Mr. Obama used his 45-minute speech to recall the church’s and many others’ proud history of involvement in the American Revolution and the abolition and civil rights movements.From these excerpts, Obama's famous rhetoric looks entirely self-contradictory. If he's trying to stimulate liberal Christians to political action, he too is using faith to "drive us apart."
“But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together,” Mr. Obama said. “Faith started being used to drive us apart. Faith got hijacked.”
He attributed this partly to “the so-called leaders of the Christian right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us.” Yet he said that in traveling around the country he had sensed an “awakening” of an interfaith movement of “progressives.”
ADDED: Here's the text to the whole speech. Excerpt:
But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us. At every opportunity, they’ve told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design. There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich. I don’t know what Bible they’re reading, but it doesn’t jibe with my version.So: People are "coming together around" the ideas espoused by the Democratic Party.
But I’m hopeful because I think there’s an awakening taking place in America. People are coming together around a simple truth – that we are all connected, that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.
... Our conscience can’t rest so long as 37 million Americans are poor and forgotten by their leaders in Washington and by the media elites. We need to heed the biblical call to care for “the least of these” and lift the poor out of despair. That’s why I’ve been fighting to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and the minimum wage. If you’re working forty hours a week, you shouldn’t be living in poverty. But we also know that government initiatives are not enough. Each of us in our own lives needs to do what we can to help the poor. And until we do, our conscience cannot rest.Clearly, he is using religion as a basis for political commitment. How is this not "divisive" in almost exactly the same way as the Religious Right? I'm not saying it's wrong. We have two parties. We don't need to cure that division. In fact, political actors like Obama ought to define the division. But to simultaneously define and decry the division is incoherent. There's a sleight of hand in Obama's rhetoric that I'm going to make it my business to point out.
UPDATE: How does Andrew Sullivan -- who is so skeptical of "Christianists" -- see it?
[Obama] is Bush's natural successor, and threatens to make secular politics even more elusive in a fundamentalist age. He also threatens, if he pulls it off, to be a transformational candidate, turning American politics into a battleground primarily between those who believe the Gospels mandate an expansive welfare state and those who believe they mandate government's moral regulation of human birth, death and sex. For my part, I believe Jesus had no politics, let alone the big government politics of our time. And the attempt of both right and left to coopt his truth corrupts faith and politics simultaneously.Ah, and Sullivan purports to know "his truth." At least he's got the humility -- or is wily enough to feign the humility -- to say "I believe." And he does take what I think is the best of the Christian positions: that it's Christian to keep religion out of politics. But the urge to gain political power is so strong, and religion is so effective. It's hard to get the candidates to leave it alone.