Barack Obama is no John Kennedy. And that may turn out to be a good thing. At least with regard to reversing one of the unintended consequences of Camelot: the idea that religious voices have no place on the public square.
At first blush, Sen. Obama may appear to be an odd choice to lead such a reversal. Until very recently, he worshipped at a church whose preachers apparently regard America as something to be abhorred — and have a distressing penchant for being filmed while they do so. Earlier in the primaries, Mr. Obama took flak for his own comments describing small-town Pennsylvania as a place populated by those who "cling to" religion because they are "bitter." And Mr. Obama's positions on hot-button issues like abortion — as a member of the Illinois Senate, he voted against legislation protecting a child who was born alive despite an abortion — put him at odds with many of those thought to represent the religious vote.
Yet there is more to Mr. Obama and religion than the recent headlines might suggest. Nowhere is that more clear than in the thoughtful address he delivered two years ago to a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference. In that speech, the senator made clear his distance from religious conservatives, and called for an end to faith "as a tool of attack." Yet the thrust of his remarks was directed squarely at liberal Democrats. Their discomfort with all things religious, he said, runs against American history, and robs progressives of the ability to speak to their fellow citizens in moral terms.
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