Barack Obama Steps In It
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 05:56:34 AM EST
Senator Barack Obama
Senator Barack Obama's big speech at an event sponsored by Call to Renewal, a group headed by Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics: Why the Religious Right Gets it Wrong, and Why the Left Doesn't Get It -- has received very mixed reviews and is the buzz of the blogosphere. There is much in Obama's speech that hits the right notes regarding the role of religion in a democratic pluralist society, but the speech is indelibly marred by propagating one of the central frames of the religious right.
The Washington Post reported:
Sen. Barack Obama chastised fellow Democrats on Wednesday for failing to "acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people," and said the party must compete for the support of evangelicals and other churchgoing Americans.

"Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation. Context matters," the Illinois Democrat said in remarks prepared for delivery to a conference of Call to Renewal, a faith-based movement to overcome poverty...

At the same time, he said, "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square."

As a result, "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."

The controversy that has erupted in response to Senator Obama's speech has helped to catalyze some things Talk to Action colleague Bruce Wilson and I have discussed for some time. (He will undoubtedly have much to say about all this as well.)

Obama and Jim Wallis before him are wrong to scapegoat "secularists" for the problems mainstream Christians and others have had in finding their voices. They are also wrong to allege that non-religious people are somehow chasing religious expression from public life. It is long past time to call a halt to this nonsense. Let's start today.

But before we abandon, and begin to more formally oppose the frame, here is how it works: The religious right frames much of how they view politics in America as a struggle in America between Christianity and secular humanism; between faith and no faith; between religiosity and secularism. The words differ a bit depending on who is doing the talking, but the the frame is always the same. Indeed, it has been one of the central features of the religious right's rise to power for decades and has been articulated by every major leader from Jerry Falwell to Sun Myung Moon.

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst at Political Research Associates writes that the conspiracy theory  alleging that Christianity is under attack by "secular humanists," goes back several decades.

The idea that a coordinated campaign by "secular humanists" was aimed at displacing Christianity as the moral bedrock of America actually traces back to a group of Catholic ideologues in the 1960s. It was Protestant evangelicals, especially fundamentalists, who brought this concept into the public political arena and developed a plan to mobilize grassroots activists as foot soldiers in what became known as the Culture Wars of the 1980s.

A popular theologian named Francis A. Schaeffer caught the attention of many Protestants in a series of books and essays calling on Christians to directly confront sinful and decadent secular culture with its humanist values...

[Evangelical scholar] George Marsden argues that this new focus on secular humanism "revitalized fundamentalist conspiracy theory"... Two leading activists of the Christian right, Gary Bauer and James Dobson, called the battle pitting secular humanists against Christians over the moral foundation of America a "great Civil War of Values".

The idea of a conscious and coordinated conspiracy of secular humanists has been propounded in various ways by a variety of national conservative organizations, including the Christian Coalition (Pat Robertson), the Eagle Forum (Phyllis Schlafly), Concerned Women for America (Beverly LaHaye), American Coalition for Traditional Values (Tim LaHaye), Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (Fred Schwarz), and the John Birch Society (Robert Welch).

By framing this set of claims as a conspiracy to provoke a "Culture War," conservative Christians transform political disagreements into a battle between the Godly and the Godless, between good and evil, and ultimately between those that side with God and those that wittingly or unwittingly side with Satan.

What is remarkable is that this basic frame has been internalized and propagated by many people who are unaffiliated  with the religious right. Indeed it has been actively promoted by one of the leaders of the the revival of what is calling itself the religious left -- Jim Wallis.

But let's start with one of the quotes from the Post's account of Obama's speech:

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

I am not aware of anyone being asked leave their faith at the door of public life. Are there a few cranky atheists out there who oppose all religiosity, particularly in politicians and public life? Well sure, so what else is new? But there is no evidence that anyone is making any actual headway in reducing religiosity in America. Nevertheless, the influence of Wallis shows in Obama's speech. Let's talk about that influence for a moment.

To listen to or read Jim Wallis, you would think that legions of the Secular Left are rampaging across the land; that the secularity police are billy-clubbing every expression of religion in public life -- especially if it happens to be Christian; and ruthlessly blocking "people of faith" from participation in constitutional democracy and requiring politicians to hide their religiosity.

To offer but one example, (among many) early in God's Politics, Wallis writes, "We contend today with both religious and secular fundamentalists, neither of whom must have their way. One group would impose the doctrines of a political theocracy on their fellow citizens, while the other would deprive the public square of needed moral and spiritual values often shaped by faith."

OK, so who are these "secular fundamentalists" whose "way" is equivalent to the theocratic religious right and must be thwarted? You gotta think that there must be some pretty important people and powerful organizations involved. Right? Think again.

As far as I can tell, from a sampling of his many interviews, and his book, he has never named a single "secular fundamentalist," and has never identified or defined what he calls the "secular left" or specified its impact on religious life and political expression. Never, that is, except on page 69 of God's Politics, where he claims that there are many secular fundamentalists who

"attack all political figures who dare to speak from their religious convictions. From the Anti-Defamation League, to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, to the ACLU and some of the political Left's most religion fearing publications, a cry of alarm has gone up in response to anyone who has the audacity to be religious in public. These secular skeptics often display amazing lapse of historical memory when they suggest that religious language in politics is contrary to the "American Ideal."

Look it up and see for yourself. Wallis does not offer any of evidence in support of his attack on these civil liberties organizations -- all of whom are at the forefront of the protection of religious freedom in America. Indeed, the ADL represents the civil liberties interests of Jews, and the leaders of Americans United have always been predominantly religious. The current executive director, Barry Lynn is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. The ACLU is a network of attorneys of mixed political and religious orientation -- but are fierce defenders of the First Amendment. Are there many people who are non-religious who also populate the Left and these organizations? Well sure. But the same is true for the Right and for that matter, Libertarians. People who advocate for secularity in public life are not usually opponents of religious expression, rather they are proponents of religious freedom and separation of church and state who seek to defend democratic pluralism against the advances of religious supremacism in all of its forms. But Wallis' characterization of these organizations is indistinguishable from the leaders of the religious right.

Indeed, Richard Land, one of the Southern Baptist Convention's point-men for the religious right, had big praise for Jim Wallis, according to a report in the Baptist Press News:

Post-election events demonstrate religious conservatives in America have won the battle over the legitimacy of faith convictions being expressed in the public square, Southern Baptist public policy specialist Richard Land told a Washington audience.

Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, participated in a panel discussion focused on a new book by Jim Wallis on faith and politics. After Wallis, who is identified with the evangelical Christian left, spoke about the subject of his book to a standing-room-only crowd, Land explained the significance of the moment from his perspective.

"Jim's book, this gathering, the discussion that it symbolizes across the country means that the so-called religious right has won its fight with secular fundamentalism," Land said.

The effort "to censor religion from the public debate" is over, Land said. "[The secular fundamentalists] have lost, and I welcome their defeat. I am delighted that Jim Wallis and others have come forward to say, `Yes, there needs to be a debate and you cannot disqualify people of religious belief from bringing their religious beliefs and religious convictions, and how that forms their moral values, into public policy.'"

All that exists here is a strawman -- relentlessly knocked down by the opponents of religious equality and democratic pluralism in America.

In the United States, thanks to Article 6 of the Constitution, we have a system based on the idea of religious equality. Our rights as citizens are are irrelevant to our particular religious or non-religious point of view. And religious rights, also variously described as the right to think freely; believe as you will; or as the right to individual conscience -- rests with the individual citizen. It is this right to believe differently that is a necessary prerequisite for the right of citizens to speak freely. Citizens meeting in the so called "public square" requires a culture of mutual respect for people's differing, and usually evolving religious or non-religious views. Secularity in public life then, is not the denial of or suppression of religious views, but rather, the perpetuation of a culture of respect for religious difference. This, in turn, requires that we recognize that there are a wide variety of religious views that we may encounter; and that there is no one cookie cutter version of any religious orthodoxy that we need view as necessarily more valid than anyone elses views. In terms of legislation and public policy development -- as Obama puts it elsewhere in his speech,

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.

But when liberals slam secularism, particularly when they do not bother to define the term, it come across more as atheist baiting than as a defending of the rights of people to hold religious views and to express them in a democratic pluralist society.

Meanwhile, Albert Mohler, a leading Southern Baptist theocrat, and I agree that there is a built-in contradiction in Obama's speech. Mohler loved the secular-baiting part -- but he denounces the section on religious pluralism, by calling it secularism!

For Christian theocrats and their allies, denouncing alleged secularism it is a way of framing out of the public square those whose religious views do not conform to their notions of orthodoxy. In the case of religious liberals, the use of the term is a thoughtless reenforcement and amplification of the religious right's favorite frame, while marginalizing the non-religious as if they had no right to participate. The use of the word and idea of the secular as label in a campaign of polarization and demonization, necessarily creates a climate of prejudice and bigotry. In the case of the Christian theocrats, to smear and stifle all those who do not share their particular orthodoxies -- and their desire to install them as the basis of public policy. In the case of Obama, his intention is clearly different, but he undermines his message of democratic pluralism by joining in the secular bashing.

