Faith in the (Democratic) Party

We all know about the audacity of hope now. It’s the title of Barack Obama’s book, and it summarizes his … Continued

We all know about the audacity of hope now. It’s the title of Barack Obama’s book, and it summarizes his political outlook. But what’s most interesting to me is the easy way our president-elect links this concept to faith. “In the end,” he said in his convention acceptance speech, hope “is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.”

Obama has openly made God a part of his world view, and that’s good news for the Democratic party. It’s also a reversal of course.

To get the full picture, take a look at Mike McCurry’s piece in the Daily Beast, “How My Party Found God.” It’s worth reading. McCurry served as President Clinton’s press secretary from 1994 to 1998. During that time, he reveals, “I would not have dreamed of sharing my beliefs on faith with my colleagues.”

McCurry believes–and I agree–that the Democratic party went through a “long dormancy” during which it became uncomfortable with expressions of faith and equally uncomfortable with religion itself. It wasn’t always so. I grew up in the 1960s and always felt that Democratic values were rooted in the peace and justice tradition of the great religions. If you’d asked someone in 1965 which party was closer to the teachings of religion, I bet Democrats would’ve won.

I’d even go a step further: when I was growing up, for many people, politics was something we approached with the zeal of faithful believers. We didn’t support desegregation, fighting poverty, or peace in Vietnam; we believed in them. When it came to politics, we had faith. The road from pew to politics was smooth.

But the last 30 years have weakened those links. As the religious right hammered away at wedge issues like abortion and gay rights, the left retreated, largely abandoning the language of faith.

But Obama’s expressions of faith during the campaign had a soothing effect. He represented his faith journey with the kind of authenticity that made believers comfortable and made non-believers comfortable too. Now it seems like faith can come back to Democratic politics–not as a way to mobilize angry voters but as a source of strength and imagination for driving an agenda.

What might such an agenda include? McCurry notes important commitments that Obama made during the election that will be important to people of faith–commitments like ending childhood hunger by 2015 and doubling funds for fighting poverty in the developing world. People of faith will hope that the new president places a priority on diplomatic efforts to work for peace after many years during which the country was focused on war.

With these initiatives, he has the chance to energize those people of faith who are focused on peace and justice rather than creed and morals. In the years ahead, those interested in displays of the Ten Commandments may be disappointed, but those interested in the prophetic call to serving the poor and forgotten could be energized.

How will we know whether Obama has really changed the political climate? One key indicator will be his success in linking people of faith to a megatheme of our times: tolerance. Tolerance voters are younger and helped elect Obama. They’re concerned about ending discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens and about ending age-old stereotypes about race, religion, and disability. And they’re turned off by politicians who use religion to incite division.

Is it possible that the new President can convince them that his faith is a source of strength in pursuit of a more tolerant future rather than an obstacle to it? And will he succeed in inspiring people of faith to see tolerance as a value to be embraced rather than vilified?

He’s already acknowledged that he’s going to try. “If we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at,” he said, “to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own…then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.”

To do so, he may want to invite Democrats to join the “armies of compassion” that President Bush championed. Supporting the goals of the White House Office of Faith Based initiatives is a good place to start. It also makes sense to work with organizations like the Center for Inter Faith Action on global poverty (CIFA) which mobilizes faith-based groups to fight suffering in Africa and beyond. In leading Democrats to welcome people of faith to the work of peace and justice, the new administration will show tolerance not as a value but as an operating principle.

Many note that the new President has an overwhelming agenda before him. Who could disagree? As he embarks on it with so much goodwill from the nation and the world, he will do well to keep the faith.

