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Barack Obama Hangs the Right’s Rhetoric on a Prayer

By: Alexander CarpenterToday,
the man President Bush calls “the pope” delivered an incisive speech
articulating a principled way forward in the American debate over faith
and public life.
I saw it four rows away, and it was good.

Speaking at the First National City Church, to a packed audience of mainline, evangelical, and Catholic progressive activists, Senator Barack Obama
(D-IL) began with a story familiar to many—having his religious bona
fides questioned because he wasn’t conservative enough. Pushing past
both the Right’s patently parochial rhetoric and the secular stammer of
the left, the senator swung back with a vision for American values
rooted in his hopeful prayer that “reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.”

The only African-American in the U. S. Senate, and only the third
since reconstruction, Obama pointed out that the “single biggest 'gap'
in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and
women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside
in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who
don't.” And thus it follows that “we make a mistake when we fail to
acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people.”

While this might seem like easy words for the crowd, already the
DailyKos community contains some prickly posts worried over the
senator's recognition that “under God” is not the most difficult or
stultifying aspect of a child’s school life. Read their posts here as well as some Obama defenders who urge people to read the whole speech, not just the AP MSM angle.

But Obama is no religious ideologue, sharing in the speech about his
own secularist upbringing, and even after joining the Trinity United
Church of Christ he recognizes the value that doubt plays in the search
for meaning. He points out that one American's doubt shouldn't force
another's awkward silence. In fact, the Left's religious sotto voce
leaves it unable to call the country to high ideals.

Not long ago Hendrik Hertzberg at the New Yorker noted the junior Democratic senator joking at the Gridiron dinner. “You
hear this constant refrain from our critics that Democrats don’t stand
for anything,” Obama said. “That’s really unfair. We do stand for

Listening to today's speech it's clear that Barack offers
progressives (and the Democratic party) a new religious principle on
which to stand.

He opposed CAFTA, has called for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and even in a skeptical The Nation
article entitled "Mr. Obama Goes to Washington," David Sirota notes the
junior senator's "rare flash of defiance when he unsuccessfully pushed
legislation this year to create an Office of Public Integrity." Obama
has even blogged on DailyKos, addressing the sphere's two dominant
topics: troops out of Iraq and into Darfur.  “They
are exactly right to be fired up about Darfur, he writes. "It is in our
national interest to stop states from failing, and to stop genocide.
But they also have to recognize that if we are willing to engage
militarily in those circumstances, then there certainly are situations
that call for direct military engagement in defense of our national
interests.” He adds, "we are less equipped to deal with Iran because of
the Iraq war.”

But Obama's short record and today's speech reveals more than
progressive ideals and sharp political timing. He also envisions a way
forward that eschews the Right's solipsistic rhetorical grip on
American values. He sees that the solutions to gun violence, poverty,
war and failed immigration policy lie in our ability to turn personal
ideals into broad movements for the common good:

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate
their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values.
It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable
to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I
seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the
teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why
abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all
faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

By saying to the faithful and the secular of all varieties that the
American conversation should always be privately honest and publicly
plural, today, Obama leads a party hung by others’ prayer to a new
vision for faith in public life.

Dissident Discipleship?

Faith in Context writes:

"For those who believe in the Anabaptist tradition of counter-cultural
faith expressed in a wholistic mission, a new book by David Augsburger
is probably the best expression to date of an authentically Bible-based

Read Monte Sahlin's quick recommendation here.

Art: Image Journal

By Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson

Intruding Upon the TimelessI'm reading Intruding Upon the
a collection of meditations on art, faith, and mystery by Gregory
Wolfe, founder and editor of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion.
In this collection of essays, Wolfe explores the profound, vibrant intersection
between art and spirituality. His is a refreshing and thoughtful probe into two
cultures that have long been estranged.
"Religion and art share the capicity to help
us renew our awareness of the ultimate questions: who we are, where we have come
from, and where we are going. In their highest forms, religion and art unite
faith and reason, grace and nature; they preserve us from the twin errors of
superstition and rationalist abstraction," he writes.
Wolfe and his
wife, Suzanne, began publishing Image in 1989 as a journal in which the
sublime, and not the blatantly religious, in art and faith would be explored.
Today, Image is a door into a thriving world of artful
spirituality/spiritual art that, in addition to Image, includes Seattle-area cultural events, books, workshops, a low-residency MFA in writing through Seattle Pacific University,
and the Milton Center, dedicated to nurturing creative writing through fellowships.

The Glen WorkshopOf particular interest is The Glen Workship,
an annual summer festival for "artists, writers, and wayfarers." The 2006
workshop features a wide range of classes, in a variety of disciplines such as
poetry, fiction, art, and songwriting. This year's workshop faculty includes,
for starters, scholar and theologian Eugene Peterson, poet Scott Cairns, author
Bret Lott, artist Barry Moser, and musical group, Over the Rhine.

The Glen Workshop, Santa Fe, New
Love and Affliction: Art and the Paradox of
Suffering July 30 - August 6, 2006
Read more about Gregory and Suzanne Wolfe in
a Seattle Times feature.

Sharp Adventists on the World

Check out the Adventist Center for Law and Public Policy.  They recently hosted eight Adventist students studying international affairs at some of the most prestigious universities in the country.

Watch the videos here.

The Magical Loaf Studio

Stressed with preparation day slipping away, perhaps guests coming, and still no ideas for feeding your friends and family for Sabbath lunch?

Check out this brilliant idea.

It's so global and yet so local. . .

Trial of cult members opens in Zimbabwe"The trial of 18 female members of a cult believed to be a breakaway from the Seventh-day Adventist Church
who are facing charges of contravening the Miscellaneous Offences Act
and Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act, opened at the
Bulawayo magistrates courts with three State witnesses testifying." Along with its international spread, Adventism also shoots off.  Interestingly, the female judge is a SDA Church member. 

Read more here.


Does God Condone Murder?

There is a great new film, now out on DVD, called The War Within. It addresses the struggle between private faith and public duty, in this case: religious war.  The War Within addresses terrorism and raises questions about our responsibility for our beliefs - how much of our faith is determined by events and for how much of our faith-based actions are we responsible? 

After watching the film, Adventist blogger (and good Spectrum reader) Johnny writes: Within this country we have a few Preachers and religious leaders
who have called for murder of our enemies. Pat Robertson calling for
the killing of Venezuela's Chavez comes to mind.I’m not interested in debating IF the Christian God or the Muslim God condones murder.I will say that if murder, terrorism and war is what God wants, then that is a God of Hell.Read what he means by "God of Hell" here.

Where is the Wind Blowing?

"Sometimes very important elections receive very little attention," writes E. J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post.

The big news is the surprise election of the most moderate president that the Southern Baptist Convention has had in almost thirty years. He adds: The mellowing of evangelical Christianity may well be the big American
religious story of this decade. And significant for the Adventist blogger community: One other force was at work in this year's Baptist voting: the rise of the blogosphere.  Over
the past several years, an active network of Baptist bloggers has
opened up discussion in the convention and given reformers and
moderates avenues around what Parham called "the Baptist establishment
papers" and other means of communication controlled by the convention's
leadership. Thus may some of our oldest and most traditional
institutions be transformed by new technologies. Read the whole article here.

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