Let's return to Wallis, whose book forms a template for how Obama and other leading Democrats are approaching the question of religion in public life.

One of the flaws in the formulation of his argument is his use of false equivalence. The religious right is a well-recognized and widely accepted and understood tem.  The movement has many identifiable leaders and associated organizations and institutions. Newspaper and magazine articles are written about it, even whole books. OK. So who or what is the secular left? What is its agenda? What organizations and institutions are associated with it? Give up? With good reason. It does not exist.

Many Democrats are rightfully weary of claims by the religious right that they are antireligious -- and they are angry at those, like Obama, who echo the claim.

Bloggers have had a lot to say:

Matt Stoeller sarcastically writes:

It's totally true. You can't swing a dead cat in this country without hitting a generic secularist who's all like 'Stop praying, weirdo', before handing out a Democratic voter registration card.

Thank you, Obama, for taking on this critical yet vulnerable stereotype, and reinforcing it with moral security measures.

Blogger Atrios adds:

Dear Senator Obama,

If you think it's important to court evangelicals, then court them. If, on the other hand, you think it's important to confirm and embrace the false idea that Democrats are hostile to religion in order to set yourself apart, then continue doing what you're doing. It won't help the Democrats, and it probably won't even help you, but whatever makes you happy.

Chuck Currie at Street Prophets takes a far more sympathetic view, properly taking to task some people with absurd overreactions, based on news accounts, but apparently not taking seriously Democrats' weariness of the religious right's smear job, made worse by the Wallis-Obama echo chamber.

Currie has the whole Obama speech on his web site and calls it "perhaps the most well thought out speech on the topic since John F. Kennedy addressed the subject during the 1960 presidential campaign." I am not so sure about that, given Obama's Wallisesque blunders, but he does say some important things. Here are some of the good parts:

While I've already laid out some of the work that progressives need to do on this, I that the conservative leaders of the Religious Right will need to acknowledge a few things as well.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. That during our founding, it was not the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of this separation; it was the persecuted religious minorities, Baptists like John Leland, who were most concerned that any state-sponsored religion might hinder their ability to practice their faith.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, who's 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 Leviticus, 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 brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

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.

That's pretty great stuff. (It is, of course the part that Mohler hates.) Ah but unfortunately, Obama also says this about Democrats:

At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, some liberals dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.

While we have all encountered some people who are as he describes, can Obama or Wallis name a single Democrat who behaves in the ways he attributes to "some liberals"? I think not. And there's the rub. If anyone of any prominence had behaved in this manner it would be news. It is a false and unfair caricature of the place of religious people and religious expression in the Democratic Party. If Democrats are going to shake off the reputation of being antireligious, they are going to have to stop internalizing and repeating the central frame of the religious right. In my own experience, I must say that for every heartfelt anecdote I have heard from people who have been made to feel excluded, marginalized, or discriminated against for for their religious faith -- I have heard non-religious people say the same thing. Is there prejudice and discrimination against religious people by non-religious people? Of course. Is there prejudice and discrimination by religious people against non-religious people? You betcha. Just ask them.

Is any of this restricted to the political left? Why no. There are lots of non-religious Republicans. And Libertarians are some of the most sneeringly antireligious people I know. All libertarians? Nope. Just some of those in my experience.

The unnamed Democrats; the unnamed liberals; the unnamed secular fundamentalists: Who is this diabolical cabal? We many never know -- at least if we ask Wallis and Obama. But whoever they are, Jim Wallis says they have forgotten recent American history. In an interview with Mother Jones last year, Wallis said:

JW: [Democrats] forget their own progressive history. Every major social movement in our history was fueled in large part by religion and faith. Abolitionism, women's suffrage, child labor law, and most famously, civil rights. Where would we be if the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had kept his faith to himself? Here's a party that was vitally connected to the civil rights movement, led by black churches, now has driven so far [away], they're successfully portrayed by the Right as a secular party hostile to religion.

I think people who are religious or, say, even spiritual, have not felt like there's much of a home on the Left. That's at least a huge political concern. Even those who aren't religious need to respect people of faith."

So who exactly has forgotten that Rev. Martin Luther King was a preacher? Who exactly feels left out and why? School children are required to offer more evidence for their views than Wallis has bothered to provide.

In the end, Wallis' view is indefensible. He offers no factual support for his claims that progressives and Democrats have forgotten history; are unbelievers; that faith is "dismissed by the Left," (page 3, God's Politics) or that religious expression is suppressed in public life. Nevertheless, his views are being internalized and accepted as valid by many otherwise thoughtful people. It is time for anyone serious about the role of faith in public life and the meaning of religious pluralism in America, to rethink this aspect of Wallisism.

I say all this with considerable regret.

I appreciate Wallis' leadership in helping mainstream and progressive religious Democrats to find their voice, and to better connect their values with their politics and policy ieas. But Wallis' scapegoating of non-religious people is indefensible and counter productive. If progressive Christians lost their voice it was not the fault of those who do not share their faith and with whom they hardly interact. Or if it was, Obama and Wallis have not shown how that is so.

There is a footnote to this story. It is actually a story that at Talk to Action we have taken out of the footnotes and put it on the front page -- many times. It is a realy story of ruthless suppression and marginalization of Christians in public life.

This effort to drive Christians out of the public square has been led by the rightwing foundation-funded Institute on Religion and Democracy and their henchmen, who have disrupted and sought to divide the mainline Christian denominations affiliated with the National Council of Churches for a quarter century. Those who founded, funded, staffed, and promoted this agency are responsible for the greatest stifling of the expression of mainstream Christianity in the public square in American history.

I wonder what, if anything, Wallis and Obama have to say about that?

Update [2008-2-7 16:42:18 by Frederick Clarkson]: This general subject has been much referred to an discussed on this site since this was first posted. However, Obama himself has long abandoned secular baiting, as I discuss in this post: Taylor March Quotes Obama Out of Context

about Obama's speech out there.  

I agree with those who say that this speech has opened up an important conversation about the role of religion in public life. This is a very good time for progressives to hash this out.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 06:22:17 AM EST

This is the best analysis I've read thus far on the speech. The "secular left" is a strawman and Obama should have known better than to play into that meme.

Now if we can get others to grasp that the "religious left" is not a new thing and not only exists, but has been there all along, and if we can turn the debate into appreciation for pluralism and the good it does for society, we may be able to move forward a bit.

Thanks again.

by RevDeb on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 07:59:00 AM EST

"I am not aware of anyone being asked leave their faith at the door of public life."

"In the end, Wallis' view is indefensible. He offers no factual support for his claims that progressives and Democrats have forgotten history; are unbelievers; that faith is "dismissed by the Left," (page 3, God's Politics) or that religious expression is suppressed in public life. Nevertheless, his views are being internalized and accepted as valid by many otherwise thoughtful people."

Yes, Wallis and thoughtful people, such as Senator Barak Obama, are advancing a strawman argument -- that "secular" people are the same as "anti-religious" people. But if "secular" actually means religiously neutral -- refusing to raise up one brand of religion as supreme and worthy of special treatment -- then that is not in any sense of the word anti-religious. Secular people stand for religious pluralism; secular people include many religious people, who believe in separation of church and state.

by jhutson on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 08:56:39 AM EST

I led a discussion on the Wallis book, God's Politics in the adult forum of our church (UCC) and I buy into the premise that you cannot pry God away from politics. However, I found the book sloppy and hastily put together. This was my first taste of Wallis, and, I came to the conclusion that the book was a teaser for a national tour and following events over the ideas brought out in the book. And, the more I dug, the more I realized that Wallis is more comfortable and articulate in the voice and flesh.

The premise of this conversation is correct. A straw man was articulated in the Wallis book and not given credible evidence (you might even say it was just a cute promotional gimmick). In fact, not many of his ideas are. I wonder what Jeremiah Wright's comments are concerning this speech? William

by williambrandes on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 03:26:12 PM EST

in his presentation of the strawman. And Barack Obama has joined him in embracing it as a central component of his public presentation.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 07:03:18 PM EST

they don't mean you!" I try to explain to my friends and neighbors.

Excellent analysis Fred! This exactly is the kind of dialog we need. I'd like to see you re-write this as an editorial and submit it to every major newspaper and magazine in the nation.

"If progressive Christians lost their voice it was not the fault of those who do not share their faith and with whom they hardly interact." Amen!

No one is stating the obvious, that this so-called culture war is a battle taking place very specifically within Christianity. The non-religious and those of other faiths don't really even have a dog in that fight, and it's disingenuous for Wallis to imply that they do, and worse, that they constitute some kind of counter force.

In Indiana, four Christians filed suit against the State House after the Speaker refused to issue guidelines calling for non-sectarian opening prayers. Four Christians were asking simply that respect be shown for a pluralistic community through inclusive prayer offerings. And yet, the newspaper headlines read "Christianity Under Attack"

The mainline Christian community sat silent, apparently not realizing that they'd just been de-legitimized.

