tv Religion Ethics Newsweekly PBS November 4, 2012 10:30am-11:00am EST
coming up -- in the final countdown to election day, kim lawton looks at the many ways religion has been a factor in the campaign. and with same-sex marriage on the ballot in several states, betty rollin reports on the debate in many black congregations, traditionally opposed to gay marriage, over whether it should be legal. also, all saint's day with the dominican brothers.
welcome, i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. much of the east coast is still grappling with the devastation of hurricane sandy. the storm affected at least 17 states, caused massive flooding and left millions without power. religious leaders, including pope benedict xvi, prayed for the victims and for a strong recovery. and many faith-based groups quickly rallied to help those impacted by the storm. among them, the north american mission board, the relief arm of the southern baptist convention. mike ebert is the mission board's vice president for communications. he joins us from the board's headquarters in atlanta, georgia. mike, welcome. let me begin with getting -- inviting you to talk about the extent of the sbc's efforts here. how many people do you have? what are you doing?
>> well, bob, we have 82,000 trained disaster relief volunteers. 1,500 disaster relief units and we will by monday be at a 400,000 meal capacity. so we'll be preparing 400,000 hot meals to be served to victims and other first responders and that will be kind of the beginning point for us. we'll see where it goes from there. >> i heard on the radio the mayor of hoboken a couple of days ago pleading for people in the neighboring towns to come bring them food. do you hear that kind of thing? >> we do. we've been watching the reports like you and we do have several of our people on the ground already, and so that's why just as this is an historic disaster for the united states, it's going to be a historic response for southern baptists. we've mobilized every mobile kitchen unit we have east of the rockies, so that's how big of a response this is going to be.
>> and people are coming from where, all over the country? >> really, we have units as far away as texas, oklahoma, missouri, who are on their way now. we have 15 kitchen units that are already set up and preparing hot meals. >> what's the priority? the meals? >> right now, the priority is the meals because so many people have been, well, they're just not even in their homes. they're in shelters or they're without power and that could remain the case for another three weeks. but after that, we also have other units that will come in and help with tree removal so people can get power restored, help with mud-out work for homes that have been flooded. so it's a very comprehensive response. >> is the government doing so much that there's not much work left for the private groups or is there plenty of work for you? >> plenty of work. it's very much a partnership. we work very closely with fema.
we have a representative in their d.c. office. same with american red cross. we have a representative there. so it's very much a partnership between southern baptists, the american red cross, the salvation army and we all work together very well and with local governments. >> and quickly, mike. it's a spiritual relief program as well as a material one, isn't it? >> sure is. first, we want to relieve the physical suffering. but secondly, we do have chaplains that come in with every unit, so they can be there for spiritual counseling, spiritual encouragement. this very much is just as much a physical crisis as it is a spiritual and emotional crisis for people. >> mike ebert of the southern baptist convention. many thanks. >> thank you, bob. sandy also had an impact on the presidential campaigns. president obama took time off to
tour some of the devastated areas of new jersey with governor chris christie. he promised that his administration would not forget the people suffering there. meanwhile, governor mitt romney held a relief rally in the battleground state of ohio for victims of sandy. he urged americans outside the affected areas to help out in any way they can. in these final days before the election, both candidates are ramping up efforts to mobilize voters, including their faith-based supporters. kim lawton has been leading our coverage of the campaigns. she looks at the many ways religion has played a role this time around. >> both campaigns continue their active efforts to get their constituencies out to the polls next week. professor john green of the bliss institute at the university of akron says in a tight election, the campaigns look to the coalitions they can rely upon, and that includes faith coalitions.
