hope you will steadily support. At this moment, we want to show our own support for that vision and encourage all elected officials to honor that franchise for all citizens. And for those of religious faith, we want to indicate at this key time that thoughtful Christians have reflected prayerfully on the issues of politics that particularly face you and your staff.

This resolution includes a summary of Reformed Christian teaching on faith and politics and a Biblical grounding for that teaching. It refers back to a longer policy developed in 1983 and other statements of the General Assembly: we have addressed the government since 1787! Thus its study section has an adult education purpose, as do all church policy statements, as well as an awareness of the Civil Rights struggle behind so much good election law.

Thus this resolution encourages the Senate and the House of Representatives to make the election process as welcoming and participatory as possible. This is a timely concern in many places. The resolution makes practical recommendations so that faith and practice can go together. There are also some elements for longer-term study that could improve our system technologically as well as legislatively. 

A letter inside the cover from our church’s highest elected official, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, summarizes some of these recommendations. We hope that when time permits, as you reflect on the electoral processes strengths and weaknesses, this resolution may give some help to you in the process of reform. Should you have comments or questions about this document please contact the Presbyterian Washington Office at (202) 543-1126.


If you -- or someone you love -- has trouble voting ...

Not ten commandments, but ten very helpful suggestions are offered by Voters Unite, a nonpartisan organization.

This year's presidential election has already begun (early voting in more than 30 states!) and reports of problems at the polls have started to surface. keeps a running list which includes faulty equipment, intimidation, long lines or other forms of systematic disenfranchisement, the dissemination of misinformation, and inadequate procedures and systems.
Although most of you will not have any problems at the polls this year, disenfranchisement can creep up on you like Michael Myers on Laurie Strode, so please take the time to read the 10 suggestions listed below to prepare yourself. (And for goodness sake, don't go in the basement!)

1) Know the Rules Governing Elections in Your State

Don't expect poll workers at your precinct to be experts in the rules that govern elections in your state. Although they are trained, they are also overworked and underpaid and can easily get confused by misinformation. Since each state has different rules and requirements for an election, make sure you know things like what ID requirements are needed, when you might be required to vote on a "Provisional Ballot," whether or not you can wear clothing with your candidate's logo, etc.. For instance, you should avoid casting a "Provisional Ballot" - which is a ballot that was set up as a safety-net for voters who might otherwise not be able to vote - because how and when these ballots get counted varies widely from state to state, and has resulted in a good number not being counted (1/3 of all provisional ballots were not counted in 2004). Although you might be offered a provisional ballot for legitimate reasons, these reasons are different in each state - so know the rules and you'll be well-equipped to handle problems if they arise.

2) Check Your Registration and Check Your Polling Place

Even if you think you're registered you may not be, as there have been reports of recent wholesale purging of voter rolls (see NY Times and Washington Post). Make sure you are registered to vote by checking online at Or, call your county election office. Also, know where you are supposed to vote before leaving your house. You can check your polling place at Google's handy dandy poll location finder thingy (not the technical term). If you show up at the wrong precinct and try to vote, you will either be directed to your actual precinct or you will be given a provisional ballot. In this instance, avoid the provisional ballot (for reasons discussed in #1), and take the time to get your democracy-loving self over to your correct precinct.


3) Early Vote, If You Can

Check if early voting is possible in your state and then pick a day that's not November 4 - and go vote. Besides alleviating the stress of getting to the polls on November 4th, early voting also allows you to take care of any problems that may crop up in time to vote another day!

4) Avoid "Straight Party" Voting

"Straight Party" voting means selecting a single bubble or box for a specific political party in order to register your vote for multiple candidates of that party. Fifteen states allow straight-party voting, and the laws vary widely from state to state. Do not use the "Straight Party" voting option if it's available to you. Again, each state is different and some require that the presidential race not be part of a "Straight Party" voting option. So, even though you may think you're voting for every race using the "Straight Party" option, you may not be. Voting may take a little longer when you don't use the "Straight Party," but it will give you more control over your ballot.

5) Verify Your Vote.

Remember when your third grade teacher told you to "check your work?" Yeah, well, everything you need to know about verifying your vote you learned in 3rd grade.

6) At the First Sign of a Problem, Stop!

