Barack Obama‘s recent efforts to reach out to the Evangelicals and Catholics in the name of spiritual and political unity, have taken some leaders by surprise. Daniel Burke for Religion News Service writes:
It’s a move that’s caught some conservative evangelicals off guard. They say they are surprised and dismayed to see a liberal-minded politician attempting to conscript their troops. At the same time, they say that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has done little to court their affections.
“Affections”? No. Obama isn’t courting their affections, but their trust; their trust in spiritual unity, not theological or doctrinal uniformity. “Dismayed”? Doubtful; as they should all appreciate a fellow Christian who is actually attempting to treat them— and all men— as spiritual and social brothers.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like it before,” said evangelical author Stephen Mansfield, who wrote “The Faith of George W. Bush” and has a forthcoming book about Obama.
“To be running against a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and to be reaching into the Christian community as wisely and knowledgeably as (Obama) is — understanding their terms and their values — is just remarkable.”
Sounds like he’s really impressed by Obama, doesn’t it? But why shouldn’t Obama reach “knowledgeably and wisely” into the “Christian community,” it is his own; surely the
whisper smear campaign of Obama as a “secret Muslim” isn’t responsible for Mansfield‘s surprise?
Is this anything but a paid political hypocrite suggesting Obama is a liar?
Why shouldn’t Obama understand “their terms and their values”? They are his terms, and his values. It’s this sort of subtly hypocritical, back-handed “support” we’ve come to expect at every turn of the screw these days. The inference of being a secret Muslim assumes that all Muslims are secret terrorists, and, given the opportunity, they will destroy America from the inside. Do you feel better about yourself when you blame the “other” for your own short-comings as a “Christian Nation”? John McCain not only believes America is a Christian nation, but that his Christian faith makes him better qualified than any other candidate, who may or may not be a Muslim. Watch:
But anyone who has read Obama’s “Call to Renewal” address, delivered two years ago this week, should begin to understand that Barack Obama’s grasp of how religion and religious values must be integrated into American politics is nothing short of genius.
If we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at— to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own— then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.
Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome— others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.
There is no shortage of those sorts of people, James Dobson being the most recent example.
Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King— indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history— were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of “thou” and not just “I,” resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.
Contemporary progressive religious Americans are among the most fortunate people to live on the planet since the times of the apostles as they walked the earth with the Son of God in the flesh. For today the planet has begun to awaken from the deep slumber of materialism, stirred by an epochal religious awakening in the form of the Urantia Papers. And now, a genuine political genius has appeared to lead our nation into the twenty-first century, with an inspiring appeal to genuine hope and authentic personal empowerment. The only real question is, how many of us will awaken in time to avail ourselves of it.