Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

obama7.jpgWith Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary largely in the hands of undecided black women, who go to church is disproportionately high numbers–not to mention white Palmetto State church goers–God-o-Meter wasn’t surprised to get a call from the Obama campaign on Sunday offering an interview. Read or listen to the interview here. God-o-Meter was struck by two themes that emerged in the interview. First, in the face of false e-mail rumors that he’s a Muslim, Obama stressed he’s a Christian who was baptized as an adult, prays daily, and has a close relationship with Jesus. To wit:

The prayer that I tell myself every night is a fairly simple one: I ask in the name of Jesus Christ that my sins are forgiven, that my family is protected and that I am an instrument of God’s will. I’m constantly trying to align myself to what I think he calls on me to do. And sometimes you hear it strongly and sometimes that voice is more muted.

God-o-Meter was surprised to hear Obama take that further by saying he applies Christian, or Judeo-Christian–tactics to the rough and tumble of presidential campaigning:

In terms of on the political trail, I don’t find it challenging to be respectful and courteous to people, including my political opponents. You know, the Golden Rule still applies in politics.
I do think that being a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re passive or that you aren’t going to confront injustice. What I think is important, though, and is important not just for me, but also for my team—I’m trying to always reinforce this within the culture of our organization, and I’m not always perfectly successful—is to at least be scrupulous and honest in how we present our disagreements with other people.
I try to measure whether what I’m saying is fair by seeing how I would feel if I was at the receiving end of it. And, you know, there are a number of people—there have been a number of times where I’ve been criticized during the course of this campaign. And I say to myself, “Well, that’s a fair criticism in the sense that I may disagree with the criticism, but it’s substantive and there’s a legitimate difference of opinion.”
There are other times where I feel as if people are just distorting what I say to score cheap political points. And that gets you frustrated or weary or occasionally angry. And so, I try not to do that to other people.

Does this strike anyone else as sanctimonious? What stood out most to God-o-Meter, though was the Illinois Senator making the case that his exposure to Islam–by way of his Kenyan father’s side of the family and his years in Indonesia as a child–made him better suited to engage the Islamic world and possibly make us safer.

I do think that for the average Arab or Indonesian or Nigerian or Asian Muslim on the street that my familiarity with their culture would have an impact. I think that they would view America differently if I were president. Now, that is not just symbolic. That is something that could be used in a constructive way to open greater dialogue between the West and the Islamic world and that ultimately could make us more safe.
…. I absolutely believe that having lived in a country that was majority Muslim for a time and having distant relatives in Africa who are Muslim, that I’m less likely to demonize the Muslim faith and more likely to understand that they are ordinary folks who are trying to figure out how to live their lives and raise their kids and prosper just like anybody else. And I do think that that cultural understanding is something that could be extremely valuable.

In the face of those false rumors, this line of reasoning struck God-o-Meter as pretty sound. And pretty brave.


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