Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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More on Obama on religion and politics

Here’s an interview he gave to a DailyKos person, whose main concern seemed to be that Obama had misrepresented "progressives" as hostile to religion. The most interesting point B.O. made in the conversation had to do with his strategy:

Part of the purpose of the speech was to dissolve this sharp line between quote-unquote evangelicals and other Americans. The country is much more complex than that. The lines between people who are - let me describe it this way: there is a group that is of fundamentalist Christians who are not going to vote for Democrats or progressives, no matter what, and we can guess whatever that number is. Then there’s an enormous group of people who probably consider themselves swing voters who agree with Democrats and progressives on some issues, on opposition to the war, or what have you, who are also very committed to their church and their faith. From my perspective, the issue is not how do I persuade James Dobson to embrace the Democratic platform - that’s not going to happen - the question is, for those people who are committed Christians or Orthodox Jews or Muslims, who could potentially be open to a Democratic agenda, but also consider faith very important and central to their lives, and evaluate what happens in politics based on those commitments, is there a way to talk to them? I’m certain that of the 70% of the people [in Illinois] who approve of my performance in the Senate, that decent percentages of that 70% fall in that category.

To which I respond: if you really want to reach out to evangelicals, you may have to say something about abortion other than "safe, legal, and rare."

Here’s another interview, this one with his denominational news service. He’s committed, he says, to dialogue that is "fair-minded and respectful." He presumably hopes his interlocutors will either be changed or disarmed by the conversation. Is he willing to consider changing anything other than the packaging?

Discussions - 2 Comments

I picture lots of friends and relatives of mine in Obama’s "enormous group of people," folks who are evangelical in doctrine or pretty close, but who lean Democratic. Some have a rigorous policy of separating their own politics and religion, partly out of intense dislike of Falwell types, and some are sticking with the mainline denoms longer than seems theologically tenable out of a sort of loyalty. Obama’s strategy here is simply sound. As for abortion, this group seems to not to want to talk about it, and often regards efforts to do so in the public sphere as letting those evil Falwell types set the agenda. They’re opposed to abortion morally, but many of them don’t think it is healthy for government to be in the business of trying to prohibit it. Or at least, they don’t think it is healthy for Chrisitians to be in the business of trying to politically fight for its prohibition. Sort of like the elder Bush with the USSR, they seem more comfortable with the Roe regime remaining in place, even if the one-million-point-four killed each year sickens them.

Does it ever seem to you that contemporary American culture, even in the hands of its liberal elites, assumes that blacks have some natural authority to speak about religion, based on some natural religiosity? It even includes rappers thanking Jesus and God Almighty at award shows...and nobody laughs. It’s just a little less creepy than the way utterly secular lefties become reverentially quiet when an American Indian starts talking "religion". Ideas they would normally consider below the dignity of an eight-year-old suddenly evoke pious gratitude. Reminds me of the silly idolatry of the Pan-Slavic urban intellectuals about the Russian peasantry.
That’s why Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (both of whom I loathe, by the way) are always seen as threats to the Republic, but the Revs Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are never never never even brought within shouting distance of anxieties about church-state separation. To say nothing of the attention and (admittedly nose-holding) publicity given to a thug like Farrakhan.
A longstanding American stereotype gets played out here.

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