Annotating Pastordan


Streetprophets’ Pastordan has been running a series of posts on “Things That Aren’t Actually Right About Faith & Politics In The 2008 Election” in which he takes after various other commentators (not me, yet) for various comments, assessments, and pronunciamentos about religion and the campaign. It’s nice to see him back to his old unreconstructed curmudgeonly self, and I think he’s largely right to boot. I do have a few annotations and amplifications to offer.
1. Contra Berlinerblau, he’s certainly right that the Obama campaign didn’t have to worry at all about scaring off the secularists. Where else were they going to go? I’d just add that the Democratic Party, even at its most intensely secularist, has always made a place for religion–as a black thing. Obama got an automatic pass from the secularist base because he’s, well, black.
2. OK, so Barack Obama is not now a member of the United Church of Christ. Since withdrawing the hem of his garment from Trinity U.C.C. he is a member of no church. He said he’d find a new one after the election, so we’ll have to wait. Still, this most liberal of mainline Protestant denominations is the only one he’s ever belonged to, and if there’s any way to characterize him religiously, it’s as a U.C.C.-type mainline Protestant–in his theology, his social views, his understanding of church and state. What about Jeremiah Wright’s much bruited black liberation theology? That’s hardly at odds with the denomination of which Trinity U.C.C. is a part. Afrocentrism is a dimension of the Protestant mainline. Where, after all, has James Cone taught all these years?
3. Mean as it is to call Steve Waldman a “Hierowanker,” it’s important to recognize that the Obama campaign’s opening to the pro-life community was pretty modest. They were given a seat at the table to negotiate a revised abortion plank, but came away with less than they wanted. That a few prominent pro-life Catholics were prepared to go along says more about them than about any change of position on the part of the Democrats. Steve, like Amy Sullivan and E.J. Dionne, sometimes lets an eagerness to have the Democratic Party desecularize itself (or at least appeal to moderate-to-conservative “people of faith”) outrun the facts. And the fact is that the religious outreach of the Obama campaign was not equal to the hype. That said, there can be no question that the invitations extended to religious voters by the DNC and both the Clinton and Obama campaigns were something new–particularly if you contrast them with the GOP’s complete indifference to the religiously indifferent and lukewarm beyond its base. Does anyone remember the Republican Big Tent?