Sunday, July 20, 2008

Obama versus the Dog-and-Kidbeaters

The role of religion in the public sphere is a recurring interest for me. It's one current in a swirling stream of political and ethical guideposts for me, from my quest for an open-minded and progressive religious community to my concerns about the production and deployment of ideology. The recent dialogue between Jurgen Habermas and the Pope, along with Habermas's seemingly conciliatory statements about Christianity, have augmented my concerns.

Now, this article by John Schmalzbauer on the conflict between a very intelligent presidential candidate and a stupid, reactionary Christian sadist, has reminded me that one thing I DO like about Barack Obama is his nuanced, mature and cool-headed approach to religion: Especially his insistence, through word and deed (however clumsy at understandable times) that one can be, at the very least, a religious seeker and still have fair and sensible politics.

Of course, this is probably another reason why some white conservatives absolutely fear Obama. Schmalzbauer concludes this may not matter as much as it used to, either in the politcal or religious spheres...
At the same time, there are signs that Dobson’s brand of evangelical conservatism may be losing some of its influence. Michael Lindsay’s study of evangelical elites revealed that many conservative Protestants in the media and political establishment are weary of the rhetoric of James Dobson and Pat Robertson. In a similar trend, the percentage of younger evangelicals identifying as Republican fell from 55 percent in 2005 to 40 percent in 2007. Likewise, the circulation of Focus on the Family’s newsletter dropped from 2.4 million copies in 1994 to 1.1 million today. Compare this with the 600,000 people on the email and subscription lists for Sojourners and the prospects for a progressive evangelicalism begin to look a little brighter.

This is a trend I unapologetically celebrate. Being concerned about pluralism doesn't mean you have to be tolerant of those interpretations or doctrines that advocate intolerance. Being concerned about pluralism doesn't mean being tabula rasa or uncritical.

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