As Karen Armstrong wrote in "Battle for God", a universal element in all religious fundamentalisms comes from within. "The movements begin by opposing members of their own faith and their own people; it is only at a later stage that they turn their attention to foreigners." Of the state house suit about to be heard in the Seventh Circuit Court, a Methodist minister running as a Democrat for US Congress wrote "no REAL Christian" would file such a suit.

It's more than a footnote.... it's a testament to failure. Progressive Christians sat mute for decades while their theocratic co-religionist narrowed the definition and the meaning of the word. If mainline Christianity has any hope to reclaim leadership from the rapture cult mentality and the theocrats, they need a 'come to Jesus moment' of their own and admit their own religious bigotry and cowardice.

To Wallis and Obama I would say "Leave the non-religious out of it, it's not their battle.... you go clean up your own house."

by Vesica on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 11:27:12 AM EST

///Currie has the whole Obama speech on his web site and calls it "perhaps the most well thought out speech on the topic since John F. Kennedy addressed the subject during the 1960 presidential campaign."////

All I can say is that Chuck is known for his hyperbole/grin.

As for dating "secular humanism" I think you can go further back. To at least the '50's when the Knights of Columbus championed "under God" into the pledge. William

by williambrandes on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 03:32:48 PM EST

for a comprehensive and sane response to Obama's speech. I thought of posting on this here but was too weary after doing battle in numerous threads on other blogs.

My sense is that the Democratic "leadership" (consultants included) is still suffering from PTSD from the 2004 elections when it initially appeared that they had lost the election because of the "values voters." It later emerged that, with a more careful reading, this problem wasn't what it appeared to be and, indeed, many people who voted on the basis of "values" voted on values other than those of the religious right - or any specifically religious values. I think the Dem's have stuck with this frame in part because they don't want to take a careful look at why they lost (including their own mistakes as well as election fraud) and people like Wallace have enabled them to do this by providing a self-serving and easy out - more appeasement - no matter how destructive.

Doubt this would be a major problem if the leadership hadn't spent the last several years compromising, appeasing, and triangulating to such an extent that they've lost their moral ballast. I'm very suspicious of Jim Wallace who most people hadn't heard of before the election but has now emerged as the liberal guru. The last thing we need is a Dobson of the Left.

If nothing else (and as you point out there were some positive aspects to his speech) Obama may have opened up a discussion that liberals need to be having and have avoided. Left-leaning blogs have an opportunity (indeed, a duty) to reframe the debate and educate leaders and citizens. Those in the party who have been floundering around need to be reminded that the country was founded as a secular, pluralistic republic. And those who favor such a government, whether religious or not, need to be heard. They happen to be in the majority but have been too silent for too long.

Incidentally, I'm more than a bit concerned about the title of the conference, "Call to Renewal," given the use of "renewal" by the religious right to disrupt mainline churches.

by Psyche on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 06:21:05 PM EST

I truly believe that what Obama was trying to do was quell a significant part of the backlash--the undeniable fact that there is some hostility on the Left towards people of faith,; something Right-wing pundits take and to great effect, blow out of proportion..

Yes, as I've stated on posts here and on Daily Kos, Obama should have given specific examples of the secularists he was refereing to. And yes, Obama shoud have pointed out that those on the Left hostile to faith in the public square are the exception to the rule, and not some sort of organized liberal kabal. But Obama should be creditied for opening a dialogue here a very important issue. Furthermore, I am willing to bet the ranch that Obama is smart enough to refine his future pronouncements on this important issue. So, I for one refuse to condemn him. I want to see how this will play out for the junior senator from Illinois.

But perhaps the real failure is with the Left as a whole. Maybe we're really more mad at ourselves than with Barack Obama?

Overall, we do a miserable job of responding to the John Gibsons and Bill O'Reillys of the world with their phony war on Christmas rhetoric. We still have to learn how to equate the seperation of church and state with basic notions of security and domestic tranquility. And most of all, the Left still has tendancy to marginalize ourselves of issues relating to faith.  All this just underscores the need for a unified message (think tanks anyone?) and more importantly, an effective rapid response mechanism that bypasses the cable news pundits and speaks directly to the American people.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 09:44:18 PM EST

if we do not explain what's wrong.

When Obama abandons the religious right's frame and stops undermining his own message, I will applaud his wisdom and leadership.  

Until then, his speech and his message, will continue to be experienced as divisive by many, and for all of the right reasons.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 10:07:56 PM EST
Parent's how we go about explaing it.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 01:48:52 PM EST
What aspect of my essay is problematic exactly?  Are we talking about "we" or are we talking about me?

If you, Frank, or anyone has a specific concern, please raise it. Is there anything in my post that is unfair, inaccurate, or inappropriate?  And if so, exactly how?  

If there are ways other people have gone about this you disagree with that are not me, I would appreciate it if you would sort that out.

Please understand that none of this has been hastily considered, and this has been a concern shared by many people for a long time, (if you don't believe me, see Mainstream Baptist's post today on his site for one window into this)  and has been sometimes aired in public. I might add, this theme has been addressed in various ways on this site from early on. So I wish to underscore for you, and anyone else who happens by, that this is not a hastily considered postition or action.

With regard to this post, I did my first draft of this on Wednesday night. A combination of wanting to take the time to do it right, and the intervention of the weekend conference delayed my posting til Sunday. It was important to get this right, out of respect to all concerned, and considering the gravity of the stakes.

It is not my fault that Senator Obama took the ocasion to speak at Jim Wallis' Call to Renewal conference and to sound his theme in a manner that signaled a major new direction for the Democratic Party. That was his choice and responsibility. It was this ocasion that catalyzed the matter for me, and I felt it was time to more directly engage. It is not too late for Obama and the party to make a midcourse correction.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 02:19:14 PM EST

if we didn't call attention to the problems with Obama's speech. How is he to learn and change if we don't do that? He bought into the Right's frame. If he doesn't know any better, it's time he learned.

by Psyche on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 12:15:04 AM EST
I'm sorry, I just don't see the need to bodyslam someone who needs some friendly advice. We are, after all, talking to a friend. Instead we treating him as if were the second coming of Pat Robertson.

What really bothers me about how many of us went after Obama is that it reminds me a bit too much how the Religious Right went after Bush for nominating Harriet Mieirs before going to a true believer.

Let's not be absolutists like them.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 07:16:32 AM EST

The First Amendment either prohibits the government from creating religious establishments, or it doesn't.  Constitutionally, religious minorities either have equal rights as religious majorities, or they don't.

That's not an absolutist position.  It is a separationist position.

For more, here's a link to a blog that I wrote commending Fred for his inisghtful essay and expanding on the shortcomings of Jim Wallis.

by Mainstream Baptist on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 10:17:16 AM EST

I guess what I'm trying to do is to sound the alarm about falling into the "end justifies the means" mindset. I've seen first hand the kind of misery that that can bring about.
Perhaps, I'm being a bit of an alarmist.

by Frank Frey on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 10:28:56 AM EST

Here is what concerns me: in today's media perception often trumps reality.

The Religious Right has a very loud, well-financed echo chamber. Whether it be Rush Limbaugh, Fox News--as well as others incorrectly spinning our reaction, or whether it be lazy "journalists" such as Chris Matthews or Maureen Dowd then running with the Right-wing pundits reaction as Gospel truth, I can just much of this criticism of Obama's speech being turned against the Left.

And is there hostility to faith on the Left? I see it in some of our smart-ass friends with their smart-ass Darwin bumper stickers. A true liberal, whether or not a believer in a deity, must be respectful of others' religious beliefs--or lack thereof. Religion is to be respected and not mocked. Conservatives are sometimes right when it comes to some of these folks: they are elitist in their atheism.

This elitism is where some of us on the Left also tend to be absolutist and act in a knee-jerk fashion - an undesirable trait shared all too often with many of the right-wing talking heads.  There are some  in our camp who lump good religious liberals (and for that matter, good religious people whatever their political beliefs) with those who are religious absolutists who insist that creationism be taught in the school as science instead of as theology or that born-again prayers be mandatory in schools where Jews, Catholics and Muslims may also attend.

Yet when was the last time anybody on the Left took on the issue of the some? When was the last time that any of us really made the effort to point out that those on the Left who are hostile to faith are not organized, not part of a grand conspiracy or even make up even a sizable minority of the Left? That seems to a task that has left undone. In a perfect world we shouldn't have to do this, but remember what we are up against.

We have no real echo chamber to effectively communicate our nuanced criticisms of this speech. All we have at this point is a few god journalist such E.J. Dionne, Joe Conason, Paul Krugman and Marie Cocco, plus Air America. To a great extent, the other side can still drown us out and twist our message. They will ignore the particulars and focus on the perception that the Left is hostile to faith. If the Bill O'Reillys and John Gibsons of the world start doing thin within the next few days, it wouldn't surprise me in the least. Until the Left has a media response mechanism in place that can go toe-to-toe with the Right's noise machine, I suggest that we use a little more discretion as to how criticize friends who may have delivered the message in way that concerns us. They, not us, still have the ability to better inject their version of events into the mainstream dialogue.

And is separation of church and state as easy to define as would like to think? I'm not so sure.

