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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Obama: Why can’t God be a democrat?

Posted by on June 28 at 16:31 PM

Today at a faith-based conference in DC, Senator Barack Obama addressed his view of the relationship between religion and politics, and urged his fellow democrats to court people of faithincluding evangelicals:


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.”

Obama continues:

“We cannot abandon the field of religious discourse. … In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons will continue to hold sway.”

I think this is a rather ballsy stance for Obama to take. Right now, he’s a democratic rock staryoung, intelligent, and charismatic. Clinton and Bush Sr. called on him to help raise money for Katrina victims, he’s campaigned against making estate tax breaks (aka the “Paris Hilton tax break”) permanent, he’s fought to increase Pell Grant limits for college students, etc. He’s well-known and well-respected among democrats. And yeah, I agree that many democrats are hostile to people of faith (even though there are religious democrats to be found; they’re just not the frothy kind, so no one notices). But asking dems to start courting evangelicals seems a bit…oh, I don’t know, freakishly absurd. There’s a reason it isn’t done: Evangelicals don’t walk the democratic party line—they tend to poo on it. And Obama’s appeal for religious sensitivity might lead to more bullshit like this.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how his message will resonate with or repel his fellow democrats.

Any thoughts?


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I did a research project on the Cedar River clinics when I was in college - truly amazing group of people.

If anyone can this "refusal clause" issue REAL attention, they can!

That would be "repel."

Sorry, but just because my kid isn't feeling brainwashed by having to say "under God" doesn't mean I don't think my kid is being brainwashed. (And what victim of brainwashing thinks he's being brainwashed anyway?)

Frankly, if another Christian talks to me about how Christians are under attack and oppressed in this nation, I'm getting a cross and nailing her to it with her sanctimoniousness. Time to reclaim this insane country for the rationalists.

Also, best use of "poo" in a long time: "Evangelicals don’t walk the democratic party line—they tend to poo on it."

a much better strategy would be to call for a speedy withdrawal of troops from iraq and promise the american people that if the dems win the house they will immediately begin hearings on all the lies told to get us there.

in other words, for the dems to have balls.
not gonna happen.

“It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase `under God,’”

Um, just to point out, the whole point of brainwashing is that you don't feel brainwashed.

And believe me, as an adult, whenever I feel socially compelled to issue forth with any amount of "god talk", I feel oppressed.

Becoming a Democrat might require an Evangelical to hold contradictory and hypocritical beliefs, but so what?

Evangelicals don't find hypocracy and contradiction the least uncomfortable. How else does a follower of Jesus swallow the Republican attacks on the poor, their wars, or their corporate welfare?

Obama is saying if the GOP can use these rubes as ground troops, why can't Democrats be just as cynical?

I started finding the pledge irritating around the age of 10. Of course, the "under god" part is ridiculous, but the whole theme that we're just a bunch of serfs is the real problem. It's all backwards: the government should be pledging allegiance to us.

Step back for a moment... and try to imagine you grew up somewhere else. Isn't the pledge just incredibly creepy? It's like we're members of some kind of freaky fascist cult.

So anyway, his assertion that children don't feel oppressed by this, from my personal experience, is not only wrong but insulting.

This guy is just the second coming of Bill Clinton. And I don't mean that in a good way...

Um, you people need to get out more. Old-fashioned liberals make up a substantial portion of evangelical Christians. The nutty right-wing kind get all the press, but they are not the whole story. Nor are most of the scariest right-wing nut jobs particularly evangelical; think Dick Cheney.

Obama is correct: a Democratic Party that is openly hostile to people who profess a religion, any religion, is going to be a Democratic Party that routinely gets 15% of the vote. That's dumb.

If you can't find a way to make peace with your neighbors who think differently than you, then you're in for a whole lot of trouble. I say that as a committed atheist. But there are a lot of Christian precepts that are far from offensive that you can take hold of and make common cause against the right wing with -- the camel passing through the eye of the needle, the moneychangers in the temple, that sort of thing.

Fnarf's right. there's plenty of evangelicals who are either dems or could be dems with a little courting. the old-school democratic values mesh well with those of evangelicals...if you can convince them that their thoughts on abortion rights (and for some gay rights) don't justify sacrificing all of the other values (compassion for the less fortunate, etc) to vote republican.

Obama is on point. That's why he gets a lot of votes in downstate IL.

Meanwhile, the chair of the DNC is pro-NRA Howard Dean.

And the 2000 Dem hopeful (and new favorite son, it seems) is an unrepentant censorist.

I echo Fnarf's sentiments, and add that I am related to a lot of lovely, liberal-minded, intelligent Christians who largely vote Democrat and are intelligent enough to understand the history of "Under God" being added to the pledge during a red scare.

The people who most often speak on behalf of Christians represent only a portion of them, perhaps a surprisingly small portion.

