Barack Obama has some new Christian friends. Mara Vanderlsice is heading up the new Political Action Committee (PAC) called "The Matthew 25 Network" and she tells the Brody File tonight that they will endorse Barack Obama. The group is having a fundraiser tonight but the official rollout isn't for a couple weeks. Vanderslice talked to me about the goal of the group.
"What we found are thousands of Christians across the country who want to find a way to put their faith values in action through supporting candidates and there was no long term organization that existed to galvanize and capture and give voice to that energy that we found around the country. The Matthew 25 network has endorsed Barack Obama. He will be our first candidate but the hope is that this will be an effort that will live long beyond this election cycle and will help give voice to Christians whose gospel values are expressed or lived out in the passage of Matthew 25 that we should care for the 'least of these' as Jesus did. We will be looking for candidates who endorse that agenda, and then we will endorse them."
Read the part in Matthew 25 Mara Vanderslice is referring to here (pay attention to verse 45).
The "Matthew 25 Network" has been in Vanderslice's mind and heart for about a year but it really got going behind the scenes in the last few months. She tells me this is not coordinated at all with the Obama campaign. Rather, this is all about having a heart for the faith community. She goes on to tell me:
"We're going to be reaching out to the diverse Christian community. We want to engage people of diverse Christian faiths including evangelicals, Protestants, Hispanic evangelicals and Catholics in the network."
Clearly a question socially conservative Christians will have is how this group massages the abortion issue. The "Matthew 25 Network" message will be broader than abortion but that doesn't mean they will shy away from the topic. Vanderslice says:
"This kind of organization is going to encompass pro-life and pro-choice people. I think we're trying to move beyond those labels and really come up with some solutions to address the underlying problem of abortion, to reduce the numbers of abortions. I think Christians and Catholics who have a concern about that issue will find an open ear in this organization for pushing forward some solutions on that issue."
The Democratic Party led by people like Mara Vanderslice and Eric Sapp over at Common Good Strategies, the Democratic National Committee and Faith and Public Life have emphatically declared that the discussion over faith and values is on. It's not JUST Republican territory anymore. They've all been working very hard on this for years. The fruit of their labor is being seen in 2008. The Republican Party and John McCain will need to recognize the shifting playing field and respond accordingly. But the bottom line is this: the role of faith and politics is front and center this election cycle.