Conservative commentators and activists have “discovered” (two years after its delivery) a remarkable speech Barack Obama delivered in July, 2006 to a liberal Christian activist group about the role of religion in politics. In the course of the speech, Obama takes secularists to task for trying to oust religion from the public square, champions America’s religious diversity and also presses for a broader set of issues to be informed by religious wisdom – including poverty, environmentalism, etc. (ie: not just abortion and gay rights).
Yesterday, Evangelical Christian leader James Dobson attacked Obama for statements in this speech suggesting Obama is distorting the Bible and Obama has fired back.
Also, Rev. Kirbyjohn Caldwell of Texas (Pres. Bush’s pastor who spoke at the President’s inauguration and officiated at Jenna Bush’s recent wedding) is leading a pushback against Dobson as well.
We are content, as a general matter, to let our Christian friends fight this one out among themselves as far as their faiths’ demands for policy positions.
As advocates for a robust role for faith in public policy debates, however, we do note a deep appreciation for Sen. Obama’s clear rejection of the secularist approach and his praise of America’s religious diversity. In contrast, we would advise Dr. Dobson to become more acquainted with the concept of an “oral tradition” which is indispensable, from our experience, in understanding and applying Biblical teaching in the modern world.