Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Obama and Faith Based Initiatives

Obama has upset some people with his remarks about Faith Based Initiatives.

From Obama's speech today:

Now, I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious household. But my experience in Chicago showed me how faith and values could be an anchor in my life. And in time, I came to see my faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community; that while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I went out and did the Lord’s work.

There are millions of Americans who share a similar view of their faith, who feel they have an obligation to help others. And they’re making a difference in communities all across this country – through initiatives like Ready4Work, which is helping ensure that ex-offenders don’t return to a life of crime; or Catholic Charities, which is feeding the hungry and making sure we don’t have homeless veterans sleeping on the streets of Chicago; or the good work that’s being done by a coalition of religious groups to rebuild New Orleans.

You see, while these groups are often made up of folks who’ve come together around a common faith, they’re usually working to help people of all faiths or of no faith at all. And they’re particularly well-placed to offer help. As I’ve said many times, I believe that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques.

That’s why Washington needs to draw on them. The fact is, the challenges we face today – from saving our planet to ending poverty – are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.

I’m not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I’m not saying that they’re somehow better at lifting people up. What I’m saying is that we all have to work together – Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike – to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

I have written several posts about Obama courting the religious vote. I have no problem with this, mainly because I'm not a secularist. I'm a Christian who has been pissed at the Democrats completely ceding the 'religious' vote and the 'religious' voice to the GOP. Allowing them to narrowly define Christianity on two issues: abortion and homosexuality.

I spent many a Sunday in church, and the pastor I listened to, HIS Jesus was about helping those less fortunate. Helping those in need. Helping those least amongst us. THIS is what I was taught in Sunday school, and in those sermons. Jesus helps not the rich and mighty, but those who need help. I KNOW this is the Christianity that Obama was taught in Trinity UCC. I'm glad to hear him speaking up about this. Is this political? Everything is political, but it's also an important point in taking back the religious discourse of this country. For those of you who are secularists and don't grasp how angry many of us have been about hardcore rightwing evangelicalism being THE face of religion in this country for going on 2 decades, I'm here to tell you that it DOES anger us.

I've waited for a long time for a Democrat to be able to discuss faith with sincerity and believability, and not shirking away from it, as if believing in Jesus was a crime of some sort. I'm glad Obama stepped up to the plate. This isn't a flip-flop. This isn't going ' centrist'; because he has spoken of religion and his support for faith-based institutions for years.

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