Friday, March 21, 2008

Religion and Politics: We are all hypocrites

Barack Obama's faith is, presently, an enormous issue, because, in his case, his faith is affiliated, directly, with a man who appears unapologetically race-focused. Obama himself makes no apologies, like Bill Clinton and George W Bush, when he says he is a born-again Christian.

Obama's pastor is under fire for two questions: is he racist, and, is he using the pulpit to promote a specific political candidate. One is wrong ethically, and the other is illegal, so the questions are valid.

The correlating question: is Obama the same as his pastor in matters of disrespecting those who are not black? The Wall Street Journal thinks so, claiming Obama's own white mother would not be welcome at his church.

Obama tried to address all of this yesterday. He may lose the presidency through this issue, or win triumphantly. His speech might be the edge he needed to win over whatever remaining delegates or super-delegates, or sink him entirely. The issue gave him a platform to do what he his famously strong for, and famously criticized for: giving powerful speeches that have nothing to do with public policy or international issues.

Meanwhile, Republicans, often be courted by various faith-based groups and people of faith, have taken hits for letting this dominate their platforms and affiliations, and have, along the way, have been accused of the same thing Obama's pastor is being accused of.

Hillary Clinton, in the middle of it all, is, for all intents and purposes, a humanist. She has though, in Little Rock, been a Sunday school teacher and hob-nobs with the leadership of the United Methodist. However, she has not known, nor has been suspected of, being a person who makes decisions from her Christian perspective. She's laying low on this issue, having just ousted Geraldine Ferraro from her campaign for pointing out that Barack Obama is black. Hillary is happy no one is talking about this.

John McCain, meanwhile, is Baptist, yet clearly does not claim to be born-again. As with Hillary, though, no one looks at him and suspects a deep man of faith has walked by. He is happy because he has nothing to do with this issue, and is able to actively campaign without putting out religious or racial fires.

Obama, for all the heat he is taking for the irresponsible comments his pastor has said, is playing the "I'm a Christian" gambit the loudest. And, in my observations, Christians who otherwise disagree with him on his moral issues, are buying it. I don't know if this is nationally true, or merely my small circle.

In other words, if the claims of the candidates are true as to what they believe, atheist candidates who vote for one of the two major parties, no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, for a self-claimed Christian. Each of these three of the remaining candidates has gone out their way to be visible as Christians, and each has gone out of their way to hob-nob with their church's leadership.

Christian Republicans. Cliche? As long as Democrats are playing this concept up, but themselves doing speeches in pulpits, it is not only cliche, but disingenuous.

All of this leads to the fundamental issue: religion in politics. What of it? It, in America, is all over the place, from Reverend Jesse Jackson to Barack Obama's pastor to Mike Huckabee's former job.

We say we do not want religion as a motivator to vote, but then, we vote against a guy because of what he, or his pastor believes. Or we vote for the same person. Religion, or the absence of it, motivated us, and intrigues us enough to explore the candidates and what others are saying about their faith.

If it didn't, you wouldn't be reading this post. :)

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