Timothy Shriver
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  • Paganplace

    “Conversely, I would be even more pleased if my more liberal bretheren in belief would demonstrate a bit more tolerance. Isn’t it hypocritical to on the one hand profess outrage that Rick Warren views homosexual marriage as falling short of God’s best plan for humanity (a fundamental in his belief structure in the literal nature of the Bible) and to at the same time base their outrage on tolerance?”No, it’s not. Tolerance is tolerance. Intolerance is still intolerance, no matter how much lipstick you put on it and whine, ‘Someone intolerant is interfering with my gaybashing!’Which is a thing I’ve found about bullies. You run in packs and tell each other stories, cause you’re essentially *cowards.*You whine ‘oppression’ when everyone doesn’t kowtow to your demands to abuse gay people. If that’s all you think there is to your God, then be ashamed a Pagan has to tell you *you don’t get it.*You whine about your metaphors and justifications, never listen to the queers you used to hold down and ‘take a vote’ about if she should be stomped. ‘Tolerance’ is only halfway to recognizing the place of *all* of us as fully-human, fully-equal, and fully American. Civility will do. Liberty and Justice for *all* is our birthright and obligation as Americans. Your freedom ends where your fist meets my face. I don’t have to ‘tolerate’ your intolerance. I only have to accept that there’s a human being behind *that* too. You may claim your intolerance pleases your God. As an American, I can tell you where to stuff that.

  • CCNL

    For the record (only for those eyes that have not seen) 1. Abraham founder/father of three major religions was either the embellishment of the lives of three different men or aMany of the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and many of their rabbis have relegated Abraham to the myth pile along with most if not all the OT.Realization that the Jews are not god’s chosen people. 2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a mamzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). Analyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, On Faith panelists) via the NT and related documents have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus’ sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects. The 30% of the NT that is “authentic Jesus” like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus’ case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics. For added “pizzazz”, Catholic/Christian theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the “pew people” to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the “filicider”. Current crises:Pedophiliac priests, atonement theology and original sin!!!!3. Luther, Calvin, Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams et al, founders of Christian-based religions, also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of “pretty wingie thingie” visits and “prophecies” for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immaculate conceptions).Current crises: Adulterous preachers, “propheteering/ profiteering” evangelicals and atonement theology.

  • norriehoyt

    “But Obama’s expressions of faith during the campaign had a soothing effect. He represented his faith journey with the kind of authenticity that made believers comfortable and made non-believers comfortable too. Now it seems like faith can come back to Democratic politics–not as a way to mobilize angry voters but as a source of strength and imagination for driving an agenda.”Yes, Obama’s expressions of faith have had a soothing effect on those who are soothed by such things. Personally, I’m soothed by a bowl of good vanilla ice cream, which, by the way, has more real substance than any expressions of faith from a politician.As for faith “coming back to Democratic politics”, religious faith has never really been present or absent from Democratic politics. It’s been a kind of zombie hanger-on who’s slavishly performed whatever task was demanded of it to accomplish a political end.

  • Paganplace

    Actually, Norrie, I *do* find it soothing that the man sets an example that you can be a Christian without being a hateful maniac with major boundariy issues. 🙂

  • s_j_thaikattil

    Testing

  • s_j_thaikattil

    Copied from the Dr Shriver thread 30 Dec 08: Mary_Cunningham:Soja,Many thanks! I appreciate especially your admission you;d never made it yourself, only watched. I once tried to give a friend a recipe for (Irish)soda bread–having watched my gran make it countless times–and it turned out badly. Which is putting it mildly.BlueballCatholic teaching places great emphasis on good works. This is as true for Catholics today as it was for the ancients. The Church teaches that we can find Christ in *others*, especially the poorest, and you will (and have) found many of the Church’s greatest saints labouring amongst them. As I understand it, Luther taught that man was saved by faith alone, and *only* through the action of God, that nothing–NOTHING!–we do can effect our salvation. God alone decides who is saved.This has never been the teaching of the Church. We are taught that good works are as necessary for salvation as receiving the sacraments. Catholicism, above all else, is a group effort. Chesterton wrote that the joy of the religion is recognizing that there are others to help you on your path: “Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.”GKC’s book “The Man who was Thursday” made the same point, only in the guise of a murder mystery, complete with anarchists intent on blowing up the world.Hope you access this. It’s late in the blog.January 7, 2009 5:43 AM