I don't hold much esteem for "the Christian faith," whatever that might mean, but I dearly love some people who identify themselves as Christians, and who go to church, who are interesting to be around. If they think strangely of my being gay or atheist (Maybe they do, maybe they don't), they are polite enough to keep that to themselves. I wouldn't want to disparage their faith in conversations with them, because it would seem rude.

The Democratic platform doesn't need to bend to the will of people who disagree with it, but neither should it alienate a major segment of its traditional base.

Why shouldn't evangelical christians vote democratic. Does their religion say nothing about helping the poor? Being good stewards of the Earth and its resources? Treating all people with dignity? Respecting human rights? Honest, open government? Principles of just war? The Democratic message ought to remind Christian's that the Dems' platform, programs, and policies are more closely alligned to Christian principles than the Republican party's lies, deception, greed, global arrogance, class polarization, and mismanagment of the public interest.

An evangelical awakening is Karl Rove's worst nightmare ... but maybe holier-than-thou Democrats can forestall that by preemptively pooing all over them.

I believe Obama's intention is to neutralize the divisions in our country, illuminate what we have in common and reduce the unproductive "team mentality" that is tearing us apart. He understands that if we want to find common ground, and work together, we need to talk to one another.

And I don't think that Democrats are hostile to "people of faith". That was a strange comment. Having "Faith" doesn't automatically mean "right wing nut bag". Right wing nut bags are basically people that are filled with fear and have attached themselves to a dogma that gives them responsibility -free hope and reassurance. These are the people we need to connect with, reassure and give a sense of personal power to if we are ever going to get out of the national mess we are in.

I agree mostly with fnarf, but see a problem.

Isn't there a major difference between liberals and conservatives about government sanctioned and supported religion?

Isn't a belief in secular government (but not a secular society) is a major liberal value? Prayer in school by individuals on their own time is ok, but a government paid teacher mandating all children accept god not so much.

Perhaps a catch phrase like "keep government out of religion" may work, but this seems like a difficult breach.

Golob's right-- ordinary religious people can be liberals, but it's pretty hard for most evangelicals (given that their major goal is to, well, evangelize) to agree with a political belief which limits a religion's sphere of influence.


Having said that, I think it's a good idea for the Dems to reach out to religious people. Most people are, after all, so if the Dems want to win, they'd better do something. And I'm saying this as an agnostic, btw.

Isn't Jimmy Carter evangelical? Just sayin'.

Golob -- What depraved ignorant stereotypical prejudice makes you assume evangelicals are of necessity unscrupulous?

And by what tradition is "secular government" a liberal precept? Pluralism, yes; cultural relativism, arguable pro and con. Secularism, no. No decent liberalism requires (or expects) citizens in the majority or the minority to check their belief systems at the gate of the public square.

FNARF may be a sartorial disaster, but the gist of his post is sound. I'd add that one insight Rove parlayed to the GOPs great advantage was a feeling by the vast majority of Americans, most of whom are steeped in a mildly-Christian social ethic, that a hallmark of "liberals" is the abdication of personal responsibility. What Dems here and nationally need to get a grip on is by catagorizing groups of people for purposes of both demonization and lionization rings hollow to many outside the political arena. We really are a society of individuals, and the GOP tapped into that sentiment by marketing to the religious. This is a blind spot of those in charge of the Dem. political parties.

Hmm, I dunno, asking Democrats to reach out to a segment of the population they don't get along with, instead of ostracizing them? Sounds like what a good civic leader does to me.

It's so odd to see a guy like Obama, with his head screwed on perfectly straight, at the forefront of such a far-leaning, often times misguided and directionless party.

If the D's get hosed in the swing districts in '06, I'd strongly suggest just handing Barack the reins and getting out of the way.

Fnarf, et al. -- Have a hard time believing that the Democratic party is "openly hostile" to any religion (though I'm sure some Democratic voters are); you could count the number of elected atheists (if any) on the fingers of one hand. It's not a question of deciding between actively pursuing evangelicals on the one hand, and actively rejecting all religious people on the other -- and I'm enough of a realist to recognize the sure failure of the second approach.

But why can't the Dems focus on social/fiscal/international issues rather than religion? Why does religion have to enter into it? Seems to me that by entering into a religion-ized debate, we're playing directly into the hands of a Republican party that has already won that debate with the evangelicals.

And Ronk -- No one's expecting citizens to check their belief systems at the gate, but when legislating or making policy, elected officials damn well better set aside their belief systems and not make policy based on them. Hence secular government: Citizens aren't required to be areligious, and neither are elected officials, but governmental policy sure is. Of course there's a disconnect there, but that's what a lot of Dems have historically been good at -- not imposing their beliefs on others.

Also, let's not forget that Clinton won a lot of these supposedly untouchable red states in both the 92 and 96 presidential elections. Just because people are religious and traditionally Republican doesn't mean they will not buy into a Democrat at all.

