An opportunity to mobilize across the theological spectrum
Feb 24, 2009
Religious Democrats were “hibernating” until the 2008 election season, when the party’s candidates—including Barack Obama—made religion central to their campaigns, according to former White House press secretary Mike McCurry.
The inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States was solemnized over four days in January in Washington with prayers by a diverse group of clergy and admonitions from the new White House resident. The mixture of clergy reflected Obama’s intention to cross religious lines.
When minister Ed Dobson set out to live like Jesus for a year, he didn’t plan on stirring up controversy. Then again, Jesus stirred up plenty.
This architect of the religious right is in hot water with some conservatives over his statement that living like Jesus during 2008 influenced him to vote for Barack Obama—his first presidential vote ever for a Democrat.
Since the November presidential election, friends, colleagues and casual acquaintances throughout the United States and across the world have written me and claimed Barack Obama as the son of their state, race, country or region. Of course, countless black Americans have celebrated the fact that “in our life time, one of us is in the White House.”
Apart from Billy Graham, who is sidelined by age, the most influential evangelical Christian in the U.S. these days is probably author and pastor Rick Warren. His best sellers on the “purpose-driven church” and the “purpose-driven life” have reached millions in both evangelical and mainline circles. His casual, unbuttoned demeanor captures the modern evangelical style.
When President Barack Obama tapped megachurch pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, many liberal activists decried the choice of a high-profile evangelical figure who has opposed gay marriage and abortion rights.
If the Obamas were to look for a mainline church whose past includes a long line of White House occupants, they might choose National Presbyterian Church or one very close by, St. John’s Episcopal Church, according to a television report on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.
President-elect Barack Obama says that the historically black church moved him from a skeptic to a believer.
He has spoken appreciatively of its vibrant worship, written about how the black church experience has moved him to tears. And he has credited black congregations for their work in helping the powerless and in speaking truth to power.
The hope I am holding onto for Obama’s leadership is the depth and candor of his Philadelphia speech on race and the fact that his most fundamental racial identity seems to be his being biracial. He represents a new generation of children of interracial families who have experienced the rich gifts and real challenges of finding intimacy across the divide, who refuse to choose between the cultures of their two parents. They want the best of both, see the flaws of self-sufficiency and are willing to lose some friends along the way for the sake of something better than the old categories of who “my people” are. —Chris Rice