  • s_j_thaikattil

    Hi Mary!Since the previous thread was closed for comments before I read your post to me and I was ready to post a response, it is being done on this thread, although the topic being discussed is different of course.Somewhat late in the year, nevertheless not hopelessly late I hope, I wish you and all your loved ones a Happy New Year 2009!First to my recipe of copyrighted “Vishukani,” I must admit, secretly, only to you, that I have not actually seen it being made, only eaten it myself (for breakfast by the way, like special breakfast porridge for special occasions and NOT as dessert), merely eaten it myself and seen it being eaten by members of the family as special breakfast. I created that recipe myself based on what I can remember of what it tasted like, having eaten it several times as a child growing up in Kerala. Anyone who can make a reasonably decent porridge should be able to make my Vishukani without a problem. Those who are used to cooking usually have an intuitive knowledge of how much of each ingredient would be required. The variety of rice chosen should be able to absorb water, become soft and fluffy when cooked (not sticky).Thank you for reference to G K Chesterton’s writings. After reading a few of his essays, I must say it is worth investing some reading time to his writing. The Catholic Church I agree holds steadfastly to the Bible teaching: faith without works is dead. Jesus after all in the parable of Good Samaritan describes what God means when He says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said “Go and do likewise,” not “Go and believe likewise and do as you please.” Similarly Jesus in His description of Judgment Day makes it clear God judges the works of human beings and rewards them accordingly. In the Sermon on the Mount, and repeatedly in John’s Gospel Jesus also said, “If you believe me, you will obey My commands,” and His command was to love others in action as He did during His earthly life. Some of the Catholic saints seem to have emphasized loving others in such a way that it sometimes came to be misinterpreted as hatred for self and masochism as love. How easily we are tempted to forget that we have been commanded to love ourselves too, even if that love is not be at the expense of another.Happy blogging on On Faith!Best wishes

  • Paganplace

    “”Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain.”Whatever this is supposed to be apropos of, your assertions with violence are not well-taken.

  • CCNL

    BO’s record to date:· addicted to nicotine,· leader of the Immoral Majority taking over for the Clintons,· invited a preacher to speak at the inaugural who is historically and theologically flawed and who hates mutual masturbation,· invited another preacher to speak at the inaugural who is also historically and theologically flawed and who is a mutual masturbator, · nominated Bill Richardson to be Secretary of Commerce. Richardson withdrew because he is being investigated by a federal grand jury for granting illegal state contracts,· nominated Timothy Geithner to be Secretary of the Treasury even though Mr. Geithner has filed erroneous tax returns for many years.Bottom line: typical Democratic Party interaction with their real gods!!!

  • CalSailor

    CCNL:I suspect that there are very few who would meet your standards of theological purity. But you don’t live in a theologically pure society. As one raised in the Republican Party who became a Democrat in the Seminary as I studied the gospel of Jesus: To love God with all our heart and mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, I have hope in the coming months. We have a new President who has taken to heart the best of the gospel as a way of dealing with others. What a change from the imperious guy who created new categories of “in” and “out”–to say nothing of unnecessary wars, huge amounts of fraud and a deficit what is going to be a millstone around our childrens’ necks for a generation. The future and hope of our nation is to find unity among our people, in loving our neighbors, not promoting “my way is better than yours.”It seems to me that we have plenty to do in our society to help our neighbors, and to make our society live up to the standards of our founding. I am glad that Democrats are coming back to their values, and to mobilizing our people to work for the common good. I’ll find theological purity at the Second Coming. For now, I’ll do what I can to love my God and my neighbor, and trust in the rest to God. I don’t expect perfection in either party, but I think the party of hope and our future is better embodied in the Democratic party than in the Republican one. I hope that as the Republicans spend their time in the wilderness, they can figure out that those who can pass tests of purity are very limited, and that you cannot govern a dynamic society on the basis of purity. On the other hand, maybe they’ll wander in the desert for 40 years, or so…one can hope.Pr Chris

