Doing the Lord’s work is a thread that’s run through our politics since the very beginning. And it puts the lie to the notion that the separation of church and state in America — a principle we all must uphold and that I have embraced as a constitutional lawyer and most importantly as a Christian — means faith should have no role in public life.
A right-wing evangelist? A Republican politician?
Nope. Barack Obama.
His speech given at a convention of the United Church of Christ also includes a personal account of Obama’s arrival at faith in Jesus Christ more detailed than any given by the other presidential candidates of either party.
Yet, as Daniel Pulliam over at Get Religion points out, the Associated Press completely ignored these statements, instead going with the typical political narrative of a liberal criticizing conservative Christians:
Sen. Barack Obama told a church convention Saturday that some right-wing evangelical leaders have exploited and politicized religious beliefs in an effort to sow division.
“Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and faith started being used to drive us apart,” the Democratic presidential candidate said in a 30-minute speech before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ.
“Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us,” the Illinois senator said.
It’s unfortunate that the AP left out the other half of Obama’s message, because both parts are crucial. He knows that criticism of the right-wing Christianity will fall on deaf ears to many audiences without a corresponding genuine assertion of his own faith. The only way to reduce the Right’s stranglehold on public expressions of Christianity is to provide not simply criticism, but a clear and viable alternative.
In addition, any religious faith that goes beyond the superficial must have an impact on a person’s life. Even as a non-Christian, I want to know and understand my leaders’ character-forming events.
I don’t buy everything Obama says about re-thinking politics to bring us all together. Many of our political divisions are real, not fake controversies blown up for partisan gain. And sometimes the villains are just villains. But for those of us who are sick of both the militant atheists and the Christian Right, a strong, liberal, Christian voice may be just right.