Liberals must be more careful in picking battles concerning religious issues. In these times there is so much economically at stake for the poor, the working class, the middle-class and moderately wealthy small business owner. Remember: the right is successfully using religion to limit wealth creation to a very elite investor class. They want the rest of us to only share in the economic leftovers that might trickle down to us. Because the stakes are so high, our battles must be limited to matters that clearly cross the church-state division and are tantamount to denying the beliefs of other citizens. To do otherwise is play into their hands. We must start to outthink our opponents; not simply to react to their tactics.

Real liberals should draw the line when those of us who proclaim to be progressive decide that religion is silly and those who practice a belief are idiots. Although this bashing of all things religious is something more common among the neo-luddite fringe and less among the true liberal corps, it is still an attitude not worthy of liberalism. Remember, FDR, Truman, JFK, MLK, Jr. and most especially RFK, all invoked God.  Did they violate the boundary church and state or were they just appealing to peoples' traditional notions of morality?

A good example of someone picking a bad fight is that fellow in California who sued to have the Pledge of Allegiance declared unconstitutional because of the phrase, "one nation, under God." On a purely legal ground is it unconstitutional? Maybe, perhaps he has a colorable argument. But, is it a battle worth fighting? No, and the reason is really quite simple. First, ask yourself, what is the harm? The child in question had the option to sit out the pledge.. It is this option that must be protected at all costs. If it were the child who did not want to say the pledge, then she was free not to stand up and put her hand over her heart and recite.

This brings us to our second point: What good does it do? The pledge does not say "one nation under Jesus," nor does it say "one nation under Allah." Instead, it says "one nation under God." In the most general terms, it leaves the concept of God to each one's own personal understanding. If anything, it appears to be more of an allusion to the Deity, than a prayer. If these words are kept in their current place it will not cause the police to raid the homes of atheists so as to cart them off to religious concentration camps. The
Republic will not fall. Simply put, this language does not impose a religion on any of us.

Perhaps it would have been better to not to put those words in to begin with (they were added in the nineteen fifties after much lobbying by the Knights of Columbus. The change was intended as a rebuke to the espoused atheism of Communism at the height of the Cold War. And yet, even Teddy Roosevelt wanted to remove "In God We Trust" from our currency, so there is good patriotic authority for the opposite point of view). Now, however, is the wrong time, as it would cause much ill will. There is something to be said for picking one's fights and this is not the fight for this time in our history. Besides, there are more non-generic transgressions against Church-State separation that should be of more concern and would have more popular support among the mainstream.                                                          

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 01:46:34 PM EST

regarding taking "under God" out of the pledge, really has nothing to do with this.

I agree that 1) the words don't belong there and 2) it is a battle that is not really worth fighting and 3) plays into the hands of the religious right.

In the context of the issue at hand, all of this is a red herring. A growing number of national leaders have internalized a major frame of the religious right, and this is a problem. Many of us are concerned about it and after years of all this bouncing around, it has taken on a more focused and public character, and it is moving to the center of public discourse.   The horse left the barn a long time ago. The only question now is what we are going to do about it.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 02:35:00 PM EST

but personally, whenever I encounter religion bashing, face to face or on liberal blogs, I respond to it. I think it's inappropriate and destructive to dialogue. On the other hand, when I encounter secular and atheist bashing, I respond to that as well. I'm curious as to why you made this particular post on this blog. Are you accusing us of being among the some that need to be lectured to?

One of the things that has become apparent to me in numerous discussions about Obama's speech is that many religious liberals feel persecuted or discriminated against and that they felt Obama was talking for them. This has been very interesting because I usually associate that kind of defensive stance with the religious right. It seems as though they have been effective in implanting seeds of suspicion and distrust even in those who aren't otherwise their followers. It was precisely that element of Obama's speech to which I was responding - his playing to the insecurities and doubts of his immediate and extended audience - reinforcing the "us vs them" meme of the right. It is that, rather than our criticism of Obama that is likely to give comfort to our opponents. They would dearly love to split the left. Obama and Wallis help them to do that.

We need to speak out, to not be afraid, to not pander, to present a united front of liberal seculars whether traditionally religious or not and we need to make nervous atheists aware that they are welcome to be a part of our coalition as well.

by Psyche on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 03:37:11 AM EST

Psyche, you state:

One of the things that has become apparent to me in numerous discussions about Obama's speech is that many religious liberals feel persecuted or discriminated against and that they felt Obama was talking for them. This has been very interesting because I usually associate that kind of defensive stance with the religious right.

Persecution, or, more aptly, a sene of partial rejection, knows no political boundary, it is a human feeling. As a liberal, I have continually encountered "the some." They are not overwelming in number, but they are often very vocal and arrogant. Yes, they are the exception, but don't exceptions have a tendency to stand out?

They are the folks with the darwin stickers. And what I don't like about them is that they appear to lump liberal Christians like me who believe in science into the same group as the theocrats. If I feel that way, how do you think someone in the mainstream feels when they see that sticker?

I experienced them at CUNY Law School, In one particularly stinging incident there I had stood up and defended a pro-gay rights position. A day later, one of my fellow students who I supported went on a diatribe that I overheard that basically went, "how can anyone be Catholic, it's so stupid." That hurt because I had stood up for the validity of his being who he was, yet he would not do the same for me. That is just one example I've come across from time to time.

Now, I understand that this is not the whole Left and not even a signficant minority of the Left, but many of the mainstream don't understand this. And I constantly bump into this perception when I'm among friends, family--and especially at church functions. At my son's Christmas paegent I had friendly arguments with my son's principal because I said that there was no organized war on Christmas; and this women is a pro-choice liberal Catholic!  Clearly ignoring the remarks of the few will not surffice because the remarks of the few are being used as superfuel to fan the fires of a backlash directed at Liberalism.

It's like this: If your neighbor keeps falsely telling your friends and family  that you beat your wife. When confronted with the tall tale neither you nor wife deny it. So, after a while some of your friends start to believe the lie.

My friends, if Liberalism fails to clean its own house, whether it be faith issues or unions or whatever, our opponents will use our own failings, whether minute or large, imagined or real, as a club to beat our philosophy to death. The Right is doing so now.

The issue of "the few" or "the some" should not be ignored but answered once and for all. Forget about framing or answering the Right on their own terms.

Let me flip it back to  you: If a group of conservative Republicans slap down the theocrats on their side, are they playing on our terms or are they just doing the right thing? And if we don't like the way Obama did it, then let's figure out a way to do it on a terms of our own choosing. The other side has become very able at holding up the exception of the rule on our side and holding it out as the rule. But whatever we do, let's destroy this false perception of an organized liberal hostility to faith once and for all. If we ignore it, we'll have a more difficult time going on the offensive.

Friends, I'm on your side. You know that I'm with you in fighting the Religious Right, but I'm tired of being back on my heels. Todd Gitlin is absolutely correct that the Left often marginalizes itself.  It's time to put things in order and find a way--especially through the media--to take the fight to them. They need to put on the defensve and done so in a manner designed to win over the vital center voter.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 11:07:04 AM EST

of your personal experiences are certainly the kinds of things that ought not happen in America, Frank, and as you know, we take that stand here at Talk to Action.  

But none of this or any of the other annecdotes that have been offered up recently adequately supports the rhetoric of Walis and Obama.

I am also aware of the marginaliztion of non-religious people in some circumstances as well.

None of this can be accomplished using the frame of secular bashing served up by the religious right, and internalized and expresssed by leaders of the democratic party. But it does merit being addressed in its own right.

Part of what Obama has to say starts to get us there. The other part signigicantly undermines it.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 12:24:56 PM EST

...and I cede to you your point about arguining within their framework.  I guess what I really want to do is find a framework that works for us and get to using it. Yes, Wallis is buying into the strawman. All the same, that strawman is a thorn in our side. Let's destroy it once and for all and move forward.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 02:08:07 PM EST
That is exactly what this post was for. A beginning.

It will not be easy, getting people to acknowledge that leading democrats have adopted the frame of the religious right and that they have staked our approach to religion in public life on this.  

We are working on a better frame around here. Indeed, it is a central purpose of the site.  

Note that religion bashing and secular bashing are equally off topic on this site. This throws a monkey wrench into the religious right's frame. We accept the idea of religious equality in "the  public square."  

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 05:27:05 PM EST

Do I get to do my Sally Field speech now?

by Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 07:49:22 PM EST

...and it's something that we need to aware of. Mirror imaging occurs when a group sees the success of it's opposition and begins to take on the characteristics of that opposition. It's a form of survival instinct based on the assumption that the opposition has a definite advantage(which in this case it does).
I agree with Frank Cocozelli and I too was a little uneasy with some of the responses. Overall, though, Senator Obama did indeed begin an important discussion.  

by Frank Frey on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 10:21:54 AM EST

come on. Analogous to the way the religious right went after Bush on Meirs? Come on.  Treating Obama like Pat Robertson? Come on.  

Friendly advice?  That is just what Senator Obama has received. I hope he takes it.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 02:27:14 PM EST

As I pondered on your reply, I never meant to target  your's or Chip's comments as body slams; it was a general response to the comments I've seen across the web, paricuarly on Daily Kos.

