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June 10, 2008

Faith, Hope And Change


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(T)he Obama campaign plans to add a full-time evangelical-focused staff member to its existing religious outreach team and is rolling out an effort over the summer to organize over a thousand house parties built around an hour-and-a-half-long curriculum on faith and politics. With the broadening of the evangelical agenda to include issues like poverty, global warming and AIDS, Mr. Obama’s advisers hope to peel off more moderate evangelical voters.

From: McCain Extends His Outreach, but Evangelicals Are Still Wary — June 9, 2008/ NYT


I thought the McCain photo illustrating yesterday’s NYT piece on the evangelical vote was quite perfect.

The picture shows McEarnest in front of St. David’s Catholic Church in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.  The shot was taken back in April when McCain made a pandering trip to address the Katrina damage.  What is wonderful is how the photo is completely dominated by a statue of St. David, a fairly minor saint actually, while McCain is pushed off to the side like the Christian conservative afterthought that he is.

In comparison, consider this flyer from the Kentucky primary situating Obama in the pulpit alongside his inspirational quote about doing the Lord’s work.  And then, notice the FAITH preceding the HOPE and CHANGE tag lines of the Obama campaign, the white background surrounding each letter evoking a sense of the ethereal.  (The phrasing, of course, is also a play on “faith, hope and charity.”)

In this BAG post from October ‘06, I was focusing on how conservative iconography was already moving away from the right wing preceding that last mid-term election.  McCain’s campaign talking points might dictate that Obama’s appeal with evangelicals has been damaged because of Reverend Wright.  But Obama does have a deep sense of religion and I believe the imagery holds up from that standpoint.

What I do have concern about is the setting. If you recall, there was controversy in the Kentucky Senate race over the fact that Harold Ford actually filmed a campaign commercial in a house of worship.  The question is (considering that anything the right wing does shouldn’t make it right), does the scene — in blurring the lines between church and state — actually push Obama’s “spirituality advantage” beyond where it needs to?

See the full brochure with comment thread at

h/t: PJ

(image: Mary Altaffer/Associated Press.  April 24, 2008.  New Orleans)

  • Emily L. Ferguson

    Great example of Axelrod’s skill as a designer of graphic advertising. But considering how effective big business has been at selling american junk food, cigarette and automobile culture, surely McCain could find someone as visually skillful.

  • drinkof

    Considering that Obama is facing email rumors that he’s not Christian? This is hardly EVEN close to the line.
    Keep it up, I’d say.

  • black dog barking

    I see the candidate disarming his opponent by moving into what was politically sacred space, calmly and effectively neutralizing a political wedge. BHO looks very natural at that pulpit and, if the target audience sees it like I do, this is very bad news for the Republican candidate. For contrast imagine McCain occupying the same space. KKKarl needs to change the subject, fast.
    BHO did something similar a few weeks back with the flag lapel pin. Haven’t heard much recently on treason by empty suit jacket lapel. Pretty soon we may be forced to start talking about Iraq, health care, the economy, energy, climate change, America’s role and responsibilities in the world.

  • catfood

    I realize that for campaign purposes, the Obama photo is necessary to counter the e-mail attacks stating that he is a Muslim. It is important that he not allow his opponents to define him. It still makes me uncomfortable. If it is a sincere representation of his faith… okay. If not, it is the most cynical kind of pandering.
    I can’t help but notice that the lighting, combined with the low camera angle and his upturned face render his African lineage nearly imperceptible…

  • d

    The image is very impressive; I particularly like how the focus fades out near the top of the photo (“dissolving into the unseeable mystery above”). The cross is lit up (with lightbulbs, no?) in a way that almost makes it seem to be on fire. Naturally, a burning cross means VERY different things in different contexts to different groups–one (white evangelical) man’s fiery emblem of God’s power is another (black southern) man’s hateful reminder of the Klan–but notice how placing the burning cross “behind” Obama works well (though differently) with BOTH interpretations. Nice picture.
    I’m less psyched about the injection of religion into politics. Yes, it DOES make a difference as to whether it’s real (Obama) or fake (McCain)… but, goddammit, I am so sick of religion as a litmus test for public office. His Belief will help Obama win the election, no doubt–and this will be a great thing for our country.
    But it shouldn’t have to be this way.
    We who have different religious beliefs from the tyrannical midwesterners/southerners should NOT have to live as second-class citizens… That’s NOT what this country was supposed to be about.
    An atheist (or buddhist, agnostic, mormon, or jew) should not be ruled out from becoming President, for chrissakes.

  • ohdave

    I think you mean the Tennessee Senate race, don’t you?

  • olo

    This christianist crap makes me want to puke. Islam crap also makes me want too puke.
    And while I’m thinking about it Jewish crap makes me want to puke, and satananism makes me want to puke….

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