On the editorial page of today’s Wall Street Journal, John Fund asks, "Does it matter that Mitt Romney is a Mormon?" and answers, "To some extent–but it shouldn’t." Funny, but I haven’t heard anyone asking the same thing about Harry Reid, who’s also a Mormon. One wonders if faith-questions only matter when the believer in question is Republican or conservative. Indeed, if I remember correctly, Joe Lieberman’s Jewishness was considered an asset during the 2000 Presidential election campaign. Is there a double standard at work here? Could the fact that reporters lean to the left (for an example of which, see here) influence their reportage? As soon as I see stories or editorials worrying about Barack Obama’s membership in the United Church of Christ or Hillary Clinton’s membership in the United Methodist Church, I’ll stop worrying about media bias. Until then…
The Associated Press carries the following story under the headline, "Obama Says Some Have `hijacked’ Faith":
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Sen. Barack Obama told a church convention Saturday that some right- wing evangelical leaders have exploited and politicized religious beliefs in an effort to sow division.
"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked," the Democratic presidential candidate said in remarks prepared for delivery before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ.
"Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said.
"At every opportunity, they’ve told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design," according to an advance copy of his speech.
"There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich," Obama said. "I don’t know what Bible they’re reading, but it doesn’t jibe with my version."
Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ, a church of about 1.2 million members that is considered one the most liberal of the mainline Protestant groups.
In 1972, the church was the first to ordain an openly gay man. Two years ago, the church endorsed same-sex marriage, the largest Christian denomination to do so. Obama believes that states should decide whether to allow gay marriage, and he opposes a constitutional amendment against it.
Conservative Christian bloggers have linked Obama to what they call the "unbiblical" teachings of his church. Theological conservatives believe gay relationships violate Scripture, while more liberal Christians emphasize the Bible’s social justice teachings.
Obama trails Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York by 33 percent to 21 percent in the most recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll among Democrats and those leaning toward the party.
Sed contra, as Aquinas might say:
- Who says that faith ought to bring us together? Certainly not Jesus, who famously said, "I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Matthew 10:34-36). One could make a very reasonable argument that faith should divide truth from error, justice from injustice, good from evil.
- And, anyway, if faith is supposed to bring "us" together, why does Obama use his faith to divide "us" from the religious right? Isn’t it bald-facedly hypocritical (a religious vice, by the way) to critique the very sin in others you’re committing yourself?
- Obama critiques the "so-called leaders of the religious right" (why "so-called"?) for being "all too eager to exploit and divide us," as if this was their intent rather than the promotion of what they see as in the national interest. (One wonders if Obama considers lying about other people’s intentions and motivations to be a religious vice.)
- In point of fact, Democrats do "disrespect" (more softly, "disagree") with the values of the religious right on all the issues Obama lists. Why is it somehow wrong to point that out? And furthermore, most religious Americans care more about the issues promoted by the religious right than those promoted by the religious left, which is why most religious Americans skew center-right rather than center-left.
- I would like to see where in Obama’s "version" of the Bible the issue of tax cuts, let alone tax cuts for the rich, is addressed at all. Indeed, if memory serves, there’s a passage in 1 Samuel 8 that critiques the growth of government and taxes, at least that’s one way of interpreting it.
- Finally, isn’t it a bit ironic that Obama is lecturing the religious right about the Bible from the pulpit of a denomination that is openly and brazenly unbiblical in its heterodox and immoral teachings?
I’m all for religious believers such as Obama (not to mention religious conservatives) voting their consciences and promoting political issues based on their faith. And I recognize that for some people, their faith will lean them toward the left, while for others it will lean them to the right. What I’m opposed to is the disingenuous and hypocritical critique of the other side that claims "they" are divisive because they don’t agree with "us."