At the first sign of a problem with your machine (or if you have any other problems listed below*), stop what you are doing and ask to speak to the supervisor (skip the poll worker) at your polling location. Explain your problem. If they try and waive you off, call your main election commission and ask to speak to the election commissioner or someone who will satisfactorily address your issue. Keep in mind that many poll workers/supervisors will try and blame the voter. Do not leave your polling place until your problem is well-documented and addressed to your complete satisfaction and, if the problem is with the machine, that the machine is quarantined. If you can’t get the machine taken out of service, begin telling all the voters still waiting in line exactly which machine is having problems and try to get them to refuse that machine. Also, do not leave your polling place until you have cast your vote.

7) File a Report. File Several Reports.

Your local polling place will have incident reports that are specific to your county available to you. If they do not, call the county election commission and ask someone to bring one to you. Make sure that both you and the supervisor sign it. Do not leave without a copy of the signed report in your hands. Then, file a state report - info on how to do so can be found at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission website or, call your state election commission.

8) Call the Election Protection Hotline

Report any incident to the non-partisan Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-Our-Vote, especially if you feel you are being bullied. This hotline can also help with filing reports and any additional grievances that you feel may not be taken seriously by your local election officials.

9) Video Your Vote

If possible, plan ahead for any problems by bringing a cell phone or video camera with you to Video the Vote (a national initiative to protect voting rights by monitoring the electoral process). If you encounter difficulties, or see others having problems, make a detailed record. Then, spread it around - local news media, YouTube, your own website or blog, etc.. Remember, the focus should be on gathering evidence and not telling stories. So, use video, audio, and photographs to document. If you do not have a means to record, then it is especially important for you to file a report (see #7) as well as write down names and phone numbers of witnesses, voting machine serial numbers, names of poll workers, and the time and day of your incident.


10) Never Let Anyone Tell You That You Can't Vote.
We the People, indeed.


*Problems can include: machine problems (vote flipping, etc.), polling place problems (machines not set up on time), switching or closing of polling place, voters forced to vote on a provisional ballot, long lines/waits, intimidation, unusual ID demands, poll workers asking inappropriate questions, etc.


Please forward as you see fit and remember, 
the vote you save may be your own
If you encounter problems,
or hear of them in your area,
we'd like to hear your story
and your reflections on the incident.
Please just send us a note,
to be shared here.
If Obama Wins, No More Boy Scouts

This dire warning has just been posted by the Rev. John Shuck on his Shuck and Jive blog.

Thus predict the Christians. The lovers of Christian truth and right belief are at it hot and heavy on the eve of the election. They are predicting apocalyptic doom if Barack Obama becomes president.Terrorist strikes on four American cities. Russia rolling into Eastern Europe. Israel hit by a nuclear bomb. Gay marriage in every state. The end of the Boy Scouts. All are plausible scenarios if Democrat Barack Obama is elected president, according to a new addition to the campaign conversation called "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America," produced by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family Action.

[From your WebWeaver:  The "Letter from 2012" is a PDF document running to 16 pages -- mostly telling of the terrible things that will happen to the "Christian values" that Focus on the Family is striving to uphold.]

The end of the Boy Scouts? This is one of their dire predictions, should Obama (who, according to them, is not a real Christian) be elected. Get this:

    • A 6-3 liberal majority Supreme Court that results in rulings like one making gay marriage the law of the land and another forcing the Boy Scouts to "hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys." (In the imagined scenario, The Boy Scouts choose to disband rather than obey).

There you have it. Christians witnessing to the truth of the gospel. Fortunately, there really are folks out there who do claim Christian identity but have a different view. These are Christians who when they actually read the Bible and the gospels find in there a call to do justice and relieve poverty. This is in today's Johnson City Press:

At a time when more than 37 million Americans are in poverty, including many who are newly poor and paying keen attention, spiritual leaders are encouraging the young to vote and urging voters to select candidates who will fight poverty.

“I feel more momentum, energy and focus on poverty than I have in churches in three decades or more,” said Jim Wallis, chief executive officer of Sojourners social justice ministries in Washington.

“Partly, it’s a new generation. Baby boomers are becoming church leaders and speaking to a new generation that wants their lives to make a difference. It’s a new altar call, if you will,” he said.

A question for beginners:

Which of these two organizations, Focus on the Family or Sojourners is more faithful to the gospel?


Posted By John Shuck to Shuck and Jive at 10/25/2008 10:09:00 A




Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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