The election of Barack Obama offers hope that religion will play a more constructive role in the public arena rather than the largely divisive role it has played in recent years. One sign of hope is that Obama was able to narrow the Democrats’ so-called God gap.
In the course of discussing tax policy with an unlicensed Ohio plumber, Barack Obama suggested that “spreading the wealth around” a bit more would be good for the country. Obama was trying to explain why he wants to impose a modest tax increase on people who make more than $250,000 a year while reducing taxes on those making less than that amount.
As part of the astonishing cinema boom known as Nollywood, some 300 Nigerian producers churn out around 2,000 films each year. Their market of almost 150 million people makes this the world’s third-largest film industry, after Hollywood and the Indian Bollywood. The films go straight to DVD or VCD and sell hundreds of thousands of copies in Nigeria alone, not to mention circulation among the Nigerian disapora in North America and Western Europe. Because videos are passed on from hand to hand, actual viewership is impossible to determine. Explicitly Christian videos make up a large part of the output, which is not surprising when we realize that perhaps 45 percent of Nigerians follow this faith.
People looking for signs of theological sanity in this land can take heart from the fact that only 33 pastors endorsed a presidential candidate as part of a “pulpit freedom” demonstration on September 28.
Barack Obama promised to practice a different kind of politics, a politics that would stick to the issues. Yet his campaign has produced an ad that shows an old photo of McCain, wearing an out-of-style suit and large glasses, in an effort to convey the message that McCain is an old, out-of-touch man, someone who doesn’t even know how to use the Internet or even send an e-mail message.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had his brother hand deliver a check for $400,000 last month to Tehran’s only Jewish hospital with the message that “our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.” In September Rouhani’s administration had issued a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Jews around the world. Though some question Rouhani’s motives, his behavior is a refreshing contrast to that of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is a Holocaust denier (New York Times, February 6).