There are two articles out that discuss Obama’s current spiritual advisors in the evangelical sphere, “Without a Pastor of His Own, Obama Turns to Five” in the NYT, and “Obama and the New Evangelical Movement” at Change.org. Without a home church, he has turned to men who have a less-than-positive view of LGBT rights. This is significant because none represent the liberal, gay-affirming United Church of Christ, a denomination he attended in Chicago. That’s not to say these men (and they are all men) are wholesale religious conservatives, the conundrum is that many are very involved in the otherwise liberal social justice front.

Right: Look at who else Rev. Kirbyjon advises besides our new president. The Rev. officiated at Jenna Bush’s wedding.

The NYT’s Laurie Goodstein:

All are men, two of them white and three black – including the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a graying lion of the civil rights movement. Two, the entrepreneurial dynamos Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion.

None of these pastors are affiliated with the religious right, though several are quite conservative theologically. One of them, the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, the pastor of a conservative megachurch in Florida, was branded a turncoat by some leaders of the Christian right when he began to speak out on the need to stop global warming.

But as a group they can hardly be characterized as part of the religious left either. Most, like Mr. Wallis, do not take traditionally liberal positions on abortion or homosexuality. What most say they share with the president is the conviction that faith is the foundation in the fight against economic inequality and social injustice.

Goodstein is quick to say that the White House refused to comment on the article.

More below the fold.Michael A. Jones at Change.org:

So why can’t President Obama, who as recently as 1996 “unequivocally” supported full marriage rights for same-sex couples, keep some religious company that supports full marriage equality for same-sex couples?  From Maine to California, he’d have plenty of religious leaders to choose from.  Instead, President Obama has embraced a new evangelical wing that instead of bolstering progressive values, believes in a version of centrist social justice that may be great on issues like poverty and the environment, but fails on some of the preeminent civil rights issues of today.

Among the ministers that Obama has been consulting with since his election include Bishop T.D. Jakes, who has called homosexuality a “brokenness” and has said that he wouldn’t hire any LGBT person who was sexually active.  (Editorial note: Bishops Jakes’s son was arrested in January after allegedly cruising for gay sex in a popular Dallas park.  While I feel for the son, I can’t help but wonder if the turn toward down-low sexual gratification isn’t a byproduct of growing up in a household where your father thinks all LGBT people are spiritually broken.)

Caldwell, in particular deserves closer examination (Check out these stats from Forbes about Caldwell). Does Obama support this view of his?

Another minister with Obama’s ear is Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Houston pastor and head of the Windsor Village United Methodist mega-church.  Caldwell’s church has actively promoted an ex-gay ministry known as “Metanoia,” which seeks to “help homosexuals understand with God’s help that ‘change [is] possible.’

Whoa. OK, so let’s assume a mealy mouthed message like “the President does not believe in ex-gay therapy” or some such nonsense, should he make a statement. If he doesn’t then what is he doing talking to Caldwell when there are plenty of other prominent pastors he could choose to break bread with who don’t subscribe to that view?

So what can we read from this decision on pastors in his inner spiritual circle on Obama’s part? After all, faith can and should be a private matter — but sadly, it never is in American politics. In this case it certainly isn’t since he has selected very high-profile evangelicals to consult with. What does First Lady Michelle Obama feel about this, given her appearances before LGBT audiences?

She embraced the community and passed on the specific kind of support that her husband, as president would give to moving civil equality forward:

Was that a mirage I experienced in Denver? At the very least, all of this calls for a public statement from President Obama to clarify whether this evolution in spiritual guidance does reflect a shift in his thinking on LGBT rights — and the pursuit of the promises he made to the community that helped him cross the election finish line. After all, given the power that religion holds in this country, we’re entitled to an answer. Any answer that throws up “it’s a personal matter” is BS, since he had no problem touting his faith to appeal to religious voters. A clarification is warranted before this blows up in his face…again.

It should also be noted that Obama’s swift actions with the Lilly Ledbetter Act and return to a sane policy on stem cell research have sent clear signals about his stand on equality for women and science-based governing despite the expected hits he knew he’d take from the right wing. He’s done nada for LGBT rights so far, and has been silent in the news of late about whether the feds should extend benefits to same-sex partners of government workers, lest it raise the red flag about DOMA and sent strong signals that a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is going on the back burner.

Related:

* Obama’s new pastors (diary by QScribe)

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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