In retrospect, I realize now that I should have adjusted my comments here comunative to the comments posted here and nowhere else.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 07:53:38 PM EST

I think there is a trend towards "secularism" is this country just as there has been in most of western Europe and other advanced societies. This has been going on for over a century. Each generation has less direct involvement with religion in its daily lives than did the one before it.

At the same time there has been a group which is trying to reverse the trend. This group waxes and wanes with the decades. It had a high point during the Carry Nation period, for example. It seems to have re-emerged during the past 30 years again.

Nevertheless the underlying trend continues toward a weakening of the power of religion in society. Attitudes towards marital relationships, blue laws, gambling and alcohol have all become more "secular", that is the strictures of the church have not been able to stop the changes to existing laws. The few areas were traditional religious attitudes are still embedded in law are over drug policies and prostitution. Even here we have seen change in Europe.

Perhaps the "moderate" religious movement is not finding an audience because most of the moderates are really only nominally religious and thus appeals to tolerance and warnings of the dangers of religious extremism are not relevant to their lives.

So far, the new religious inspired government actions have not impacted many people. Abortion restrictions mostly affect poor southerners. Gay marriage is a fringe issue as are arguments over displays of the ten commandments and holiday decorations. If the religious started to campaign against alcohol or managed to censor the media then we might see public reaction.

This is the lesson of Prohibition. A minority can put through an unpopular social policy, but it will prove to be counter productive. If it hadn't been for Prohibition the bootleggers would never have arisen. Their infrastructure is still with us in the drug and gambling areas.

If the moderate religious sector is going to be effective it will have to address the real concerns of those who are nominally religious.

-- Policies not Politics
by rdf on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 10:35:19 AM EST

Only the "nominally religious" would contend that religious moderates are "nominally religious."

Moderate, Mainstream Baptists are deeply religious.  

There are a lot more like us than you think.

by Mainstream Baptist on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 01:40:24 PM EST

How many people are in your denomination?

How do they manifest their being "deeply" religious? I assume that members attend services and may participate in various church-sponsored community or charitable functions.

But, do they not shop on Sunday or watch TV? Are there some other outward signs of religous practice that would stand out in our secular society, like saying grace in a restaurant?

Having deeply held personal beliefs may be what you mean by deeply religious, but since this site is devoted to activism if beliefs don't show up as actions then I consider it "nominally" religious.

(By the way those were rhetorical questions, so don't feel that you need to answer, except for the size of your denomination, if you happen to know it.)

-- Policies not Politics
by rdf on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 02:21:46 PM EST

Ain't that word "Moderate" a stinker? A "deeply religious moderate" isn't wishy-washy - he or she is firmly committed to a faith that doesn't lean toward either an identifiably "liberal" or "conservative" theological interpretation.

The church my family attended when I was very young was a fairly typical mainline "moderate" American Baptist church. We had "regular Sunday-school-and-church," youth groups, Vacation Church School, etc., supported our denomination's missionaries (domestic and foreign), were active individually in various outside service groups and projects, and generally put our religious pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.

When we "went about doing good," we did it fairly quietly, without public display. If we led, it was by action rather than preaching. Some of us were active in social ministries that might eventually become openly activist (one of my parents' friends headed a Christian center, for instance), but most of us just tried our best to do the ordinary everyday loving our neighbor as ourselves stuff. That "ordinary loving our neighbor as ourselves stuff" isn't something a "nominally religious" person can do - it has to be deeply rooted in the one who first loved us. That's the "deeply religious" part.

Hope that helped.

by anomalous4 on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 02:17:05 AM EST

the "nominally pro-choice" blithely dismiss the overwhelming impact of hundreds of religiously-inspired laws presently affecting the lives of millions of women in dozens of states.

So far, the new religious inspired government actions have not impacted many people. Abortion restrictions mostly affect poor southerners.

Actually, that statement couldn't be more mistaken.

26 states have state-mandated "counseling" designed to deter a woman from obtaining an abortion, 24 states require waiting periods afterward, and 34 states require parental involvement.  A partial list of restrictions on abortion care in all states (many TRAP laws and regulations are not included) is available in a recent Guttmacher report, An Overview of Abortion Laws.

by moiv on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 02:22:23 AM EST

Chuck Currie might have the full text on his website, but, Obama has the Podcast (Audio/Video) on his. The direct link to the MP3 below. This guy has all the tools.

I think when the dust settles, Obama would be one you would want on your side. The Kenneth Blackwell trumpster. In so many words you might say that Obama is our SOB. And, he is a quick learner. This isn't ivory tower semantics. It is a fight for the survival of the republic. William all_to_Renewal_Keynote_34.mp3

by williambrandes on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 11:43:39 AM EST

Let's hope he can see the logic in the Talk To Action line of criticism. It's not intended to target Barack Obama at all - he's merely presenting a predetermined party position.

I'm very hopeful that Obama will be able to see through the advice of the Democratic party strategists who have inadvertantly fallen into the trap of recycling a Christian right attack point. We all make mistakes, and the important thing is simply to learn from them and move on.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 05:53:18 PM EST

Does Obama fully understand and articulate a separationist perspective? No, but I would rather have Obama and Wallis leading the country than Bush and Dobson. Should we not do a better job of gently encouraging the few Obama's out there who have had the political courage to challenge the Christian Right? We should, of course, point out the flaws. But in the Obama spirit of being fair-minded and having a sense of proportion, we should focus more on what Obama gets right than what he gets wrong. There will be plenty of time for Obama to refine his message. But how can we help Obama refine his message if we jump so hard on him the very first time he gives a susbtantive speech about religion and politics?

On a side note, it is interesting that Obama mentions Rick Warren in a positive note. Should we have pointed out Warren's involvement with the left behind video games? Sure, but his involvement with the evangelical anti-global warming initiative was more significant politically and a very serious challenge to the more traditional and powerful leaders of the Christian Right. Again, sometimes it seems like we need to have a more calibrated sense of proportion and to work harder at being more fair-minded.

by Carlos on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 12:19:19 PM EST

Part of our task is to figure out what are good and not so good approaches for how to address the religious right. This is not about making a choice between who runs things, Obama and Wallis or the religious right. Rather this is about how we engage one another, and how we ensure that our leaders don't lead us off in the wrong direction -- as, with regards to contending with the religous right, most of our leaders have done for quite a long time.

This national blog site, is partly about having this kind of discussion. Some of it will be uncomfortable. Be forewarned, it goes with the territory of social change.  Some of that change, is inevitably going to occur within us, and among us. How can it not?

We can do our best to make it as civil and constructive as possible, as I tried to do in this post.  And sometimes, many of us may need to agree to disagree on some things. We will also need to be open to changing our minds about some things as we learn and discuss.

But let me be very, very clear.  I believe that the approach that Jim Wallis and to a lesser extent, Barack Obama; and by implication, the Democratic Party, is taking in addressing these matters, is mistaken. That said, as I made very clear from my opening paragraph, much of what Obama had to say is spot on. But I think that the best of what he has to say, is substantially undermined by the worst. It does no one any good to turn a blind eye to this problem. If you think that most of what Obama had to say is good and if embraced would lead the Democratic Party and America in a better direction, you are obliged to conisider my argument that the part of his argument I addressed might seriously undermine the rest, perhaps to the point of irrelevance.

I maintain that the adpoption of one of the central frames of the religious right is a profound error that cannot go unaddressed. This is an area that I, and others, will continue to give it the attention it requires.

Part of the task for those of us who are concerned about the religious right in some, or all of its manifestations, is not to shut our eyes to the reality of the error; this means avoiding reflexive partisan defenses of leaders. The best thing we can do for Obama and other leaders we otherwise admire and for whom we hold out great hope, is to be their best, most constructive critics about things that really matter.  This is a time and a matter that in my view, calls for that kind of clarity and resolve.

When we disagree with our leaders on matters of say, the war in Iraq, we figure out the best ways to address our concerns and we let them know. We hope that they evolve, and indeed, in the case of the Iraq war, those of us opposed have seen some of our leaders come a great distance.

People in public life are accustomed to handling disagreements and give and take on matters of public concern. That is their job. Let's help them do it better on these issues.  If we do not do so, we are fully complicit in the consequences of the failure of their approach and their leadership. Indeed, I think it is time for those of us who are concerned about these things to behave in a more leader-like fashion ourselves.

With regard to the Wallis/Obama approach I believe it is not only misguided in its content, but (to be polite about it), but that if fully implemented it will politically backfire.  

I agree with those who say that Obama has opened an important public discussion.  Now let's have it.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 01:43:16 PM EST

Thank you Fred for throwing this open for discussion. How we on the Left ctriticize our own is something we have failed to address for a very long time. A lot of what I've read here demostrates what separates us from the Right.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 02:13:48 PM EST
We can model what good discussions ought to look like on this, and related matters. And I think that is part of what Talk to Action can and should be about. That we will not all agree all the time is a good thing. How we all go about disagreeing ought to be at least as interesting as the content.

