June 30, 2006

Gee, Obama, way to beat us over the head

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe People's Republic of Seabrook has a great post up about Senator Barack Obama's admonishment of his fellow Democrats over faith. E.J. Dionne also as an op/ed up about his comments that I'm posting in full in the SuperSize.

As a Methodist I'm one of these people of faith that Obama asks Democrats to reach out to. However, make no mistake about how I feel on the issue of Separation of Church and State for while I'm a Christian, I am an avid supporter of the secular nature of Government. While I have no problem with the 1950's addition of 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance, I do have a huge problem with my tax dollars going to fund a religious school (like Falwell's Liberty University).

Government combined with religion has historically had disasterous consequences which is the reason that the First Amendment was written to protect government and religion FROM one another. Both can be extraordinarily corrupting. Ask any Evangelical if they would be happy with Catholicism as the official religion of the United States. I'd be willing to bet they'd become instant converts to the correct interpretation of the First Amendment.

Still, while it's important to let 'people of faith' know that there are Democrats who believe, we shouldn't compromise to their views and interpretations. Here's a quote from Jack Cluth's post over at PRoS

I would agree with Obama that Democrats need to reach out to the Evangelical community, but let’s not be stupid about it. Let’s not compromise our principles and our beliefs in the basic humanity of ALL Americans in a cheap, transparent effort to woo a few more votes come November. Our greatest strength is that we’re NOT Conservative Republicans. We believe that the spectrum of human belief and morality is a wide and varied thing. That doesn’t make people who think and live differently by definition bad or wrong. It just makes them different…and those differences have always helped to make this great country what it is today.

Couldn't agree more.

Obama's Eloquent Faith

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Friday, June 30, 2006; A27

Many Democrats discovered God in the 2004 exit polls.

Specifically, they looked at the importance of religious voters to President Bush's majority and decided: We need some of those folks. Off Democrats went to their Bibles, finding every verse they could -- there are many -- describing the imperative to help the poor, battle injustice and set the oppressed free.

Now, human beings often find God in unexpected places, so why shouldn't the exit polls be this era's answer to the burning bush? And a lot of Democrats insist, fairly, that they were people of faith long before the results of 2004 were tabulated.

Yet there is often a terrible awkwardness among Democratic politicians when their talk turns to God, partly because they also know how important secular voters are to their coalition. When it comes to God, it's hard to triangulate.

So, when a religious Democrat speaks seriously about the relationship of faith to politics, the understandable temptation is to see him as counting not his blessings but his votes. Thus did the Associated Press headline its early stories about Barack Obama's speech to religious progressives on Wednesday: "Obama: Democrats Must Court Evangelicals."

Well, yes, Obama, the senator from Illinois who causes all kinds of Democrats to swoon, did indeed criticize "liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant." But a purely electoral reading of Obama's speech to the Call to Renewal conference here misses the point of what may be the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican. (You can decide on Obama's speech yourself: The text can be found at http://www.obama.senate.gov/speech .)

Here's what stands out. First, Obama offers the first faith testimony I have heard from any politician that speaks honestly about the uncertainties of belief. "Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts," Obama declared. "You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it."

In an interview yesterday, Obama didn't back away. "By definition, faith admits doubt," he said. "Otherwise, it isn't faith. . . . If we don't sometimes feel hopeless, then we're really insulating ourselves from the world around us."

On the matter of church-state separation, Obama doesn't propose some contrived balancing act but embraces religion's need for independence from government. In a direct challenge to "conservative leaders," he argued that "they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice."

"Folks tend to forget," he continued, "that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment," but "persecuted minorities" such as Baptists "who didn't want the established churches to impose their views."

Like most liberals who are religious, Obama finds a powerful demand for social justice embedded in the great faith traditions. He took a swipe at those who would repeal the estate tax, saying this entailed "a trillion dollars being taken out of social programs to go to a handful of folks who don't need and weren't even asking for it."

But he insisted that social improvement also requires individual transformation. When a gang member "shoots indiscriminately into a crowd . . . there's a hole in that young man's heart -- a hole that the government alone cannot fix." Contraception can reduce teen pregnancy rates, but so can "faith and guidance" which "help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy."

And if you think this sounds preachy, Obama has an answer: "Our fear of getting 'preachy' may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems."

Obama's talk will inevitably be read as a road map for Democrats struggling to speak authentically to people of faith. It's certainly that, but it would be better read as a suggestion that both parties begin to think differently about the power of faith.

"No matter how religious they may or may not be," Obama said, "people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don't want faith used to belittle or to divide. They're tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon."

I think I hear some rousing "Amens!" out there -- from Republicans no less than from Democrats.


Posted by mcblogger at June 30, 2006 02:26 PM

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Ahh, we are both Methodists. :)

Posted by: muse at June 30, 2006 11:00 PM

So is Pink Dome or at least that's what he claims.

Posted by: mcblogger at July 1, 2006 12:01 PM

...While I have no problem with the 1950's addition of 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance,...

Amen, brother, and man did that set things right for my generation. I remember well the day they came to our class and told us we would now be sticking "Under God" in the middle of the Pledge, right between "one nation" and "invisible".

Up until then, we had been a bunch of fourth-grade, Satan-worshiping heathens but nevermore thereafter. We went on to build the righeous nation that we now are bequeathing to you.

Posted by: aerialist at July 3, 2006 08:19 PM

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Posted by: Anonymous at December 1, 2006 12:53 PM

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