U.S. Senator Barack Obama delivered an important speech today on religion and politics - which you can read here - and the reaction from the political left and the Religious Right has been highly critical. Obama, who both defended the separation of church and state in his address before Call to Renewal and restated his support for gay rights and abortion, used his speech to call on progressives to be more supportive of religious voices in their ranks. Here's a snapshot of how the speech is playing on the liberal blogs:
There's the argument that religion gets more acceptable as it becomes less marginal; that a tolerant, pro-science outfit like the United Church of Christ is a reasonable vehicle for the worship of the Christian God. But ultimately, the insane component -- the God-worshipping component, orchestrated by priests and higher-ups who enjoy playing games of mind control -- is still there. Why cling on to this BS in desperation, I ask?
Sure, the Jehovah's Witnesses have an environmental bent, but it doesn't make the religious component any less crazy. Or, to go to slightly saner grounds, just because Jim Wallis talks about economic justice doesn't make his Christianity any less crazy to me. And, if I remember correctly, he's out in the public sphere because he's a Christian; his positions on various issues are there to burnish his Christian creds.
And that's where we get to an evangelical suck-up like Barack Obama, who recently attacked Democrats and lefties failing to "acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people." I think most of us acknowledge it, but why the hell bow to it? A long chunk of Kevin Phillips' most recent book is one long "Oh my God, this country is filled with religious nutcases -- what the hell are we going to do?!!" Folks like Phillips have acceded to the fact that fanatics are there in abundance, but that doesn't mean in the slightest that the Godless and misotheistic wing in America should stand quietly in the face of that truth.
While Rabbi Michael Lerner has been right to point out that liberals need to offer a language and lifestyle that appeals to the same grievances that attract evangelicals and other believers to megachurches, the long-term right thing to do is politely, but stiffly refuse to accept any religious recourses to explain reality, even when they would appear to help our cause. And that means for me that the starting place is to challenge him on the grounds of what he has in mind when he calls himself Rabbi.
(In)Sanity Check's Screw You, Barack Obama:
Courting any religious stripe results in a government indistinguishable from any Middle Eastern nation ruled by Islamic law, and bodes ill for the hopes of a civil society of free ideas and independent thought.
The Renegade of Junk’s Why Barack Obama just lost my respect:
"Kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to his will and dedicated myself to discovering his truth."
Sounds like something President George W. Bush might say, doesn't it? Actually these are the words of Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama as he admonished his fellow democrats for neglecting to pander to the evangelists and the rest of the God-loving people of America.
"Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation. Context matters"
says Sen. Obama. My question to him is, how is the mention of God even relevant to the duties of a public servant? Why the need to mention God at all?
Sirotablog's Obama, Bayh & reinforcing dishonest storylines:
One of the most infuriating behaviors among some Democrats these days is their willingness to create fake straw men that undermine progressives and reinforce false narratives about the Democratic Party? A while back, it was Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) who ran around claiming "some" Democrats are supposedly "afraid" of national security. He, of course, didn't name any names. Why? Because they don't exist - his whole narrative is based on a false straw man. Now, unfortunately, we see the same behavior from Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D).
The Associated Press reports that in a speech about religion, Obama said "I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy."
Obama, of course, is trying to portray himself as having the courage to stand up against these supposed Democrats that constitute the "we" in his rhetoric - the "we" that supposedly make this mistake of "fail[ing] to acknowledge the power of faith." Yet, again, he doesn't offer any names to tell us who constitutes the "we." Why? Because there are none. What Democrat of any prominence at all in America "fails to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people?" I can't think of one. It is a straw man - one that might make Obama look like a man of "courage" or "principle" - but one that dishonestly reinforces right-wing stereotypes about supposedly "godless" liberals/Democrats.
Maybe some of these writers would have been better served had they actually read the senator's speech before commenting on it.
Want to read the take from someone who did read the speech? Visit Religious Left Online.