>> each side understands that every vote will count. >> green says while faith-based outreach hasn't dominated this campaign season, it has continued to be a key factor. >> a lot of that effort, though, is not on television. it's going on behind the scenes, because appealing to a particular group always has the capacity of alienating another group. this is true for democrats as well as republicans. so they're trying to assemble these coalitions a little bit, i wouldn't say completely below radar, but certainly off television. >> prior to 2008, scholars talked about a god gap in american politics -- the more often people attended religious services, the more likely they were to vote republican, the exception being african americans, who are overwhelmingly democratic. many experts believe that trend will continue in this election cycle. melissa deckman is professor of political science at washington college in chestertown, maryland. >> if you think about the god gap, so-called "god gap," it's
still alive and well this year in american politics, and it's bigger than things like the gender gap, although you often hear more in the media about women's voting and men's voting, so i think religion continues to play a big role in american presidential elections. >> the republicans are hoping for a big turnout from evangelicals, who make up about one quarter of gop voters. in the early days of the campaign, there were questions about whether theological differences would keep evangelicals from supporting a mormon candidate. governor mitt romney's campaign tried to woo them on the basis of shared values. >> people of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview. >> it seems to me that the mormon issue isn't quite as big of a deal as perhaps many had speculated.
instead, we see that evangelicals have really taken to romney, i think mainly because of their dislike of obama, but his religious views i think have not mattered as much. >> the question is whether enough evangelical republican voters have been convinced that the religious differences don't matter. >> i think that governor romney does face a challenge with getting high level of turnout and enthusiastic support from the white evangelical community, which has been a mainstay of republican presidential vote for a number of years now. and that's because there is this lingering skepticism. >> catholics have been another important group this election season, especially with catholic candidates on both tickets for the first time ever. but it has been clear that vice president joe biden and representative paul ryan have very different views on how to apply their faith to their politics. >> life begins at conception. that's the church's judgment. i accept it in my personal life. but i refuse to impose it on
equally devout christians and muslims and jews and -- i just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. >> i don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. our faith informs us in everything we do. >> in many ways, those differences mirror differences among grassroots catholic voters. at one end of the spectrum are strongly conservative catholics who tend to stress issues around abortion. at the other end are more liberal catholics who stress issues of economic justice. then there are those in the middle. >> there are, if you will, biden catholics and ryan catholics, and both campaigns are struggling very hard to get those groups mobilized. but then there are a lot of catholics who are in the middle, who might agree with the republicans on one issue and with the democrats on another so quite an effort to get the middle of the road catholics to swing one way or another. >> one unusual hallmark of this campaign was the high profile involvement of outside catholic
players. a group of nuns led by sister simone campbell of the lobby group network, launched a road trip called nuns on the bus to highlight their view that the budget cuts promoted by paul ryan would hurt the poor and violate church teachings. campbell was invited to share her views at the democratic national convention. meanwhile, cardinal timothy dolan, president of the u.s. conference of catholic bishops, offered benedictions at both the democratic and republican conventions. for months, the bishops have led a vigorous campaign against the obama administration's policy mandating that employers, including many religious employers, offer free coverage of contraceptive services to their employees. the bishops accuse the obama administration of violating religious liberty. it's unclear how much those efforts have changed any opinions among voters. polls show catholics remain deeply divided, and that could
be especially important in battleground states such as ohio, pennsylvania and florida. while much of the focus has been on the economy, green says here at the end of the campaign, other social issues may play an important role. >> there's some strong incentives for the parties to reach out for secondary issues. issues like women's rights, religious liberty, the environment, foreign policy. because if voters are evenly divided on their most salient issue, the economy, they're going to make their decision perhaps on some of these secondary issues. issues that they don't regard as the most important, but they might not be able to choose between governor romney and president obama on something like unemployment, so some of these other issues may matter. >> both candidates have attempted to apply moral and religious language to their economic policies. >> i think it's, frankly, not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation and they're going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives.