If we are able to raise the level of the quality of discussion it will be a significant acheivement. And I think we are making great progress.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 01:03:02 PM EST

One name immediately comes to mind as a "secular fundamentalist": Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

As for Barack Obama:

Having lived all my life in an atmosphere of Christian faith-based liberalism, I personally don't see him raising any red flags. In fact, I find his willingness to identify publicly with a more liberal Christian faith base refreshing and even hopeful.

OTOH, I can see where some people might have difficulty, given that the religionocrats have made such a show of declaring themselves to be "the Christians" that the faith-based (I really want to take back that terminology in contrast with the religion-based promotion of a theocracy made in its proponents' own image; let's call a spade a spade) left has all too often run the other way for fear of being identified with them and thus driving a wedge between us and our secular allies, who are justifiably alarmed at the overwhelming public image of Christians as a bunch of right-wing nuts or something close to it.

OT other OH, I think it's a very good thing that Obama has begun to give a public voice to the faith-based left (or at least leftish). We've been in need of such a public voice and not had it for going-on-40 years.

OK, so he's not Martin Luther King, and he doesn't have it 100% right, but it's a start. King didn't have it 100% right in the beginning, either.

It remains to be seen whether the faith-based left and the secular left can forge an effective new coalition similar to that of the civil rights movement, but for now, we shouldn't be too quick to criticize Obama while he's still getting his bearings in the national arena. He's shown courage by publicly claiming his roots in faith and calling on the rest of us faith-based liberals to do the same. As such I think he deserves at least our conditional support.

by anomalous4 on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 02:19:02 PM EST

does not mean silence in the face of heading in the direction of an historic philosophical, contitutional and political shipwreck.  It means saying hey! there's a great big iceberg ahead. You can see the tip, but don't forget that there is a huge mass of dangerous icerberg below the surface.

In that sense, offering up a constructive and carefully presented public criticism,and calling for a change of direction, is not the same thing as withdrawl of support. We are all on the same ship, headed for the same iceberg.

This is not about Obama speaking about the connecton between faith and politics. As I made clear, that is a good thing. It is about inernalizing a central frame of the religious right in a way that undermines, and risks destruction of the good things he is attempting to do.

Hey Obama -- look out for that iceberg!

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 03:06:55 PM EST

Fred, did you see Faithful Progressive's reaction to your Obama post? It is good to see this conversation breaking out everywhere.

by Carlos on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 04:29:50 PM EST
I hadn't seen it, but I have now replied.  

It is good indeed to see the conversation breaking out. It is much needed, and long overdue.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 04:55:32 PM EST

by Psyche on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 02:24:45 AM EST
Faithful Progressive continues his observations on Obama's speech. I appreciate the issues being raised here by Fred, Psyche, John, Mainstream Baptist, Bruce and others, but I also think, as Faithful Progressive says (and Frank C also writes along these lines), that there is a richness to Obama's speech that is not fully appreciated.

by Carlos on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 09:52:45 AM EST

Fred says: "...It is about internalizing a central frame of the religious right in a way that undermines, and risks destruction of the good things he is attempting to do."

Point taken. I suppose part of me is still living somewhere back in the 60s when the most widely heard religious voices were the socially progressive ones, and "we" defined a lot of the parameters. Now that the far-right is doing so much of the defining, folks like me just might need to get the leftover stars from the "good old days" of faith-based activism out of our eyes..........

by anomalous4 on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 10:41:16 PM EST

was dead long before the term came into existence.  The term is a contemporary invention of religious rightists, and it is used to demonize opponents.  That is why it is such a shame that is it used by Jim Wallis. It epitomizes the way he appropriates the frame of the religious right, and the reckless and counterproductive way he approaches the question of religion in public life.

Again, there is no such thing as the secular left and there is no such person as a secular fundamentalist, which BTW, is an oxymoron.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 09:26:16 PM EST

.............and had ranted her way into irrelevance and become the butt of a lot of jokes long before that.

I was being flip. Sorry if I ruffled your feathers.

My point was that I could think of only one person who might even remotely resemble the concept of a "secular fundamentalist" - that resemblance being primarily a certain intolerance and a fire-breathing, insistent, absolute certainty in the face of more nuanced reality.

OTOH - come to think of it - I can conceive of a "secular fundamentalist" as someone who takes the notion of "freedom from religion" so far as to wish to remove every mention of religion or a Supreme Being from public view (or even stamp the notion out completely) as various Communist regimes have tried unsuccessfully to do.

In the end, "secular fundamentalism" is like any other label - people who want to plaster it all over the place had better damned well be able to explain what one is in the first place. "I know it when I see it" doesn't count - and that goes more than double when you're dealing with pejoratives.

So I say to them, "Name one!" And while you're at it, make a better case for it than I did --grin--

by anomalous4 on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 11:40:57 PM EST

Am I right in reading that as "there's no organized, identifiable 'secular left' quasi-entity corresponding to the 'religious right'"? Certainly there are a lot of secular leftists - but we're not hearing much from them lately. Is it a matter of lack of organization, or something else?

Please elaborate.


by anomalous4 on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 11:56:07 PM EST

beyond what is in my post.  There is much talk about the "secular left" posited as a counter point to the religious right, but in fact there is no such thing. There is no such movement; there are no such organizations; and few people who would use the term to describe themselves in a way that they would consider meaningful.  

The challenge goes out to those who use the term. Please define and describe the secular left.  But is is a challenge that cannot be answered.

Generally, the term is a strawman of religious right invention. Those who carelessly use it, are buying into the frame of the religious right without knowing it. Let's call out those who use the term and ask them to define secular left and name the main components of this allegedly important movement.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 09, 2006 at 09:00:52 PM EST

Maybe I hang out with weird people who use weird vocabulary, but the concept of a "secular left" was old news to me long before I ever heard of a Religious Right.

The simple definition as I've always understood it: those of a sociopolitically liberal/progressive orientation based on a point of view or philosophy other than a religious faith.

Don't know if you'd call that an answer or not, but I don't think I use the term carelessly (at least I hope I don't); I use it to refer to something specific that I do believe exists, and that I'm not afraid to stand alongside in the cause of justice.

Got an alternative name for 'em?

by anomalous4 on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 01:17:08 AM EST

the difficulty is the matter of false equivalence

religious right/ secular left  

problematic, no?  

Frankly, I don't really care what one calls "them," because there is no them.

The term is used carelessly, when it is used at all, because the predominant contemporary useage is as this strawman movement called the secular left. There are certainly individuals to whom the term secular leftist would not be inappropriate, just as a friend, said to me when we had this conversation, "but I am a secular Jew." Well fine, but you would still have to invent the secular left for that person to be a part of, just as one would have to invent secular Judaism.

The only way one might use the term is in a highly casual way to refer as you do, to non-religious liberals as a group. But in my writing, I rarely use the word secular because it is such a loaded word these days. (And I never use the term, "faith-based." )

My generic terms of choice are religious and non-religious.  They come freighted with a lot less baggage than these highly spun words that are the tip of deep frames.

One of the main points of this essay, and my Who's Secular Now? quiz, is to underscore the way that the term "secular" means a lot of different things, and is deeply a part of the frame of the religious right.  

I will be writing about these matters more. My suggestion to anyone who does not believe that a wide swath of society has not internalized the frame of the religious right -- is to try going awhile without using the terms "secular" and "faith" both orally and in your writing.

And notice the ocasions when others use them and try to rephrase to yourself what they said in other terms. It is an interesting exercise.

See what your own word choices and phrasing will be. I have no prescriptions.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 04:17:18 AM EST

it beats the heck out of "Godless Liberals"! -grin-

by anomalous4 on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 01:22:00 AM EST

Speaking of a coalition of religious and secular progressives, there is this new initiative.

by Carlos on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 02:37:05 PM EST

I can't make any authoritative comments on the left's relationship to religion, but I can comment on my own experience.

First, I've been reading (and posting occasionally) left journals, websites and blogs for the past 15-20 years. I regularly come across articles that disparage religion in general, and usually Christianity in particular. Believers are often portrayed as fools, idiots and so forth.

Second, I've tried to enter discussion groups (including Alternet, Bad Subject, Mojo Wire, Truthdig, etc.) and speak of how my faith inform my politics, esp., regarding poverty, racism, peace, etc. Again, myself and other Christians in the discussion, get called idiots and fools, etc., for our beliefs. And this happens quite frequently - it even happened on this site on one occasion.

Third, I differ with many on the left concerning some issues, esp., abortion. While I don't wish to force my moral and ethical views on others, I do believe that abortion involves the taking of a human life, or at the least of a potential human life. I'd prefer to see government policy that helped single mothers and promoted adoption than religious-based laws. Any mention of this opinion usually brings intolerant scorn. I've seen Hillary Clinton attacked on the left for saying things such as 'abortion should be legal but rare.'

Fourth, in the intelligent design/creationist vs evolution debate, I've generally seen intolerance from both sides. The left writers often denigrate the religion of those on the intelligent design side. Recently Mother Jones carried an article by the late John Kenneth Galbraith on evolution, in which he claimed that evolution proved the non-existence of God.