  • newzmaven

    To CCNL and others in this vein, I think what is being examined here is not “purity” but “heart.” Yes, the call to Christ — or as Barack put it a bit more inclusively “to our better angels”– is to purify oneself as He is pure, but David was “a man after God’s own heart” even though his sins were equally if not more evident than those of Bill Richardson. What’s worthy of examination here is how far true love and HUMILITY could take us. I admire Barack’s humbleness in saying that he will make mistakes as the mantle of leadership descends upon him. My faith is in the fact that “the heart of the king is in the hands of the Lord and like rivers of water he will turn it whichever way He wills.” It’s his willingness to be guided by God that holds the promise of diminishing our pain/consequences and even potentially our judgement and that increases our reward by doing things right the first time. One of the fundamental qualities we must ask of a leader is that he’s humble enough to listen. I think I would be pleased if my fellow conservatives would evidence the same humility. Conversely, I would be even more pleased if my more liberal bretheren in belief would demonstrate a bit more tolerance. Isn’t it hypocritical to on the one hand profess outrage that Rick Warren views homosexual marriage as falling short of God’s best plan for humanity (a fundamental in his belief structure in the literal nature of the Bible) and to at the same time base their outrage on tolerance? Freedom of religion — to believe or not — is every American’s foundation for affording everyone a search for truth as dictated by God’s revelation and their own inner voice. And here again, the most civil appeal is again to humility: just listen. You don’t even have to commit to change — just to love. And, for the record, “love” doesn’t carry with it the prescription “agree.”

  • tbarksdl

    Oh, my. Another Christian extolling tolerance and love for all. A Catholic, no less.Does this mean that Mr. Shriver is lending his hand to a revision of the basic Catholic doctrine that only Catholics will make it to heaven? The doctrine, you recall, that the new Pope went out of his way to reaffirm? Will Mr. Shriver reassure me that Protestants, after all, are not destined to burn in hell for eternity, or end up wherever we non-Catholics end up? And once the revised Catholic doctrine is in place, will Mr. Shriver see to it that Protestants follow suit, so that Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and Confucians–to name a few–will no longer be looked upon by Christians as unworthy of God’s gift of eternal salvation?I’m sure a person whose bosom is so swelled with the spirit of tolerance will agree with me that those religious leaders who claim that only people who believe like they do will enter heaven are in the same category as those white Southerners who, when the subject of race came up, proclaimed “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever. Now that we’ve established the basic relationship between blacks and whites, let’s talk about living together in peace and harmony.”

  • kengelhart

    “Is it possible that the new President can convince them that his faith is a source of strength in pursuit of a more tolerant future rather than an obstacle to it?”What would this mean if our new president was a Muslim, as indeed he should be able to be.

  • paulc2

    tbarksdl : ==> The Catholic doctrine is clear and won’t be changed. The Catholic Church has the entire Deposit of Faith passed down form the Apostles. Salvation depends upon that deposit of Faith (the teachings of the Church). To the extent that non-Catholics subscribe to the Catholic teachings, they are following in the Catholic faith. Despite some obvious differences, most Christian churches share far more in common with the Catholic Church then deviations. So there is hope of salvation for those not not in full communion with Rome. But I caution that if you know and understand that the full truth resides within the Catholic Church and you still don’t take heed, then you are opening your self up for judgment.

  • DwightHCollins

    people who believe in killing God’s Creations cannot have faith…

  • coloradodog

    Another load of terminally-sincere Shriver’s crap implies, that, before Obama, Democrats had no values. Another over-reaching Rovian stereotype that is now so passe.

  • CCNL

    Considering that the “sperm-spreading” Bill Clinton was the past leader of the Immoral Majority, Shriver’s conclusion that Democrats had no values has substantial credence.

  • DeafRap

    As the Holy Scriptures inspire those who have the faith…My prayer is that our new president is blessed with whatever he needs to fulfill his goals (that he so eloquently has presented to us). As Jesus proclaimed tolerance and love, while never compromising his ultimate mission, I’m confident that President Obama will keep his focus and charge, and be a President who leads, not pushes.

  • s_j_thaikattil

    On Indian Republic Day, 26 January 2009, Sister Nirmala Joshi, the Superior General of Missionaries of Charity (MoC), is being awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor. Sr Nirmala is a convert to Catholicism from Hinduism.Missionaries of Charity was founded by the Indian Nobel Laureate and Indian Roman Catholic saint, (originally from Macedonia of Albanian ethnicity) Mother Theresa of Kolkota (Calcutta).