This is from Brian Francis at PoliticalInaction.com, and I yield the floor to him:
Saturday, March 22, 2008
All About Religion NOT Really About Race
In the wake of the pastor Wright faux-controversy....the guy said some crazy stuff, but he is preacher and it wasn't uttered or affirmed by Obama....I think that we on the left need to determine and investigate The Right's motivations for pushing the Wright storyline. In the era of dog whistle and just the surface media coverage, every network and even the major papers have called this a problem of race. That Obama goes to a black church with a black pastor and they discuss black issues and America isn't ready for this. America is taken aback by what these black people say in their churches. Do they hate America? Do they really believe that America is a bad place....etc., etc. It is all utter non-sense.
They have a total of 60 seconds, or there about, of Wright saying some very crazy and off the wall things...and they were crazy. Obama has said he believes what Wright said is reprehensible and he doesn't agree with it, as well as he doesn't believe or support a lot of Wright's political views. Obama had to give a major, and brilliant, speech on race on Tuesday about this issue because of how bad the media coverage has been of this issue. Obama distanced but didn't disown Wright or leave the church. He had to do this to try and ease the fears of working class white people. To that end, by the end of the week, the media coverage in the papers and most of the network news casts had shifted...but not Fox News and Right Wing Radio. The clips of Wright continue to play endlessly on Fox News and Right Wing Radio. "How can a man be trusted who goes to that church?" they're saying. "What, exactly, does Barack Obama believe?" followed by "What kind of Christian is Barack Obama, anyway?"
The Right is assuredly happy as hell to use race against Obama. They were going to do it with or without Wright. The Right is happy as hell to use patriotism against Obama. The Right desires to portray Obama as less American, and they would have done this regardless of Wright because of the lapel pin and pledge controversies they already created. But what they have never attacked until Wright, and what they fear the most, is Obama's Christianity. This is why the Muslim smears started the moment he entered the race in February 2007. The Right is deathly afraid of Barack Obama, not because he is a liberal, not because of his policies, not because of his race, but because of his religion, and his ability to recast the democratic party as faith-friendly. Barack Obama threatens the stranglehold that The Right has on the moral high ground in this country...a stranglehold they achieved by portraying the left as hostile to religious freedom, religious values, and the institution of religion. They have used this moral high ground to stack courts and school boards, as well as get us into an ill conceived war, which McCain's spiritual adviser says will help bring about Judgment Day. The left has been openly hostile to Christianity in many ways...which plays directly into The Right's hands and perpetuates this cycle and the same old arguments/divisions about morals in this country.
Some on the left are uncomfortable with Obama's Christianity. It makes them suspicious of him because of the abortion and gay marriage battles of the past, as well as how religion has been used to demonize liberals and the left. But 80% of Americans call themselves Christian, and just because you disagree with the fringe/fanatic elements of the Christian religion, who seem to dominate the discourse on The Right, doesn't mean you antagonize, nor write off, this electorate. It is bad marketing and just plain dumb to ascribe the views of the far far right of the Christian religion to Christians as a whole. The most reliable bloc of democratic voters, black people, have some of the highest proportions of Christianity in the country. It is a mistake to discount those who call themselves Christian because the views/statements of others. We can't argue on one hand say that you can't demonize Obama for pastor Wright's views/statements, but then say all Christians are intolerant because 10% of the Christians on the right make intolerant and inflammatory statements...READ: Hagee, Robertson, Dobson. That makes us no better than Fox News, Right Wing Radio, and The Right. I'm not trying to say that democrats should all the sudden find religion and tailoring their message, as that would be empty and easily spotted by Christians. What I'm saying is that if we have a candidate that can cast the widest net possible, and break open the electorate in ways that bring new groups with widely ranging, and some diametrically opposing, views together, we as democrats should embrace that as it will be good for the party's long term health as well as improve Democratic performance in election after election yet to come.
Barack Obama means the end of The Right's dominance in the religious arena. He is the first openly and unapologetically Christian democrat on a national level. He refuses to run from his Christian faith. He speaks the language of the Christians who have ushered in Republican dominance in the south and in the swing states like Ohio and Missouri. By using the Christians and issues like gay marriage and abortion, Republicans employing Rovian tactics have won election after election, not on real issues like healthcare, the economy, trade, energy, etc., but on social issues. We all know the terms: west-coast liberalism....liberal morals....San Francisco morals. Liberalism became a dirty word because of spineless democrats as well as The Right's successful campaign to make the cause of every controversial issue a social and religious issue. Liberals are cast as hating religion and being amoral. Christians on the right actually fear that democrats, if in power, will take away their right to worship freely. This is how successful The Right has been.
