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Obama: Dems need to court the fundies

“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.”
— Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), in remarks for the Call to Renewal conference, a faith-based movement to overcome poverty

The bloom is off the rose, folks; he must be running in ’08. Barack Obama doesn’t understand what the real problem is.

There is not a lack of acknowledgment of faith and the role it plays in American lives, it’s dismay at the buy-in by the Democratic establishment of the Republican spin that the faith community is only made up of those who are socially conservative.

This is partially a failure of the voices in the progressive religious community to make inroads in the debate, to effectively counter the fundamantalist fringe, and clearly the message is still not getting through when you have Barack Obama uttering this:

“Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation. Context matters…It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase ‘under God,'” he said. “Having voluntary student prayer groups using school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats.”

…Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square.”

No, the issue is that politicians, beholden to the fringe religious movement, want to force, quite specifically, their view of the world, a set of religious standards on everyone — and to enact legislation that reflects the prejudices spurred by that perspective.

And make no mistake, these folks mean “Christianity” as the fundamentalists define it. The fundie movement has as its objective the demonization/recloseting of gays and the control of the sexuality and reproductive freedom of women. They want to merge church and state. These are the folks that the Dems want to court?

There is an anti-religion element on the left that has no patience for any of this, and they also have a hard time remembering that the people of faith are not all bible beating whack jobs. Many in the faith community can be courted — just not the fundamentalists, who cannot be reasoned with.

It really is incumbent on the progressive religious community to continue to speak out on this matter, to stop the spin being perpetrated by the Rovian right.

UPDATE: You can read his entire speech here.

Obama is both right and wrong on the matter, as I outlined above. He does hit pay dirt with this passage in the speech.

And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Levitacus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage so radical that it’s doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?

…This may be difficult for those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of the possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It insists on the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

The problem lies in the Democrats treating the faith community as one bloc — a socially conservative one. Dean trolling on The 700 Club illustrates the confusion.

As long as the core of the left doesn’t stop disparaging the entire religious community (not the fire-breathing fundies driving the MSM train), there will be a problem gaining traction and votes. Obama needs to take his party leadership to the woodshed and school them on the differences.

And I’m saying that as a person with a beef with organized religion.

Another ad from Faith In America. Click image to see the ad at full size.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding