Talking God

I fully and completely approve of any effort to rob the GOP of the religious portion of their base.

This is a problem that the last two Democratic presidential candidates had; talking God. As troubling as it is, it’s true that in America there is a religious test at least to be President of the United States. It’s not a constitutionally mandated test, of course, but instead a test imposed by a fraction of the populace who believe that a close and personal relationship with Jesus is necessary to be a good steward of the nation’s well being.

I don’t believe this, of course, but when you stop to reflect upon the fact that over 80% of Americans identify themselves one way or another as Christian, the religious test is definitely something that has to be taken into consideration.

This was initially one of the exciting things about Barack Obama when he first stepped onto the national stage; here was a guy who knew how to talk God, how to speak the same language of the devout. Here was a guy who had a personal story about how he came to Jesus and while such stories may not have a bearing on how to govern the economy, or direct the military, such an ability is an irrefutable gift when addressing the retail aspects of politics.

Since then, though, one Jeremiah Wright has kind of tripped Obama up on his way towards campaigning as a Christian Democrat. His name and familial ties to Islam have also hurt him. But neither of that changes the fact that Obama still knows the God talk, and in the run up to the Kentucky primary, he’s apparently floating a test bubble to see how it flies.

Interestingly, not all evangelicals and religious voters are conservative. The vocal ones tend to be; the Religious Right making up that single leg in the movement conservative three-legged stool, but they don’t speak for everyone.

Indeed, there has been a more progressive branch of evangelism for a while now that has just been waiting to be tapped into. Meanwhile, attempts to broaden the religious vote beyond abortion and homosexuality has resulted in a religious approach to other issues that are far more easily identified as liberal than conservative.

Of course, this is all keeping in my own personal belief that, well, Jesus was a liberal. I’m just saying.

In truth, we can moan and complain about pandering to the Christian vote, but that’ll do us little good. Not only will it make electoral success more difficult for as long as we do, but we would also be isolating ourselves from potential allies when it comes to fighting poverty, or working towards civil rights.

I’m not implying that these “liberal evangelicals” are actually dyed in the wool liberals. I think such voters will likely always be pro-life, and there’s probably a long way to go in theological thought before homosexuality is an accepted lifestyle among a majority of religious people (being the cautious optimist that I am, I do hold out hope that one day there will be reconciliation between the religious community at large and homosexuality, just not any time soon). But it’s interesting in that when some religious voters (I’m thinking Catholics here mainly) say they are pro-life, they really mean it; cradle to grave. Not just no abortions, but also no death penalty, in other words, an ally on that front.

Nor am I implying that the wall between church and state be blurred in practice. I may or may not be a secular fundamentalist, that will be between me and my faith or lack thereof, but the principle of keeping God out of politics is a strong one and one that I believe keeps our democracy strong, and protects our freedoms religious and non.

But that’s the problem with voting. You can’t constitutionally restrict what goes through the mind of a voter on election day. You can’t tell them not to vote based on their religious beliefs, and you can argue as much as you want with that, but it’s just the facts of the matter. You can choose to vote for someone because you think they will protect you better from a UFO invasion, or you can choose to vote for someone because you believe they’re a cyborg, or you can choose to vote for someone because they have a strong grasp of the issues, or you can choose to vote for someone because you think they would best represent Christianity in government.

And that’s what a lot of people do. It’s a motivation that has delivered success to Republicans in recent years, and it’s something that Democrats should learn how to do if they not only want to win, but hamstring the GOP with one of their own core constituencies while they’re at it.

I think, despite the obstacles in the way, Obama can do this. Yes, Wright’s a stumbling block, and yes, the fact that so many people believe he is a covert Muslim hurts as well. But as I said, he does have a personal Jesus story, and having read that story, even I have to admit it’s a compelling one.

What makes Obama’s story so compelling is its honesty. In a world where Democrats are not expected to “find Jesus” and shout out with rapturous glory, Obama’s story is rightfully one of apprehension. As he pens it in Audacity of Hope, you do not see Obama reaching this great epiphany, he doesn’t all of a sudden “feel the spirit,” but instead makes a leap of faith, one in which there will always be questions, but despite those questions he acquiesces anyway.

It’s riddled with imperfection and doubt, and truthfully, who would expect anything less from a Democrat? Would anyone believe a Democrat who throws his or her hands in the air and starts screaming, “I feel the spirit!” or whatever?

I don’t even believe Republicans when they get all Jesus-fied, and they’re the ones that are supposed to be good at it.

3 Responses to “Talking God”

  1. Dynamic says:

    It constantly amazes me that the Christian vote isn’t firmly in the liberal camp. I identify myself as a fairly devout Christian, certainly a very spiritual person, and it shocks my senses to hear people proclaim their faith in the same breath as they wish for the death of entire peoples, or try to tell me that God wants you to love your neighbour, unless your neighbour happens to be of the same sex. It simply doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Although I cannot claim to know the mind of God with complete certainty (another lesson the “Religious Right” would do well to remember), I have to concur – Jesus is the ultimate liberal. He hates war, opposes human death at all times, and would never tell two people that they shouldn’t love. He stands up for the poor and the oppressed, He urges justice for all, and He teaches forgiveness and peace, even – especially – in the face of anger and hate.

    He also kicked the moneychangers and elders out of the temple, standing firm on the first wall between church and state.

    I have no doubt He’s one of us, though I suppose I could be wrong.

    No lightning so far, though. 😆

  2. Waddup D!

    Yeah… K-Pax… mediocre movie, brilliant quote.

    “Only your Jesus and Buddah were close, but no one listened to what they had to say anyway.”

    It’s sad, but a movie quote had a serious effect on how I approach faith and religion.

  3. DrGail says:

    I think one of the ways to drive a wedge between the GOP and the evangelicals lies with the “stewardship of the earth” concept. Except for the flat-earth society folks who say “global warming? what global warming?”, it’s pretty easy to recognize that the pollution and wanton expansion into habitats and so forth are having a long-term deleterious effect on our planet. Just ask the hunters and fishermen. The disappearance of honeybee colonies, precipitous decline in salmon populations, and all the weird shit going on with hermaphroditic amphibians are also strong wake-up calls.

    Of course, we have to overcome the IRS’ bias in investigating churches that, for example, have Barack Obama speak about the role of faith in public life, yet look the other way when the ministers organize parishioners to campaign for Republicans.

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