>> if i'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that i enjoy, i actually think that's going to make economic sense. but for me as a christian, it also coincides with jesus' teaching that "for unto whom much is given, much shall be required." >> but much of the god talk has been done directly to religious audiences, as opposed to in general campaign venues. even obama, who made frequent religious references in the last campaign and throughout his presidency, hasn't been emphasizing it as much of late. some experts believe that could be to avoid alienating the growing number of secular voters who are democratic. >> there's some real positives to these candidate's faith but there's also some real potential downside, and so that's why i don't, we don't see the candidates themselves talking a lot about it, but their surrogates and their campaigns are reaching out to religious and non religious voters alike,
trying to bring them into their camp. >> for most of the campaign, romney refrained from speaking directly about his mormon faith. in the last few weeks, he's opened up a bit more, although he still largely avoids using the word "mormon." >> my passion probably flows from the fact that i believe in god. and i believe we're all children of the same god. i believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. i served as a missionary for my church. i served as a pastor in my congregation for about ten years. >> i think what has been a smart strategy for mitt romney is not to focus on mormonism per se, because when you start talking about the specifics of any faith, then that becomes the issue. >> with a mormon, two catholics, and only one protestant on the ticket this time, deckman says that represents something important about the nation. >> americans, despite their religious differences, by and large are pretty tolerant. we have our issues in american history where that's not necessarily the case, and some
groups like atheists and muslims might not feel that way, but generally speaking, we have a surprising amount of tolerance here. >> and whatever happens next week, many believe that could be one of the most important religion stories coming out of this presidential election. i'm kim lawton, reporting. also on election day, four states will vote on same-sex marriage. maine, maryland and washington state have ballot initiatives to legalize it. in minnesota, voters will consider a constitutional amendment to ban it. religious groups have organized on both sides of the issue and spent millions in the process. many black churches have been opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, so the ballot measures have led to sharp debate there. betty rollin reports from maryland.
>> joel and scott tinsley-hall combined their names when they married in iowa three years ago. they were both brought up in conservative religious homes, which made their paths to this marriage long and difficult. >> it was ingrained in me that me being homosexual is terrible. i remember in the bathroom i would cry myself, just cry because i knew i was going to burn in hell, and i used to pray to god, "oh, please, change me. if i'm gay, then take it away from me. take it out. take it out. take it out." and i prayed and prayed and prayed, but, you know, it didn't go away. >> i was raised in a fundamentalist baptist church. my dad was the music minister of the church. there were expectations, like he said, that you're not gay. if you are, you can change and you can become straight.
>> before they married, they first tried to find a church that would accept them, which they did in the midwest. and why was it important for them to marry? >> we deserve the same rights, so me being a homosexual male, if i am in love with my partner for seven years, i should have that same right to marry him. it's not a religious thing, it's an equal rights thing. >> it was a chance for me to stand before my family and friends and put my relationship on the same level as theirs. >> that's right. plus, there's that whole protection aspect of it as well, because, you know, if you have a civil union, let's say if scott got sick, his family could come in and deny me visitations in the hospital. >> now in baltimore, scott and joel have found the open church where their pastor, reverend brad braxton, is a strong advocate for gay marriage. >> the love that my lesbian, my gay, my bisexual, my transgender friends share, one with another in committed relationships is
equally as valid in the sight of god. not just the state, but in the sight of god, as is the love shared by heterosexual couples. >> what makes you sure that god does want this? >> because god is love. i am persuaded that god is love, and that for me is the fundamental message of scripture. >> how is it that the group that says it's being discriminated against takes all the authority, all the privilege, all the rights, pulls all the levers and has greater rights than the rest of us? >> not too far away in beltsville, maryland, bishop harry jackson has been a major opponent of gay marriage. where does it say in the bible that homosexuals shouldn't marry? >> it says it all over. start with deuteronomy, leviticus, first corinthians, go on and on. >> it says homosexual shouldn't marry in the bible? no, there's a prohibition against homosexual activity.
>> i take the bible with the utmost seriousness. yet i realize that there are times when the bible misbehaves. it is not at its best self. the bible promotes genocide, the bible lessens half of the human race in its dehumanizing statements when it talks about women. the bible says a lot of things. >> many pastors in maryland and elsewhere have weighed in on this issue. reverend al sharpton -- >> this is not an issue about gay or straight, this is an issue about civil rights. you can not be for civil rights for african-americans but not for gays and lesbians. >> reverend william owens on the issue of civil rights -- >> when i was a boy, you couldn't drink out of a white water fountain, you couldn't go to a white restaurant, you couldn't go to a white hotel. they've never been denied those rights. >> i believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country.
