Monday, March 05, 2007
Faith Based Politics
With all this talk about the benefit of Obama and his faith, we often overlook Edwards' faith-based message. He recently sat down with beliefnet for an extensive interview. I'd encourage you to take a look/listen and see what you think. I've said before that something about Obama's religious rhetoric makes me uncomfortable. That something isn't present in Edwards. I've given some thought as to why....but I encourage you all to add your thoughts. Many of you know way more about this stuff than me.

We can probably all agree that as the chief executive--presidents both reflect and influence cultural norms. That is why so many Americans look for a religious leader (and will continue to elect religious leaders). An American president, therefore, becomes the priest, prophet, and guardian of the national civic religion. As a moderately religious person and someone who does not identify as a Christian, I feel confident in Edwards ability to be the guardian of my civic religion.

1. Because of the President's influence over cultural norms it is important (to me and probably to others) that they understand the separation of church and state yet are still able to articulate a strong faith-based message. The message has to be grounded in the Constitution but articulated in a way that doesn't allow the right to continue to dominate the discussion. I see both of these aspects in Edwards rhetoric. He articulates the difference between allowing faith to influence decisions and not needing to impose his faith on others.

Yes, it does. I do believe in the separation of church and state. But I don't think separation of church and state means you have to be free from your faith. My faith informs everything I think and do. It's part of my value system. And to suggest that I can somehow separate and divorce that from the rest of me is not possible. I would not, under any circumstances, try to impose my personal faith and belief on the rest of the country. I don't think that's right. I don't think that's appropriate. But freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion. And I think that anything we can do to promote the idea that people should express their faith is a good thing.

2. I really, really, really like the way Edwards articulates the morality debate. He does not argue that the most pressing moral issues of our day are abortion, gay marriage, stem cells, etc. Instead, he calls on us to provide health care and shelter for the millions suffering from extreme poverty world wide. This is an important step for the public discourse surrounding "morality." Specifically, it gives the Democrats ground in the debate. I like the idea that a country can be moral and not legislate sex, bodies and marriage. Obviously the Republicans like to claim that they are the party of family values and morality--Edwards beats this perception back. I'd like to see him extend that analysis to the war and other int'l issues.

3. Edwards authentically deals with sin, disappointment and Godliness. I think his honesty will resonate with voters. In particular, I like phrases such as the one below as opposed to Obama's continuously positive/worship/preachy message.

Because I am like anyone else. I revert to bad, selfish behavior. I try to make myself not do it, but I'm like everybody else. Sometimes better; sometimes worse. And I think there's not a single day goes by that he doesn't feel some disappointment in me. But, he doesn't give up on me--never gives up on me.

No matter how much I wish candidates didn't have to talk so much about faith, God, morality, etc, I accept the fact that they do it to win. I want the democrats to win in 08. Therefore I look for the candidate that most reflects my values and I can accept that their values come from their faith in God and mine come from a belief in justice and civil service. With Edwards--his message resonates with voters that fall here, there and everywhere in between.

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