Let's make a few symbolic concessions like voluntary paryer in school (for all faiths) and leave "Under GOd" in the pledge, etc. This disarms the right of their wedge issues and allows the debate to focus on real issues. Republicans HATE real issues (see recent flag burning offensive). This sounds like Obama caving in, but i would be willing to bet some conservatives are losing sleep over his statements. It may be bullshit that Repubs want "under God" in the pledge, or want their kids to pray 3 times a day in school, but it is WAY bigger bullshit that they don't want to fund schools, and provide lunches for kids, or all the other ways they actually HURT kids. Give 'em their prayer, then move on to the real issues... check mate.

Longball:

What do you mean "give them their prayer?" There's nothing to give anyone. People have the right to pray in school anytime they want to. The school isn't allowed to conduct that prayer or require it.

The fundies want to force schools to conduct prayer, and they want to be free to use schools that I support with my tax money to proselytize. There's nothing "symbolic" about that, and they'll get it over my dead body.

There is not now, never has been, and likely never will be anything prohibiting students from praying in school. There ARE laws in place prohibiting the school from sponsoring, requiring, or leading any such professions of faith. Any student who wishes to do so can pray their head off, and many do. Anyone who thinks kids don't pray in school now, well, it's been too long since you took a math test.

OK, fair enough - I guess my point is (besides being poorly stated and/or researched) that we should weigh the pro's and cons of compromising on some points. If the Republicans have us fighting tooth and nail to keep the Ten Commandments off the wall (which i AGREE is horrible)instead of providing school lunches then they have won. They frame every debate in religious terms which forces their consituency to side with them over the heathen Dems no matter what. This doesn't mean proposing legislation to turn our schools into religious acadamies. I think it is just an election year strategy to get voters focused on issues the Dems dominate at, like supporting schools, instead of issues they get clobbered at, like faith. Once elected you don't have to worry about faith being legislated into our schools anyway because there is no longer a Repub majority to do it. It's just a strategy, ends justifying means. Something to the effect of "yes senator nutjob, i agree that we should do more in our schools to accomodate faith. Now that we agree on that, let's talk about funding/school lunches/class size/teacher salaries/ etc, etc. I am just saying they are anti-kids, anti education, and a lot of the peple that vote for them aren't, so they don't want to talk about it. Let's not let them hide behind silly wedge issues anymore.

I'd gladly let the Republicans have their prayer in schools if they'd loosen up funding so we could get, say, books in schools.

The reflexive anti-religion stance of many liberals makes the Democratic party frequently look silly.

America was founded by Christians. It was founded, in fact, by a group of people, the Puritans, who were as rigidly conservative as the Taliban. It's surprising that we're as secular as we are, frankly.

As long as we don't have theocracy, who cares if someone says a prayer before a football game. Honestly, it's silly, and no slippery-slope argument will convince me otherwise.

Seth:

America was not founded by Puritans. Puritans founded the Plymouth Colony, period.

Liberals are not anti-religion. That's bullshit, and it stops right here. Liberals oppose kids being made captive audiences to prayer and Bible reading in schools that out tax dollars pay for.

I don't know how old *you* are, but when *I* went to public school, in the 1950s, we *had* to say grace before snacks, and we *had* to sit and listen to the Bible being read in assembly.

Fuck you, and fuck you hard, if you think we're *ever* going back to that!

Just to add to Ivan's comment, Seth -- when you have a president who feels personally guided by his Christian god in making his policy decisions, well, then I'm afraid the word "theocracy" isn't all that far off. Come talk to me about how we're not a theocracy when the majority of our elected officials are avowed nonbelievers, or when we have an atheist president.

And who cares if someone says a prayer before a football game? I do. I don't want to be forced to tacitly partake of a ritualistic superstition that has oppressed millions of people when I'm trying to watch fat men run into one another.

Like Ivan says, wanting not to have other people's religion thrust upon you is hardly being "anti-religion."

superfurry -- "when legislating or making policy, elected officials damn well better set aside their belief systems and not make policy based on them" -- whaaa?

Public policy should be belief-free?

I know the NW is home to an oddball sect of radical technocrats who believe public policy can be ground out just by crunching numbers ... but even that's a belief system.

If we set aside our belief systems, I guess we're left with pure self-interest ... a very conservative frame. This is just ultra-weird.

You misread me: You appeared to be using "belief system" to refer to religious beliefs, using them in the same context as talking about secular government:

"And by what tradition is 'secular government' a liberal precept? Pluralism, yes; cultural relativism, arguable pro and con. Secularism, no. No decent liberalism requires (or expects) citizens in the majority or the minority to check their belief systems at the gate of the public square."

That's how I was using it. And I stand by it elected officials need to not legislate their religious beliefs. Period.

furry -- I understand you only want certain people (the majority) to leave certain beliefs (which you get to pick and choose) out of consideration in public policy.

You don't get to do that. Nobody gets to do that.

I use 'belief system' broadly. Categorical imperative, Rawlsian neutrality, christian charity, jungian empathy, karma, gaia, wicca, whatever. You don't get to choose what other people believe, and you don't get to decide which beliefs inform their public policy preferences.

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