The Obama campaign is reaching out to religious voters. Who doesn’t? The Catholic, mainline Protestant, and evangelical Protestant electoral power is quite a juicy prize for any politician. It’s good to see our current executive, like many national leaders in the various branches of the federal government, appreciates America’s religious heritage (note that “appreciate” is different from “submits to” or “follows”). The above video stands as the keystone of this latest campaign effort and testifies to the enduring influence that Christianity holds in American politics.
The whole video seemed to be a focused rejection of secularism. It was good to hear the President describe faith as “a powerful source of good in our communities and our families,” adding, “faith isn’t just a footnote in our nation’s story.” Barack Obama then credits his own Christian faith for guiding him in his presidency and in his life.
The President went on to warn that “faith is often used as a wedge in our politics.” He acknowledged that there will always be disagreements in a democracy; because of this, Americans need to “reaffirm the pluralism that has defined us as a nation.” With the disparate panoply of traditions on the religious landscape, one factor ties the United States together: “that for all our differences we are committed to looking out for one another and for the welfare of future generations.” In an attempt to smooth over past controversies, the current executive promised, “[I]n a changing world, my commitment to protecting religious liberty is and always will be unwavering…for all to speak their minds and follow their conscience…I’m standing on the side of human dignity.” According to the video, this concern for dignity evidently justifies the infamous bailout of automotive corporations.
At first blush, I like this speech. I’m glad the leader and spokesman of the United States appreciates faith, religion, and even Christianity in his own particular life. He speaks intelligently and, what is more important, he makes me feel smart as well. In fact, President Obama has a way of flattering the intelligence of his listeners. It’s what makes him more winsome than fear-mongering demagogues; perhaps this is an insight into the new face of political rhetoric.
So, is all sunshine and rainbows?
If I may quote from a better era, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.” The President may well like the idea of religious liberty, but to what extent has he actually pursued it in the past four years? The State Department under Hillary Clinton has laid aside international religious liberty concerns in favor of pro-LGBT rights causes, dropping coverage of religious freedom from its annual Human Rights Report. This is not so much a condemnation for protecting LGBT folk from unjust persecution as much as it is about whether the Obama’s commitment can rightly be called “unwavering.”
More pertinently, the current administration attacked domestic consciences with the Health and Human Services mandate for religious organizations to insure contraceptives and abortifacients. Is forcing religiously-affiliated hospitals, schools, and other institutions to trespass their faith’s social teaching an example of Mr. Obama’s “unwavering commitment?” Catholics and evangelicals may be especially skeptical of our current President’s promises.