>> now that president obama has come out in favor of gay marriage, bishop jackson and others want their congregations to deny the president their vote. >> just because somebody's skin is black, you're going to support an anti-god, anti-gospel agenda? no wonder you can't get a job. beware, my christian friend, you should not vote for barack obama. >> reverend braxton believes that the reason that many african-americans oppose gay marriage has to do with their history of being denied the right to marry as slaves. >> when you are disallowed a right and you are requesting to
get the right, one of the best ways to do that in the face of those who hold power is to show that you are morally respectable. and so heterosexual marriage and lifting up the family, that is the morally respectable way. and anything that deviates from that may in fact bring again upon us that whole cycle of shame and violence, and that is so deep in african-american culture. >> most african-americans are against gay marriage. even so, the percentage of african-americans who support gay marriage is up from 21% in 2004 to 40% today. >> as more people are open with their sexuality, our friends, our family, our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents who may have at one point had a different view, say, "wait, that's my grandson i'm talking about now, or that's my son, or that's my nephew," and that's what's going to change the church eventually. it's going to bubble up from society. as society changes, the church will change.
>> same-sex marriage is legal in six states. if maryland votes in its favor, it may be the first state to legalize gay marriage as a ballot initiative. for "religion & ethics newsweekly," i'm betty rollin in baltimore, maryland. on our calendar, many christians this week observed all saints' day, a time to remember saints and martyrs. we have a belief and practice segment now about the eve of all saints' day, all hallow's eve, also known as halloween. it is celebrated each year at the dominican house of studies in washington. friars there choose saints to honor out of the roughly 10,000 whom catholics venerate, and the dominicans' vigil has become a big draw for priests, nuns and especially college students.
our guide several years ago was brother james cuddy, now father cuddy, chaplain at providence college in rhode island. >> on the most basic level, i think, you can view saints as being older brothers and sisters or those who have professed the same beliefs as you -- these men and women who have lived these heroic lives of virtue and have, we're all one body. we believe that the saints are in heaven now praying for us. there are some saints who are more popular today than others. the blessed virgin mary, we actually call the queenf oe saints. certainly, we can point to
st. francis as being extraordinarily popular. st. anthony of padua for anyone who loses their car keys. there's also devotion, great devotion to some more contemporary saints -- blessed teresa of calcutta or st. padre pio. each year when planning this liturgy, brothers will get together, dominican brothers will get together and try and identify certain saints that represent a good cross-section of the church. >> to this glorious saint, i know by experience, to help us in all. and our lord would have us understand that -- >> so you'll have some men and some women, some who were priests and religious, and some who were lay people, some who were martyrs and some who just lived extraordinarily holy lives. pope john paul ii who many consider to be a saint, and might one day be a saint, said that they're the source and origin of renewal during every difficult time in the history of the church. and so not only are we pointing to these different saints and celebrating all of the good things during their lives, but we're hopefully encouraging one another to become the saints of this age.
at the vatican on wednesday, pope benedict xvi held a special service to mark the 500th anniversary of the sistine chapel. the ceiling, dedicated in 1512, took michelangelo 4 years to paint. now, 5 million people visit annually. benedict said when the chapel is seen during prayer, "everything lives, everything resonates." finally, in egypt, coptic christians make up about 10% of the population. last march, the leader of the copts, pope shenouda iii, died and this week, coptic leaders narrowed the field of possible successors to just three men. this weekend, by ancient tradition, the names of the three were to be put in a box for a blindfolded child to reach in and pick the new pope. the belief is that the child's
innocent choice will best reflect the will of god. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook and watch us anytime on the pbs app for iphones and ipads. there's always much more on our website as well, including more on religion and the presidential election. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at pbs.org. as we leave you, music from the choir of bishop harry jackson's hope christian church in beltsville, maryland.
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