Internet evangelist Bill Keller is urging the faithful to promise to vote for Jesus for president in this election.
So far, his website, VotingforJesus.com, says it has more than 1.6 million pledges to write in the name of Jesus on their ballots instead of any other presidential candidate.
If even half of those who signed the pledge vote accordingly, this could signal real trouble for Mitt Romney in close races by reducing the pool of voters who usually opt for the GOP.
But Keller, in an email interview, argues otherwise. “A large percentage of the people signed up are part of the 9 million self-identified evangelicals who never voted at all in 2008,” he maintains. “While they will write in the name of Jesus for president, they will also vote for men and women who share their faith values down ticket. It is flawed logic that if you don’t vote for Romney, you are costing him votes or helping Obama. The only way to vote for either man is to vote for them.”
Keller also notes that those who signed the pledge “seem very serious and happy to have an outlet to take a stand for their faith.” He adds that the point of writing in Jesus’s name is not that he will win, but that the exercise offers those who pledge a chance “to take a stand for their faith by writing in the name of Jesus, to bring awareness that the real problems in this nation are NOT political, they are spiritual.”
How much impact this effort will have on the outcome at any level is anybody’s guess until the votes are counted and the exit polls analyzed the every last morsel of meaning.
It is clear right now, however, that Keller, who claims an audience of more than 2.4 million for his daily religious messages, has the ability to influence the actions of millions of them at least to the extent of making a promise on how they will vote.
Other conservative Christians have noticed and taken Keller to task for it, even going so far as to redirect a search for .org version of Keller’s VotingforJesus.com web address to a website where they argue that Keller’s pledge will take votes away from Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
It’s a fascinating glimpse into this year’s split between uber-right Christian voters who previously have cast their ballots pretty much in lock-step for GOP candidates like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. This year, with a Mormon the GOP standard-bearer, a significant proportion of these once reliable voters are not having any of it.
Yet few mainstream commentators are willing to tackle out loud the subject of religious bigotry’s influence on election outcomes. After all, doesn’t Billy Graham’s endorsement of Mitt Romney mean that religious conservatives pretty much have accepted the latter as the Republican most likely to win?
Keller, who condemned Graham’s acceptance of Romney, disagrees in fiery rhetoric that he wields unsparingly. “On every major spiritual issue of the day, President Obama has proved to be an enemy of God and a true tool of Satan!” he writes on the home page of VotingforJesus.com.
Of Obama’s GOP opponent, he declares, “If Mitt Romney is elected, he will be the fulfillment of his cult’s polygamist, pedophile, racist, con artist, murdering founder Joseph Smith’s ‘White Horse’ prophecy that Romney and all Mormons believe.”
Virulently anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-Mormon and more, Keller spent time in federal prison after being convicted of insider trading. His organization, St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Bill Keller Ministries, has been branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which he has threatened with a defamation lawsuit.
Keller represents the extreme wing of conservative Christian political activists. The rest of us ignore or discount him and them at our peril, because they have deadly serious political ambitions backed by deep pockets and clout.