Guest / Limited Access /

Every once in a while, a national leader delivers a speech that outlasts the afternoon talk shows. Barack Obama did it in 2004 for the Democratic National Convention. He did it again with his June 28 address on religion and politics. "It was, for the first time in modern memory, an affirmative statement from a Democrat about 'how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy,' as Obama put it," Amy Sullivan wrote in Slate. She contrasted Obama's remarks with landmark speeches delivered by John F. Kennedy and Mario Cuomo, which mostly explained how Catholic faith did not affect their decision-making.

Yet others on the Left felt their feathers ruffle. Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn balked at this Obama sound bite: "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square."

Zorn blogged, "Speaking as a secularist … what we ask of believers—all we ask—is that they not enter the public square using 'because God says so' as a reason to advance or attack any political position."

Unfortunately, later in this otherwise exemplary speech, Obama ended up agreeing with Zorn, and this suggests a continuing blind spot for many in their understanding of how religion relates to politics.

Reforming Religion

Obama's humility cuts through the cynicism many Americans feel when politicians begin talking about religion. He speaks about his faith and religious values with earnestness and with ease.

In the black church's "historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death," Obama said. "It is an active, palpable agent in the world. It is a source of hope."

He reminds ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Embrace Your Inner Pentecostal
"Holy Spirit religion" is quietly infiltrating the church, revitalizing us all.
Current Issue5 Books to Read During an Internet Sabbatical
Subscriber Access Only 5 Books to Read During an Internet Sabbatical
Considering a break from the web? Let Esther Emery pick the right readings to keep you company.
RecommendedGlobal Evangelical Leaders: Trump’s Win Will Harm the Church’s Witness
Global Evangelical Leaders: Trump’s Win Will Harm the Church’s Witness
Conference call explores election consequences on evangelicals overseas.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickWhen Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
When Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
If history is any guide, there’s no escaping the hostilities that erupt every December.
Christianity Today
God's Will in the Public Square
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2006

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.