Thursday, June 29, 2006

Barack Obama on Religion in the Public Square

Christianity Today's weblog has an interesting piece covering Democratic Senator Barrack Obama on Barack Obama on Religion in the Public Square.

Interesting. Quote!

Obama discusses his own struggle to integrate faith and politics. It started, he says, when Alan Keyes, his opponent in the 2004 Senate election, said, "Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved." Obama says he couldn't dismiss Keyes's accusation because they share the same faith. Obama said Keyes opposed his support for gay and abortion rights. Yet he lacked an adequate response.

"What would my supporters have me say? That a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? That Mr. Keyes, a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the Pope? … Mr. Keyes's implicit accusation that I was not a true Christian nagged at me, and I was also aware that my answer didn't adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and beliefs."

Obama recounts his own conversion from his upbringing as a skeptic to the day he affirmed his Christian faith at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. "I felt I heard God's Spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering his truth."

Obama chides liberals for trying to cleanse the public square of religious expression, and he tells conservatives that the separation of church and state benefits religion first and that in a democratic society Christians need to appeal to universal values when arguing moral positions.

Then he recounts a moving story from a pro-life, Christian doctor who voted for Obama in the 2004 primary. The doctor was disturbed that Obama's website said he would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose."

The doctor defended pro-life views and opposed Obama's characterization of pro-life proponents. That characterization, the doctor said, would prevent him from voting for Obama in the general election. "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words," he said.

Obama says, "I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in reasonable terms—those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points."

It is better to argue how religious belief should manifest itself than whether or not it should be part of public life.