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Obama Launches 'American Values Report'

The Obama campaign has begun issuing a weekly 'American Values Report,' with the first edition out last Friday. The report is sent as a PDF file via email, so God-o-Meter can't post the whole thing here. But it has chosen a few choice excerpts from the 9-page document, which an Obama aide says was sent to "several thousand" recipients.

The report includes "Meet Barack" and "Meet Michelle" features, information to "Help us Draft a Platform," how to "Become an American Values Supporter!" and how to "Participate in the Values Question of the Week." It also includes "Spotlight On People of Faith" interviews:

Grant Gallicho - Associate Editor of Commonweal Magazine

What's your personal faith background?

They not only taught me what it means to be Catholic, to be a person for others, they modeled it.

I was born in Chicago to a Catholic father and a Lutheran mother. After moving from a Lutheran kindergarten to first grade at St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge, IL, I found myself unable to keep up with my classmates' Monday-morning chatter about Sunday Mass. My family went to Mass, but not all that often. I felt left out, so I nagged, and got my way. We became weekly Massgoers.

I went to Notre Dame High School for Boys in Niles, IL–then run by the Holy Cross Priests (founders of the University of Notre Dame). And four years later I headed to Fordham University in the Bronx–run by the Jesuits, to the chagrin of some of my Holy Cross teachers (eventually they recovered). I owe both communities a tremendous debt. They not only taught me what it means to be Catholic, to be a person for others, they modeled it. I can only approximate their examples–and weakly at that. But absent those formative years, it's difficult to imagine I'd want to try. So, lots of Catholic schooling, capped off with two years completing a master of arts in theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School–theological boot camp, I like to call it.

Please describe your experiences with faith and politics. How do the two come together in your daily life?

Sen. Obama has demonstrated that a candidate need not demonize his or her ideological opponent in order to win votes.

This is my ninth year at Commonweal magazine, which describes itself as a "review of religion, politics, and culture," so you might say I've been at the intersection of faith–especially Catholic faith–and politics for the better part of the past decade. In the daily grind of opinion journalism, we constantly hash out questions of how faith plays out in the public square–with my fellow editors, our writers, and our readers. That often means plumbing Catholic social teaching–dubbed Catholicism's best kept secret–for resources to respond to questions ranging from a responsible withdraw from Iraq to environmental stewardship. Commonweal was founded in part to bring "the Catholic note" to bear on the questions of the day. That means not sequestering religious commitments from the public square–something Sen. Obama spoke on with great eloquence in 2006 .

Why do you, as a person of faith and conscience, support Senator Obama?

As a person of conscience, a person of faith, the most important religious reason for my support of Sen. Obama is our shared commitment to the success of the Chicago White Sox. Well, perhaps there are other reasons too. Such as charity. Without sacrificing the toughness a successful political campaign must show, Sen. Obama has demonstrated that a candidate need not demonize his or her ideological opponent in order to win votes. The virtue of charity, as any cable-news watcher knows, is in short supply in our political culture. Sen. Obama's remarkable 2006 speech about faith and politics may prove to be a watershed moment for the post-Bush Democrats. I can't count the number of friends and family members who contacted me with something approaching awe that a Democrat would speak so movingly and authentically about the legitimate role of religious values in our political discourse. A lot of Catholics I know hadn't heard a Democrat speak so, well, charitably about religion in decades. That approach won't settle all neuralgic issues, of course, but it's a start. You can't hit a grand slam without having a few men on base–with the possible exception of Jim Thome. VALUES REPORT


Angelia Crawford - Certified Lay Speaker with the United Methodist Church:

What's your personal faith background?

I have attended a myriad of Christian denominations. I have Catholics, Methodists, atheists, Pentecostals, and Baptists in my family. I joined the United Methodist Church in 2001 and feel I have found a spiritual home. Partly from my upbringing and partly from my church, I have a strong belief in ecumenicalism.

Why do you, as a person of faith and conscience, support Senator Obama?

In Senator Obama, I feel that finally the Democrats are saying that people of faith matter to them and that my deeply held convictions that spring from my faith are heard. The wonderful thing has been how so many people of faith who are Democrats have "come out of the woodwork", if you will, in support of Obama. I am a part of the Obama Prayer Team and they are a wonderful group of people. My prayer life has grown because of them.

What convictions of your faith do you see Senator Obama embodying?

The wonderful thing has been how so many people of faith who are Democrats have "come out of the woodwork", if you will, in support of Obama.

I sense in him a deep respect and love for all people. I feel he really tries to love God and love neighbor by working to make our government, our economy and our society work for all citizens. He lives an above-board life. He loves his wife, he loves his girls, and he has a tremendous work ethic. He values and works towards transparency and accountability in government and in our industries.

What should be done to advance interfaith dialogue? Any concerns?

Interfaith dialogue is vital in a country where we have freedom of religion. Each faith claims to have the truth and it can get dicey when differences are brought up. Interfaith dialogue is a lesson in civility and respect despite our differences.

My one concern is that Christians need to be extra considerate of other faiths and recognize how hard it is to be in the minority. Conversely, I do not think we should take that so far as to not be able to speak about our faith.

How do you see Senator Obama reshaping the role of faith in politics?

Even though I think there needs to be a separation of church and state, there does not need to be a separation of faith and state. Faith, or lack thereof, informs people's choices. Some people wear their faith on their sleeve, others keep it inside, but it always comes out in their choices. To ignore that fact of life and our country's history would be to our detriment. I believe Senator Obama realizes that, and through the dialogue that he has started we will work towards a more healthy understanding and acceptance of the role of faith in politics.

The Obama camp says it's not aware of a precedent for Democratic campaigns issuing values-themed newsletters. Interesting to note that the report ain't that churchy. The introduction to Obama barely mentions his faith life, and the one for Michelle makes no mention of hers. Half the battle in winning religious voters, Democrats believe, is not transmitting an overtly faith-based message (though Obama has done plenty of that) but merely meeting religious voters where they are and recognizing them as values voters. That's clearly what this newsletter intends to do.

And by sending it in emailable format and telling recipients to "Feel free to send to friends," Obama is hoping to capitalize on church-based social networks and the influence of person-to-person campaigning, the same way George W. Bush did in 2004.

The next edition of American Values Report should be out Friday.

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.

Related Topics:Politics
Posted:July 14, 2008 at 11:04PM
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Obama Launches 'American Values Report'