- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama and religion I

Steven Waldman last week published at his Beliefnet blog the entire transcript of an interview then-Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama gave in 2004 to Chicago Sun-Times religion columnist Cathleen Falsani. She wrote an article based on the interview but did not release the entire text before now.

Joe Carter, managing editor of the online magazine Culture11, said at its blog Kuo & Joe that while “from a political point of view, whether the President is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, whatever, should make no difference,” it does matter theologically. He started a major Internet hoo-ha by concluding that “nowhere in the interview did I ever get the impression that Obama subscribes to even the most basic beliefs that are typically associated with being a Christian,” such as the Nicene Creed and Apostles’ Creed.

Instead of calling Jesus the “Son of God … both fully human and fully divine,” Mr. Carter notes, the future president calls Jesus “an historical figure for me, and he’s also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher. And he’s also a wonderful teacher.”

Mr. Obama also called sin “being out of alignment with my values” and something that is both its own reward and own punishment. He called the doctrine of hell “just not part of my religious makeup” and something “I find it hard to believe that my God would” create. He is agnostic about heaven: “What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die.”

At his Beliefnet blog Crunchy Con, Rod Dreher dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. “Unless Obama was being incredibly and uncharacteristically inarticulate, this is heterodox. You cannot be a Christian in any meaningful sense and deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. … Words mean things. But see, this is what it means to live in a postmodern culture that doesn’t take religion seriously, but is still ‘religious.’ People think you can make this stuff up as you go along, and that nobody has the right to define authoritatively what any of it means. It’s the Church of Christianity without Christ. It’s Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

Though Daniel Larison at his American Conservative blog Eunomia agreed that “by any formal, credal standard of traditional Christianity in any confession, Obama is heterodox,” he noted that “it is important to distinguish this from the more loaded question of whether or not he is a Christian. It is relatively easy to demonstrate heterodoxy, but more difficult to show non-Christianity, and this is as it should be.”

Obama and religion II

The Catholic group blog Vox Nova drew a lot of campaign-time criticism from other Catholic bloggers for several contributors’ support for the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama. Its contributors all accept the church’s teaching on abortion but concluded on varying grounds that a vote for Mr. Obama was defensible.

Last week, contributor Henry Karlson wrote “An Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama,” citing one of Mr. Obama’s debate answers about common ground and dialogue on abortion. “As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to ask that in the interest of such a dialogue, Mr. Obama not follow through on some of his campaign promises on abortion-related matters.

“The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) might well undermine your engagement of pro-life Americans on the question of abortion. It might hamper any effort on your part to work with us to limit late-term abortions. If FOCA can be postponed for the present, and serious dialogue begun with us, as well as with those who disagree with us, you will demonstrate that your administration will indeed be one that rises above partisanship, and will be one of change.”

The letter writers also express concern about overriding President Bush’s executive orders limiting funding for embryonic stem-cell research and funding international organizations that counsel abortion, particularly doing so “without having a dialogue with the American people,” which would “undermine the political environment you would like to establish.”

The letter had 29 signers upon its initial Nov. 17 posting, but as of early Monday morning, it had added an additional 90 online signers and had been cross-posted at 49 Catholic blogs.

Drinking game

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