Wednesday, July 05, 2006

How Would Jesus Vote?

You should listen to Barak Obama's controversial speech on religion last week. I like the way he's refusing to cede the religious high-ground to the far right. I'm not a religious guy, and I certainly don't want a less secular government, but it annoys me that the far right have managed to appropriate the Christian message. I mean, if you actually read the bible (cf Luke 6, Luke 18, Acts 4, etc.) any reasonable person would assume Jesus's politics lie somewhere between Ralph Nader and Karl Marx. On a more practical note, America is in the midst of a massive evangelical religious revival and if the conservatives claim sole right to speak for this movement, the progressives are going to be sitting in the cheap seats for a long time to come. As Obama says:
More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical - if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address without reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's I Have a Dream speech without references to "all of God's children." Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.

Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting "preachy" may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.
"Progressives cannot abondon the field of religious discourse," says Obama, and I tend to agree. There have been some interesting articles on this in Slate and other blogs, but I encourage you to listen to (or read the transcript of) the speech at the link above.


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