Fifth, I've seen similar statements (that God doesn't exist and to believe so is unscientific and foolish) by other authors in Z Magazine, In These Times, Harper's, The Nation, etc. However, I've never read in any left magazine (possible exception of Utne Reader) an article saying that atheism was foolish, or belief was wise. The basic point is that these magazines are willing to use their pages for statements denigrating Christian faith, but not to challenge a non-religious world-view.

Sixth, anytime a person on the left, such as Wallis or Obama, says that 'we on the left must learn to incorporate the spiritual' he/she is accused of violating the separation of church and state. Al and Tipper Gore were accused of this when Tipper was speaking out against some of the content of hip-hop and popular music.

My personal experience and what I've seen and read leads me to believe that Wallis and Obama are closer to the truth of the matter than Mr Clarkson. It's certainly true that no national Democratic politician has run as a vocal atheist or secularist. It's unfortunate that much of American Christianity is so narrow-minded. It is, however, not very difficult to find antagonism toward religious faith on the left.

by chipmunk on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 11:26:39 PM EST

For substantiation, please see my collection of hate speech from the American right, and the assciated commentary, that I have titled Enough Hate Speech To Stun An Ox

"The people who have come into (our) institutions (today) are primarily termites. They are into destroying institutions that have been built by Christians, whether it is universities, governments, our own traditions, that we have.... The termites are in charge now, and that is not the way it ought to be, and the time has arrived for a godly fumigation." - Pat Robertson, to New Yorker Magazine, 1986

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 12:27:46 AM EST
I'm not suggesting in any manner that there is "an equivalence" between the Religious Right and the Secular Left.

by chipmunk on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 01:57:59 PM EST

to find annecdotes of antirelgious statements and actions on the left. You will note that antireligionism is off topic here. Religious bigotry is also not tolerated here. Neither is bigotry against the non-religious. We delete comments of this nature and ban repeat offenders. So I will compare my credentials on religious tolerance and respect with anyone's.

Your experiences are not unique and were stipulated in advance. The point of this piece is not to say that anti-religious bias does not exist on the left, but that the left and the Democratic party are not the exclusive domain of such attitudes; and that mindless demonizing of "secularists" as if that term were the equivalent of anti-religious bigots, and to suggest that this is somehow integral to the character of the Democratic Party and its members, is intellectually indefensible, morally reprehensible, and politically counter productive.

As for your statement "anytime a person on the left, such as Wallis or Obama, says that 'we on the left must learn to incorporate the spiritual' he/she is accused of violating the separation of church and state." That is just silly -- and the kind of sweeping and unsupported generalization of the sort that Jim Wallis is become well known.  

And by the way wouldn't it be nice if Wallis and Obama would denounce the campaign by the Institute on Religion and Democracy to drive Christian expressions from the public square -- instead of denouncing strawmen?  

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 01:08:24 AM EST

and I'm not sure of all the reasons but I think, in part, it's because some issues that deserve separate treatment are conflated. Religious beliefs and tolerance of those beliefs are one thing. Policy, which affects all people with a wide range of beliefs is another. It's wrong, e.g., to call someone an idiot because they believe in creationism even though there is overwhelming evidence for evolution, but it is appropriate to object to creationism being taught in science classes - because it is a religious belief - not science.

Although we all have to develop some thickness of skin to participate in debates about contentious issues, your posting faith-based opinions on sites or posts that are hostile to religious issues (if they truly are) seems to be asking to get dumped on. Interestingly, I find that some of the publications you mention, while not generally anti-faith, have published some very good (and critical) pieces on the religious right. In fact some of their writers also post here.

If you expect left-leaning publications to say atheism is foolish and belief is good, you're likely to be disappointed. Generally, they are more concerned with policy than religion (except to expose the far right's agenda to impose their religious beliefs on everyone). If you want to see strong support for religion and bashing (often vicious) of atheists and seculars you need only visit the right wing blogs and web sites. You'll find plenty there.

by Psyche on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 02:14:25 AM EST

I've never gone into left discussion groups to promote my faith. I want to be clear on that. However, when the issue came up, I did respond honestly and usually got a lot of intolerant responses.

I've also read some good critical articles about the religious right in left magazines. And I've also read comments to the effect that religious belief is foolish. My point isn't that these magazines should write articles promoting religion, but they should edit out comments that denigrate it.

And again, I'm not saying that the left and the right are equivalent in this area. I've seen the hatred spewed out on the right, and this sort of hatred is rare on the left.

by chipmunk on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 02:11:25 PM EST

as religion-based, while implying that government based regulations prohibiting abortions are not religion-based strikes me as somewhat ironic. And it is a somewhat narrow vision of things to believe that those who oppose choice are met with 'intolerant scorn.' This is an issue that brings out heated debate from both sides - though getting met with intolerant scorn seems somewhat tame compared to the bombings and murders that have been perpetrated against those who support a woman's right to choose.
Shalom, Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer "Time makes ancient good uncouth; we must onward still and upward who would keep abreast of truth." from Lowell, "The Present Crisis"
by John Dorhauer on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 07:59:06 AM EST
My internet connection has been bad for a few days, so I'm not certain if my response has gone through.

Anyway. I actually said the opposite of what you seem to think that I said. I never referred to pro-choice legislation as religion-based and pro-life as not religion-based. I said the exact opposite.

Once again, I was not in any way trying to promote some sort of equivalent behaviour between Right extremists and the Left.

Intolerance and hatred shown by anyone is simply unbecoming and wrong.

by chipmunk on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 02:07:51 PM EST

This is a cogent argument demonstrating a phenonenon that all progressives need to be aware of. To hear a significant voice from the left speak of secular fundamentalism is alarming to me. I have never been a fan of Jim Wallis, which I find regretable  since so many on the left find him to be the next best thing. That Barrack would adopt this posture is disappointing at the least, and something for which we must all continue to watch in the coming days. Personally having been involved with the politics of the left for sometime, I must say that never have I been made to feel unwelcome, I have never been silenced, I have never been censored by 'secularists' of any kind. If anything, I have been met with those who were grateful that someone with deep religious convictions broadened the circle of their support. To be sure, such relationships and alliances require of me that I find ways to speak and act so as not to come across as evangelistic, and to return as much acceptance
for those of no faith as they have shown me.

OTOH, my consistent experience has been that the only ones who wish to silence me, to deny even that I have a faith - much less permit me to speak of it - have been the religious fanatics on the right.

Yes, I am concerned about Obama's coopting this language about fundamentalism and attaching it to 'secularists.'

One final word on this: the right has over-used this whole myth of martyrdom. It is evident in Rush Limbaugh's daily lament that the left control the media, and someone with a view from the right can never have their voice or opinion heard (ironic in that he is saying that on a radio show sindicated in damn near every broadcast network in the counry); it is evident in wealthy evangelists like Pat Robertson and others who talk about the ways the government acts to silence them. Claiming to be persecuted from the halls of wealth and fame strikes me as insincere and manipulative.

That Barrack would choose this canard, this tactic as the linchpin  for a major initiative is disturbing to me.
Shalom, Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer "Time makes ancient good uncouth; we must onward still and upward who would keep abreast of truth." from Lowell, "The Present Crisis"
by John Dorhauer on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 08:23:33 AM EST

One of the threads that may be a part of this argument is the theological choice of a private spiritual experience/ as opposed to a faith that is lived out in the world, with resulting politics and social policy.  For some individuals, faith is an extremely private matter of a relationship with the divine.  For others true faith is unable to not be lived out in relationship with society.

Unfortunately, those who have the belief that faith is a personal and private experience have no theological motivation for creating a political platform that would allow this expression for others.

On the other hand, those whose faith demands that all people's beliefs become identical to their own have a huge theological motivation to become involved in politics and to create organizations and systems to help achieve that end.

Without a theological motivation to make it so, private religious experience will have a difficult time mobilizing itself into public policy.

In regard to Obama's speech, I would suggest that those who are leaving their religion "at the door" are those whose theological viewpoint is that it is appropriate to do so.  

by Amazon4God on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 01:29:26 PM EST

I think that you've hit the nail on the head. I may be wrong, but my feeling is that many on the Left would like faith to remain a primarily private affair. This is very ironic, because just a few generations ago, it was the Left that insisted that faith was public and the conservative Christians who resisted political involvment. Think of MLK Jr and peace marches and Walter Rauschenbusch and the Niebuhrs.

I'm very curious to know what those who operate this website think on this private vs public expression of faith.

by chipmunk on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 02:00:32 PM EST

described in my post.

"Many on the left"?  Like who?

One of the main problems in discussing this in a way that is fair, and that actually surfaces somthing we can discuss, is not to use sweeping generalizations.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 03:35:53 PM EST

I can't quote leaders of the Left who have made statements amounting to 'secular fundamentalism'. For one thing, I don't have the time, nor the inclination to go searching for it.

Yet, I know many good people in churches who believe that this framework is true. I'd say that there are millions who find the secularist vs religion framework to describe their experience. Perhaps they have all been duped by the Right. I just don't think so.

A few days ago the local paper (Lancaster (PA) Intelligencer) carried a story about a war memorial cross at a San Diego public sporting venue that a plaintiff wanted torn down on grounds of separation of church and state. I think it was the federal district judge ordered the cross to be removed. It had been there since the 1950s. The Supreme Court ordered a stay while further argument could be considered.

