- 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

The conservative site Get Drunk and Vote for McCain was a favorite during the campaign, keeping abreast of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s actions and words and judging them according to how much liquid courage would need to be summoned to back the frequently heterodox “maverick.”

Because that title obviously is pointless now, the site has a new title, appropriate for coping with an Obama presidency: Get Drunk and Hope for the Best.

Water is wet

Mark Halperin of Time magazine acknowledges that the mainstream media was in the tank for candidate Barack Obama.

According to a Politico account of a conference it co-sponsored last week (www.politico.com/), Mr. Halperin called the coverage “the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war” and a case of “extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage.”

Mr. Halperin, who maintains Time’s political site the Page, singled out two New York Times articles on the respective first-lady hopefuls: “The story about Cindy McCain was vicious. It looked for every negative thing they could find about her and it cast her in an extraordinarily negative light. It didn’t talk about her work, for instance, as a mother for her children, and they cherry-picked every negative thing that’s ever been written about her.” The Michelle Obama profile, in contrast, was “like a front-page endorsement of what a great person Michelle Obama is.”

Conservative blogger Ace of Spades was underwhelmed — “easier to beg for forgiveness than to receive permission” — and took particular umbrage at some of the reasons given by other panelists at the Politico conference for the coverage other than liberal ideological bias.

“The standard press apologetics are that 1) if you’re winning you get better coverage, so the bias was ‘neutral’ in the sense that McCain would have had the same bias if only he’d been winning and 2) Obama got better coverage only on the (again) ‘neutral’ grounds he was ‘new,’ and of course McCain could have had the same biased coverage if only he’d been new.

“Two words rebut both of these points utterly: Sarah Palin. McCain was winning, quite nicely, for two weeks after he announced Palin as his VP. Who was, you know, new. The press did not respond by giving McCain and Palin positive press, but by indulging in a nasty feeding frenzy of dumpster-diving smear-peddling the likes of which we haven’t before witnessed in the modern era.”

Contact Victor Morton at vmorton@washingtontimes.com

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