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October 29, 2012Culture

Morning Roundup 10/29/12: Pres. Obama's Faith; Democrats & Abortion

If you are not reading CNN's religion blogs, you are missing out on some insightful writing. You won't agree with it all, but I think you will learn something from it. I thought this article, by John Blake, is a fascinating description of President Obama's faith.

The Gospel According to Obama -- CNN

President Barack Obama was sharing a pulpit one day with a conservative Christian leader when a revealing exchange took place.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Christian who has taken public stands against abortion and same-sex marriage, had joined Obama for an AIDS summit. They were speaking before a conservative megachurch filled with white evangelicals.

When Brownback rose to speak, he joked that he had joined Obama earlier at an NAACP meeting where Obama was treated like Elvis and he was virtually ignored. Turning to Obama, a smiling Brownback said, "Welcome to my house!"

The audience exploded with laughter and applause. Obama rose, walked before the congregation and then declared:

"There is one thing I have to say, Sam. This is my house, too. This is God's house."

Historians may remember Obama as the nation's first black president, but he's also a religious pioneer. He's not only changed people's perception of who can be president, some scholars and pastors say, but he's also expanding the definition of who can be a Christian by challenging the religious right's domination of the national stage.

When Obama invoked Jesus to support same-sex marriage, framed health care as a moral imperative to care for "the least of these,'' and once urged people to read their Bible but just not literally, he was invoking another Christian tradition that once dominated American public life so much that it gave the nation its first megachurches, historians say.

"Barack Obama has referred to his faith more times than most presidents ever have, but for many it's the wrong kind of faith," says Jim Wallis, head of Sojourners, an evangelical activist group based in Washington that focuses on poverty and social justice issues.

Mollie Hemingway at GetReligion examines the mainstream media coverage of President Obama's views on abortion. (She also cites Trevin Wax's helpful column, "10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate is Never Asked." It's worth a read.

"Nobody Cares" About Obama's Abortion Beliefs? Really? -- Get Religion

I was taping the Crossroads podcast earlier and host Todd Wilken asked me something about why reporters were mishandling the news that Senate candidate Richard Mourdock believes even a human life conceived in rape can be a "gift from God." I was kind of at a loss. I reject the idea, advanced by some critics, that it's just partisan bias or an attempt to help President Barack Obama in the final days of his campaign. But the coverage was so over-the-top, it was hard to defend at all.

My big beef in this whole thing is not so much that pro-life candidates are being asked tough questions. Abortion is a super tough topic and one deserving of tough questions. What chaps my hide is that reporters are incapable of asking any tough questions of pro-choice candidates...

And, one more thing on abortion. Many have been surprised at the aggressiveness of the Democrats on the abortion issue. (I've made similar comments myself.) To quote Politico, Democrats are "all in" on the issue, which is quite a change from past election cycles. I've always appreciated pro-life Democrats, and I wonder how they are responding to this.

Democrats Go All in for Abortion Rights -- Politico

While Democrats have long supported a woman's right to choose, this year's full-throated embrace of abortion rights -- from the president down to the most obscure House candidate -- marks a historic departure that now places the party as firmly and unyieldingly in support of abortion rights as the GOP is in opposition.

The long-term implications of that shift worry some Democrats -- who long shied away from being the party of "abortion on demand," in the phrase of their GOP opponents, to avoid alienating voters who favor some restrictions or find it morally troubling. But with the White House and Senate hanging in the balance, Obama and the party have replaced that political caution with a new political calculus -- that it's the GOP that looks extreme and out of touch, particularly to women voters who will help decide the election.

Democrats point to controversial statements of GOP Senate candidates such as Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Todd Akin of Missouri, and a Republican legislative agenda -- both in statehouses and in Congress -- as the forces driving the heightened focus on abortion rights. They're especially incensed by the GOP's fight against the Obama administration's contraception rule and the drive to defund Planned Parenthood -- putting new issues on the table that, in their view, shouldn't be controversial.

Advocates on both sides of the issue agree that a post-Roe v. Wade threshold has been crossed in this election, even if they disagree on the forces that have reshaped the debate or its implications.

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Morning Roundup 10/29/12: Pres. Obama's Faith; ...