Europe experienced a somewhat aggressive 'secularist' attack on religion in the French Revolution and the writings of several philosphers such as Voltaire, Nietzsche, Marx, and more recently Bertrand Russel. In our country intellectuals such as Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould have been strong promoters of the outdatedness and absurdity of religious belief.

The debate on faith-based iniatives brought many (not all) from the Left out in opposition. I'd say that most ordinary Christians saw this as opposition to religion in the public sphere.

Though you earlier called my reasoning silly, I still find that quite often when people on the Left invoke faith, they raise a lot of ire from the 'secular' Left, and perhaps from the liberal church. (John C. Green has hinted at this) If I were a more careful researcher in this area, I would have saved and noted the sources. I can however name some politicians or writers who have raised some ire on the Left: Wallis and Obama in this present context. Al and Tipper Gore when they spoke out about song lyrics in popular songs. Sen. Robert Byrd, who occasionally speaks like someone from the Left, and at times like someone from the Right. I remember reading some criticism of John Kerry, when he began speaking of his faith - from both Left and Right. I've read rather negative reactions to some articles of Amy Sullivan.

Do I think that there is an organized 'secular humanism' out to destroy religion? NO! But I believe that these examples give some illustration of a secular cultural phenomena that has a lot of difficulties accomodating the expression of faith in the public space.

Who on the Left is addressing this issue in ways that religious people (I don't like that classification either.) can identify with? It would be much more fair to strongly criticize Obama and Wallis and Lerner if they were others you could refer to?

And finally when you use phrases such as "demonizing secularism" below Obama's picture and in reference to Wallis, you aren't helping to further the discussion. To call what they have said, 'demonizing' is in itself rather 'silly'. Yes, Tim Lahaye, Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, and others on the Religious Right have tried to demonize secularism. But not Obama, nor Wallis.

I do have a question. Could you name a theologian, or perhaps a politician, who comes close to expressing your understanding of expressing faith in the public space? While I'd love to read your book - I'm not certain that I will have the time to do so. It's not available in the Lancaster County library system, and I'm leaving for Kenya in 4 weeks. For myself, I find Lesslie Newbigin, N.T. Wright, John Howard Yoder and Norman Kraus to be particularly helpful. It would me to better understand where you and others on this website are coming from.

by chipmunk on Thu Jul 06, 2006 at 04:46:39 PM EST

Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Melissa Rogers, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs;  arethe kinds of people with whom I am happy to associate myself.  There are lots of pols who agree with and support thier views, but do not get alot of attention for it.

Theologians left, right or center are not usually the best sources for the proper relation of religion and public life. People with a deep legal and constitutional background in the First Amendment are far more reliable, IMO.

There is a big difference between people who support separation of church and state and the stereotype of the antireligious zealot exploited by Wallis and Obama (and used by Wallis to smear church state separationists in his book.)

Nothing irreligious about Rev. Lynn or the Baptist Joint Committee.

Have a great trip to Kenya!

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jul 06, 2006 at 08:35:14 PM EST

for the references. I understand your point about beginning with the legal, constitutional and political thinkers. I'm wondering if the difference of opinion may not relate to the starting point.

I very much support the separation of church and state, but I don't do so for any reasons related to the constitution. For me it is a theological issue. When the Christian Right says that Christians should 'rule', I not only find it to be politically distressing, but deeply heretical. Jesus was the suffering Messiah, rather than the conquering Messiah that his contemporaries seemed to be expecting.

Personally, I also think of myself as a follower of Jesus first and foremost and secondarily (or thirdly, or fourthly) as an American.

I'll continue reading your site, and looking at the Americans United site.


by chipmunk on Thu Jul 06, 2006 at 10:46:53 PM EST

There was a large secular component to the civil rights movement and, without it, it would have been difficult to succeed. Similarly, the women's rights movement and protests against the Vietnam war (and more recently, the Iraq war) would have been dead in the water without secular energy. And I include here non-proselytizing (i.e., secular liberal religious) as well as non-religious people.

It's interesting to me that Obama, himself, doesn't belong to one of the evangelizing denominations. He's a member of UCC, a group that has been socially very active - most recently in support of gay rights and marriage equality.

by Psyche on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 06:42:05 PM EST

gives her perspective here.

by Carlos on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 04:44:25 PM EST

Perhaps each of us should seriously consider sending Sen. Obama an e-mail expressing our concerns. I'm sure each of us can do so in a way that he would not mis-interpret as an attack on religious belief.

It is important that the Senator be told by individuals that his conflating of "secularists" with people who are generally and in a bullying manner "anti-religion" harms people, and is a game played by the Religious Right.

His website (thru which e-mails can be sent):

His address and phone:

Washington D.C. Office
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-2854
(202) 228-4260 fax
(202 228-1404 TDD

by IseFire on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 04:42:09 PM EST

I am sure he would rather be -- and be seen as -- a uniter rather than a divider of the Democratic Party.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 04:58:51 PM EST

abortions = the plain facts / A DISCUSSION AT BARACKOBAMA.COM
By DanielleallGLBTforObama Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 05:08:05 PM EST
topic: Reproductive Rights section:Diary   print this story


Danielle wrote:
abortions = the plain facts

Who doesn't get them =>
surely gay men don't
surely transgendered people don't / can't .. their bodies are altered surgically
surely most lesbians want children to raise as they don't have male partners

Who does that leave getting abortions =>
surely that means only or mostly straight women get them after having some sort of personal event that leads them to it.

WHO - DOESN'T - GET - THEM - gay men don't
-- transsexuals - can't
-- lesbians don't
except in case
of rape
-- feminist - womyn +
men were
educated about
sexuality and
use protection or
ask a mate
to get pregnant

sons are
about their
sexuality +
not shamed
for it
--- when males
don't rape but
find other
--- when women
may die due
to pregnancy
/ complication
---- when scared
are given
proud choices
UNTIL THEN --suport adoptions --
by gale males
lesbians + all






Reader Comments  Write a Comment on this Post

a different view to consider
By navy wife 29 minutes ago
i am not sure i agree or disagree with what you are saying. i probably come pretty close to the christain right that you mention, however i do not believe christains will support the adoption of babies by gay/lesbians anymore than they support abortion. i do not believe in abortion either. although i do believe that this issue does not belong in politics. however the issue of educating our young boys and girls on having a "sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy" is an important issue that Obama is addressing. (Obama, Reconciling Faith in Politics)
i think Obama is focusing his efforts on educating our young through the teachings of the Bible, as he is quoted as saying: "My Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way that he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it." (Obama, Reconciling Faith in Politics)
He is leaving the "choice" up to the individual to hopefully make the "right" decesion based on their previous teachings.
i am aware that we live in a secular America, and by acknowledging this we as americans need to define the line between church and state. "Civil religion supports the nationalistic agenda of 'advancing the United States' while Christian faith is committed to advancing God's transnational kingdom." (Lutzer, Why The Cross Can Do What Politcs Can't, p.42) The abortion issue belongs to one's own faith, not to the (liberals/conservatives)democr ats or republicans.
I think Obama is making a wise decesion on his stand for abortion rights/ education of our younger generation.
Re: a different view to consider

By Danielle 4 minutes ago
I am glad to hear your views. I think everyone has a view and a right to share it here thats what makes this site so wonderful. Myself i too don't like abortion but i am trying to build bridges not draw lines in the sand.
It is important for everyone to know that gays and lesbians and transgender/transsexuals don't have them but it is the heterosexuals who do.

Members of the GLBT are seeking to save lives through adoption and the far right should respect that.
Feminist also are mostly highly inteligent people who also have training in birth control.
That leaves basically the children of the religous right who feel ashamed due to their lack of training in birth control (who end up seeking private abortions out of disgrace) and the ignorant as the ones seeking abortions generally speaking.

Again my point is to build bridges and so i hope and pray the truth of this matter does come out exactly who are the ones who seek abortions.

I would hope Barack Obama sees this truth as well and helps to spare the lives of these unborn children by offering another alternative. Thusly to help members of the GLBT access to adoption.

respectively yours
Danielle Clarke

what is needed
By Sxxxx Xxx 16 minutes ago
I had many people saying I should get an abortion because I was 19 and unmarried. I choose to have my son and it had nothing to do with whether or not abortion was available or not. It had more to do with my respect for life and my family values. Before we can really reduce abortions we need to increase the respect for life and the family values of the nation. In the end it is still a personal issue that only a pregnant woman can answer.
Re: what is needed
By Danielle 8 seconds ago
I totally agree. Choice is the answer and alternatives in choice gives more answers.

PS: This thread is in many groups that i am a memeber of so many people in a wide mentality of ideologies are able to read this and respond.

by DanielleallGLBTforObama on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 07:18:42 PM EST

I am glad that you have provided a place for us all to talk about this, and for that I thank you. It is so interesting to hear everyone's perspective about this issue! If anyone wants another place to have discussion's such as this one, check out my blog, it is still a work in progress but I would love to hear what everyone has to say!

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