But Obama represents the convergence of two things in politics: Obama's unique abilities to inspire which we all know are unparalleled in recent memory and talk the language of Christians but also the fact that Christians aren't getting what they voted for when they voted for The Right. To quote pastor Wright..."The chickens are coming home to roost". The issues Christians on The Right have with their own party, not taking into account Iraq, the economy, and issues that affect everyone, are threefold in my estimation(these affect everyone too): Ethics; Conservatism; Poverty and Hate. These three issues represent things Christians thought they were voting for but have been disappointed by The Right at every turn. If a candidate comes around who can recast the democratic party as Christian-friendly, this large voting bloc is back up for grabs. Obviously, there will be certain Christians who demagogue the left for everything and will never be convinced that the democrats are faith-friendly, but the people who are fed up with the issues below are listening.
Corruption scandals like Tom Delay
Sex scandals like Larry Craig and Senator Vitter
Lying to the American people about Iraq and other issues
Christians are by nature conservative...they avoid excess and waste
The budget and spending and debt are enormous and have increased exponentially under Republican leadership of the Senate, House, and White House
Conservative principals have been trampled on with regard to energy as well as individual rights
Poverty and Hate:
The Christian faith prides itself on helping those in need....Katrina, Healthcare, The Poor, etc. all have shown The Right to manage the country contrary to these principles.
Believe it or not, Christians on the right don't want to hate democrats. They're just as sick of the infighting and the division as we are.
All of these issues make this key electorate ripe for the picking. All it takes is the right candidate to speak their language and crystallize what they're already feeling as issues that democrats care about and will manage the country by. Not to demonize them as fanatics, as democrats do with ease, but to say we disagree on gay marriage/rights and abortion, but here is where we do agree.
John McCain is also an issue here which leads to The Right's motivation to push the Wright storyline. He is viewed as a hypocrite and Christians on the right are deeply skeptical of him. Back in 2000 he was openly critical of them. Now, he is seeking them out. They don't trust him.
So to recap, The Right recognizes their base of Christian voters is getting jittery because of their nominee and the Republican track record of conduct and management. Barack Obama, to them, represents a real threat to make Christians on the right question their unflailing commitment to the Republican party. So why push Wright? Because it makes Obama look like a fanatical Christian and not part of mainstream Christianity. They are trying to diminish his Christian credentials. They are trying to suggest, clip after clip, segment after segment, that he isn't really Christian like you but part of some American-hating fringe religion. They will continue to remind the American Christian populace over and over and over that Obama is a Christian, but not a real one and certainly not one you can trust. His church hates America, and by extension that means he does too. You CANNOT trust Barack Obama.
No one doubts Obama's ability to speak to the majority of Americans on complicated issue and at least get them to listen. Fully 70% of people thought he gave a good speech on Tuesday on race and that he sufficiently explained his relationship with his pastor. The remaining 30% of people split between not likely to vote for him to more likely to vote for him. I highlight this to say with the hottest of political potatoes, Obama threaded the needle and pulled it off. Now imagine him talking about issues that Christians care about...poverty, ethics, coming together, and not wasting tax payer money or intruded into people's personal lives. A common quote you hear from Christians and Republicans in general is that they feel when Obama speaks he doesn't hate them for their views...which is the feeling they always got from democrats and why they aligned with The Right. So here comes an intelligent, unthreatening, Christian democratic leader who is going to speak to them using speeches sprinkled with bible quotes and reframe Left v. Right issues in terms of Right v. Wrong issues. Given that, you can see why The Right has an interest in making Obama as threatening as possible, either as a black man who may be a Christian, but who hates you and America.
The right is deathly afraid of Barack Obama, and they're only hope for survival in November, at the presidential and in each of the down ticket contests, is to make him as unpalatable as possible to Christians on the right. They are trying to protect they're flank. The question is will they succeed?
posted by Brian Francis at Saturday, March 22, 2008
Well, I think he sees in Obama what Andrew Sullivan does:
I have never felt more convinced that this man's candidacy - not this man, his candidacy - and what he can bring us to achieve - is an historic opportunity. This was a testing; and he did not merely pass it by uttering safe bromides. He addressed the intimate, painful love he has for an imperfect and sometimes embittered man. And how that love enables him to see that man's faults and pain as well as his promise. This is what my faith is about. It is what the Gospels are about. This is a candidate who does not merely speak as a Christian. He acts like a Christian.
From David Kuo:
One of the biggest problems in modern American Christianity is the "church-hopping" phenomenon. People stay in churches for a certain period of time, get bored, find someplace new and repeat.
We've had this discussion with two of our dear friends who are also part of the church. They understand the issues but they have taken a different approach. They have jumped into the middle of the church. This church, they've said, is their home. And the Bible, they say, calls them to be vibrant, vital parts of their church home, not people hovering on the outside.
They are right. Our church isn't perfect. No church is. But it is our spiritual home and we are blessed by it and we understand our job isn't to take and take and take from it but to give and give and give.
Barack Obama understands this approach. That is why he didn't just rip the church wily nilly. Lots of American Christians should use his faithfulness to his church as an example in their own lives.
He didn't forego his spiritual home for political convenience. Whether or not that is good politics is yet to be seen. That it is good spiritually should be applauded.