And Then I Knew
|by Roberto Rivera|
Over at Get Religion, Daniel Pulliam writes about what is arguably the most under-reported religion story of the year: this speech delivered by senator Barack Obama last Saturday night. In it, he shares what in any Evangelical context would be called his testimony:
So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called "The Audacity of Hope." And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.
It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn't fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn't magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn't suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.
Obama added that
doing the Lord's work is a thread that's run through our politics since the very beginning. And it puts the lie to the notion that the separation of church and state in America means faith should have no role in public life. Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural without its reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's "I Have a Dream" speech without its reference to "all of God's children." Or President Kennedy's Inaugural without the words, "here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own." At each of these junctures, by summoning a higher truth and embracing a universal faith, our leaders inspired ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.
Obama's use of explicitly
religious Christian language was enough to give Andrew Sullivan the heebie-jeebies:
Obama is aggressively staking his candidacy in part on an explicitly religious appeal. In this, he is Bush's natural successor, and threatens to make secular politics even more elusive in a fundamentalist age.
Sigh. Pulliam writes that "every media account I’ve seen has ignored what I see as being the most significant part," i.e., Obama's conversion story and his explicitly Christian appeal -- proof, if any more is needed, of just how little the press gets religion.
As for the speech itself, as David Brody of CBN put it,
For Obama to stand up and talk about how Jesus changed his life, my friends that takes guts. You may disagree with everything he’s about, you may disagree with his policy goals but as Christians, shouldn’t we like it when someone talks about Christ being the missing ingredient in his life?
Throw in the part about putting the lie to the notion that faith should have no part in public life and we've got an interesting discussion going. Too bad some people can't bring themselves to listen.