The presidential contenders are wooing religious voters. How do the faithful make sure God isn’t a political prop?
Pastor Telley Gadson was the calm center of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Taylors, South Carolina, as the congregation prepared for a visit from Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and a North Carolina congressman who would speak on Biden’s behalf. The historic black church is known as the 9-1-1 because of its street address. And the church did seem like it was responding to a minor emergency Sunday morning as people rushed around to get ready.
An usher burst into Gadson’s office to announce a reporter from Christianity Today just as two deacons hurried out to make sure good seats had been saved for the Biden campaign staff. But Gadson was calm. “It’s just another Sunday at the 9-1-1,” she said.
The service kicked off with an organ trio, an amplified Hammond backed by thumping bass and drums. As the music started, about 100 people found their places in the purple upholstered pews and another 25 or 26 got up on stage. Everyone started praising Jesus.
A minister stood up and said the thing black Christians say across the South when they gather to worship: “I want to thank the Lord who woke me up this morning.” And the people sang more.
Then it was the congressman’s turn. G. K. Butterfield, a former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, got up in the pulpit to deliver his message, and the church got quiet. Butterfield said, “I’m here to ask you to support my friend Joe Biden. And it’s easy to do, because I’ve known Joe Biden for a long time.”
Democratic candidates are doing an unprecedented amount of faith outreach this presidential primary campaign. Some Democrats in the past have talked about their faith, like Jimmy Carter and Barack …