September 17, 2008

Seeking Political Salvation

Last night I went to an event where Barack Obama's religious outreach coordinator, Shaun Casey, spoke about Obama's faith. Casey, a Christian ethics professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., is a good speaker who is clearly committed to helping Obama win. However, I wondered if such efforts were actually a good thing. Casey said that Obama's goal is to (1) stop the myth that Democrats are the anti-God party, and (2) stop the use of religion as a political wedge. It seems that the problem that can arise is that one's zeal in accomplishing goal one could actually add to the problem of goal two. Perhaps showing the problem here was Casey's discussion of the false claims that Obama is a Muslim. Casey called such a claim a "smear" (instead of merely inaccurate), which suggests that the term Muslim is an insult or a dirty word. Such a comment might fall under the category of using religion as political wedge. Such a comment dismisses an entire group of people as unqualified for office, even though the U.S. Constitution clearly states that "[n]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

3 comments:

  1. Wow! Were Muslims also present, or was this just for Christians/evangelicals?

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  2. Perhaps showing the problem here was Casey's discussion of the false claims that Obama is a Muslim. Casey called such a claim a "smear" (instead of merely inaccurate), which suggests that the term Muslim is an insult or a dirty word. Such a comment might fall under the category of using religion as political wedge.

    Yes, it might, the way it was worded. Of course, the claim that Obama is or was raised as a Muslim carries the obvious intent of smearing Obama's reputation among those who already harbor their own prejudices against Muslims. I would take your argument one step further and say that it would probably have been better for Casey to point out that these claims are designed to appeal to our human prejudices and make an argument against falling for that trap, rather than imply that those prejudices are alright and the inaccuracy of the "Muslim" claim is all that is wrong. It's a subtle, but important point, I believe.

    For a much less subtle and much more egregious example of "using religion as a political wedge", see this.

    It's extremely difficult for me to reconcile Pastor Manning's words in that video with his claim that he was inspired to become a minister after meeting two angels in a park who instructed him to speak only good words, or the first paragraph of their mission statement: "As a fellowship of baptized believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we purpose to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as our self.
    Matthew 22:37-40".

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  3. Thanks for the comments!

    CD: I did not specifically notice anyone who was Muslim, but there may well have been (it was quite well attended). But, it is problematic even if they were not present.

    Stan: You are correct that the claim is intended to hurt Obama (which says something about our nation if such a statement does hurt his political chances). However, I think the Obama campaign should try to simply say it is not true rather than giving legitimacy to the attack strategy. I like your idea of them even attacking the use of such a strategy.

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