Which candidate for President made this statement over the weekend?
Was it former Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee? Nope.
Could it have been the dedicated Mormon and Republican Mitt Romney? No.
How about social conservative and Catholic Sam Brownback? It's not him either.
Or, John McCain, a former Episcopalian and now Baptist? Wrong again.
It was none other than Barack Obama, Democratic hopeful and United Church of Christ (UCC) member.
Obama made the remark during a 15 minute speech at Pentecostal megachurch Redemption World Outreach Center, in Greenville, South Carolina, on Sunday, October 7.
Create a Kingdom right here on Earth.
Now if George Bush (or any front running Republican) made this statement, the media pundits would be in a foaming frenzy of outrage and condemnation:
Why, he wants to turn the United States into a theocracy!Instead, the media commentators are giving Obama a pass. Liberal policies will do that.
Still, it's interesting listening to Obama's religious rhetoric on the campaign trail and comparing it to the way faith is typically expressed within his denomination.
For instance, Obama told the multicultural audience at Redemption World Outreach about his work years ago in Chicago as a community organizer of churches:
I thought I was coming to save a ministry but in fact I was being saved, and I accepted Jesus Christ into my life.When do you hear anything like that at United Church of Christ meetings? Talk of redemption and salvation through Jesus? Frankly, it'd do the UCC a lot of good. But that's the language of conservatives and evangelicals, who'd appreciate this saying from Obama-- that is, if he wasn't a liberal:
These days, when people ask me, ‘What role does religion play in your work?’ – You’re running for president of the United States, the leader of the free world. What role does faith play? It plays every role.Every role?
Again, does anyone hear this kind of talk within the UCC? If a Republican said this, how many UCC people would be-- let's put it in political terms-- deeply concerned?
On the other hand, Obama paints a vision of unity where people from all sides join together to solve common problems:
As I travel around the country I feel hopeful and optimistic. There's God's spirit in each and everyone of us that's waiting to be released and to be let out... He wants us to join together and break the partisan divisions.That certainly is UCC language, a hope expressed in the logo, "That They May All Be One" (John 17:21).
With his religious campaign rhetoric, Obama is reestablishing something Democrats have ignored for years-- the relationship between faith and politics. Whether Obama's strategy of reaching a broad spectrum of Christians succeeds or not, op-ed columnist Michael Gerson of the Washington Post has some good advice for any politician who seeks to baptize their agenda in religious rhetoric:
The essential humanism of Christianity requires an active, political concern about human dignity and the rights of the poor and weak. But faith says little about the means to achieve those ideals. The justice of welfare reform or tax cuts or moving toward socialized medicine is measured by the outcome of these changes. And those debates cannot be short-circuited by the claim "Thus sayeth the Lord," spoken by the Christian Coalition or the United Church of Christ.Create a kingdom right here on earth. How?
That is why we have elections.