An advertisement from an independent political action committee (PAC) called the Matthew 25 Network is running advertisements which use religious appeals to encourage citizens to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.
In one advertisement prominent evangelical leader Rev. Brian McLaren says “as a pastor, I know you can learn a lot about a man’s character by the way he treats his family.”
The Matthew 25 Network is a group of Evangelical, Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal Christians. As a PAC, the group is sponsoring radio, television and print advertisements targeting Christians, mostly broadcasting on Christian radio in a few key swing states.
Organizers claim Rev. McLaren’s advertisement is the first to use active clergy for a Democratic presidential candidate. The ad also includes Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who has been close to President George W. Bush and recently officiated at the Texas wedding of the president’s daughter Jenna Bush.
“We’ve seen the domination of just a couple of issues surround the Christian voice in politics,” says Mara Vanderslice, the evangelical founder of the group who worked for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. “We wanted a Christian voice that better reflected the gospel values missing from the landscape.”
The PAC’s purpose, according to its organizers, is to broaden the issues of Christian interest and to counter falsehoods or smears targeting Sen. Obama
The Matthew 25 Network’s name comes from the Gospel story in which Christ exhorts his followers to “care for the least of these.”
“People like myself get a lot of attention when we talk about issues like abortion and family life, but not when we talk about helping low-income people,” says Sharon Daly, former vice president of social policy for Catholic Charities. “Matthew 25 gives us the opportunity to try to get candidates to focus on these concerns.”
PAC members are split on the abortion issue. Vanderslice said everyone in the network is “focused on reducing the number of abortions - and that’s where Senator Obama’s focus is, along with emphasizing personal responsibility, fatherhood, and having the courage to raise a child.”
Future PAC advertisements will target Catholics daily. Daly herself emphasizes that Obama became a Christian while working as a community organizer in a Catholic-sponsored program.
Daly, who once served as the director of domestic social policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, states she believes Catholic support for Obama will grow as “Catholics reflect on this and get to know more about him.”
Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus, a leader in the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says he joined the network to unite with other Christians in addressing the concerns of the marginalized.
“For Hispanic Evangelicals, this is something deep in the heart,” he says.
James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, has criticized one Matthew 25 Network advertisement in which Obama talks about his faith, labeling it “highly seductive.”
The network is endorsing only Obama in 2008, but it hopes to become a permanent group that eventually supports candidates at different levels of government, the Christian Science Monitor says.
Radio ads produced by the network will run in English and Spanish, targeting key states like Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, and Virginia.