Thursday, June 28, 2007

Barack Obama's Restless Conscience--and Mine

Barack Obama says his conscience cannot rest.

37 million Americans are poor. 45 million don't have health insurance. Genocide in Darfur continues unabated. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The Iraq war goes on. 12 million undocumented immigrants are in our country.

With these issues, Obama declared his presidential priorities in his speech, "A Politics of Conscience." The address is significant because Obama reestablished what Democrats have ignored for years-- the necessary relationship between faith and politics.

Obama delivered the remarks to his own liberal denomination, the United Church of Christ, at its General Synod in Hartford, Connecticut on June 23.

I think Christian Republicans and Christian Democrats, liberal or conservative, can wholeheartedly agree that the problems Obama cites are not just political issues. Rather, they are political issues with an inherent moral component that demands a response from people of faith.

However, Obama brashly asserts that the recent priorities of Christian people in the public square has been subversively rearranged:
But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us. At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design. There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich. I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version.
It's kind of snide, but I like this question that Tygrrrr Express asks every democratic candidate:
You have all explicitly or implicitly stated that religious Christians have hijacked religion. Is this more or less serious than Islamofacists hijacking airplanes, and why?
Obama calls for unity among people of faith, but it won't work until you answer two very important questions: 1) what is the best way to solve these problems; and 2) why are these problems your priorities?

Obama accuses the Christian Right of leading people to believe that the faithful care only about "abortion, gay marriage, school prayer, and intelligent design."

This is clever rhetoric.

You're led to believe that Obama has a circle of "care" far more expansive than those narrow minded, callous Christians on the right. They don't "care" about the poor or universal health coverage. Obama does. And he will do something about it.

Frank Pastore makes a good reply on behalf of conservative believers:
We care a lot about these things, and we prove it through both our taxes and our donations. But, apparently we don’t care enough for the Left or Jim Wallis. We must care “more.”

Wallis is fond of saying “budgets are moral documents.” He’s right. A federal budget is a snapshot of the current moral values system of the nation...

So, when he implies “care more,” let’s translate. “We must raise your taxes..."

Raise your hand if paying around 30% is not quite your "fair share."
Yes, the faith of Obama also "cares" about abortion and gay marriage. But he certainly doesn't "care" about them in same way that religious conservatives do.

Obama says his conscience cannot rest. Neither can mine.
My conscience cannot rest until abortion is outlawed and justice is secured on behalf of 40 million babies slaughtered by Roe vs. Wade.

My conscience cannot rest until marriage is defined in our Constitution as the union of one man and one woman.

My conscience cannot rest until we secure our borders and stem the tide of illegal immigration.

My conscience cannot rest if we leave Iraq prematurely and let it become another Cambodia.

My conscience cannot rest until we defeat Islamic terrorists who hate our freedom.

My conscience cannot rest until out-of-control big government-- it's earmark spending and burdensome regulations-- are cut down to size.
Christians need to be involved in politics. And I am glad that Obama is doing his part.

But all Christians should proceed carefully.

When Obama's (and my) United Church of Christ continuously take liberal political stances, God's kingdom agenda gets reduced to a political platform. Too bad, because God's agenda is far, far bigger.

On the other hand, we shouldn't think that God's will can not be expressed in a political platform.

Politics is difficult, but necessary work for Christians who are commanded to put their faith into action.

"Would that we did not face such a choice," writes Marvin Olasky. "But we do, and given God’s rule over everything, it is a choice that God has given us. That should give us some hope, and also push us to prayer."

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