Friday, March 21, 2008

Full Faith

Writing for the New Republic EJ Dionne, author of "Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right," provides a fuller look at the place of Christian faith in Obama's progressive vision:
"In truth, Wright's statements highlighted by the press ran directly counter to the gospel Obama has been preaching: the message of Civil Rights Christianity, a decidedly multiracial and hopeful creed. Obama's emphasis on hope; his talk of struggle, organizing, and movement-building; his repeated references to 'the fierce urgency of now'-all openly echo the vocabulary of a civil rights cause steeped in the Scriptures. In particular, he invokes not the
side of Martin Luther King Jr. capable of great anger over injustice, but, rather, King's most conciliatory themes.

If Obama's approach is a sincere move (he is plain in his book that he became a Christian in part because he was 'drawn to the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change'), it is also a shrewd one. In trying to move the religious dialogue forward, Obama is drawing it back to a time when so many pastors were successfully allied with liberalism on the civil rights question that none other than Falwell scolded, 'Preachers
are not called upon to be politicians, but to be soul-winners.'

Civil Rights Christian language has many political advantages; most notably, it is resolutely centered not on the defeat of adversaries, but on their conversion. The conversion theme, and Civil Rights Christianity's notion of building a cross-racial 'beloved community,' fit almost perfectly with Obama's core message of political and racial reconciliation. 'We need to take faith seriously,' Obama writes in his book, 'not simply to block the religious right but to engage all persons of faith in the larger project of American renewal.'"

No comments: