Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

paperboy.jpgEarlier this month, God-o-Meter reported on the Obama team’s launch of the American Values Report, a weekly newsletter. The 8-page second issue was published on Friday.
The report It includes “Spotlight on People of Faith” interviews with a Reform Jew and a Pentecostal Christian, which gives you a good idea about where the Obama camp sees vulnerabilities–and opportunities:

Naomi Z.
Reform Jewish

What’s your personal faith background?
I was born into a Reform Jewish family. Growing up, social action and the values of equality and civil rights were a constant that represented simply what was right in this world. The joke that is often made about American Jews is that we have two holy texts, the Torah and the Bill of Rights. This was true in my family.
My social and political values were not taught to me using religious language per se. I never heard anyone say, “this is what’s right because God says so.” Rather, it was, “this is what’s right, because this is what is good and fair.” We used every holiday as an opportunity to learn about our obligations in the world. Our Passover seder was a discussion not of what happened to our ancestors but about what happened to us (as it is written, “in every generation, each person should regard herself as having personally been brought forth from Egypt”) and, more importantly, what it says about our obligations to free the captive and promote equality in the world.
After toying heavily with becoming a Rabbi, I met my husband, a non-practicing Protestant, in college, and decided that my happiness was important and that I could serve God by working on repairing the work of creation (as Judaism teaches) in many other ways. Eventually, I became a special education teacher and a religious school teacher, and later a school principal and crisis intervention specialist.
How do faith and politics come together in your life?
When I consider a political issue, I do indeed start from my faith. I ask myself the following:
a) What does the Torah, the Tanach (bible) and/or the Talmud have to say about this?
b) What was the purpose behind that teaching in the scriptures or commentary?
c) Is that purpose still achieved by following that teaching?
An example of where the text certainly does apply has to do with immigration: “The stranger among you shall be to you as the native born, for you know the ways of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” I am constantly amazed that those who quote the bible left and right about abortion and gay marriage suddenly ignore it when it comes to immigration!
Why do you support Senator Obama?
I am inspired by Senator Obama’s willingness to say things that no one else says. In his “A More Perfect Union” address, Obama spoke frankly about racial tensions without trying to sugarcoat it — “The anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.” I respect that.
I also respect that he knows his scripture and knows that interpretations differ. I like that Obama’s faith clearly informs his values but does not substitute for them. He and I come from different belief systems and traditions, but we can talk a common language of right and wrong because that language does not require that we conceive of God in exactly the same way
Jason H.
Pentecostal — Assembly of God

What’s your personal faith background?
I am a born again Pentecostal believer of the Assembly of God tradition. I grew up with a conservative mindset, voting along staunch Republican lines. Needless to say, I voted for George W. Bush twice. At the time, I felt my faith mandated that I vote based on one issue. I allowed myself to be pigeonholed such that I could not even consider voting for a pro-choice candidate. When all was said and done, I fell in line with the
politics of my community of faith.
What led you to cross partisan lines, and expand beyond one issue?
It all comes down to the War in Iraq. I struggle with this issue … we need honesty and truth, and that’s the change I see in Barack Obama. I’m not asking for full disclosure; I realize there are security considerations. But a degree of transparency. From a faith perspective, I realized that I can’t be so close-minded as to only look at one position. I’m tired of wedge issue politics.”Loving your neighbor as yourself ” involves a wide range of social issues, from health care to immigration.
Barack Obama spoke to me when he said, “I’m not going to use religion as a divisive tool. Religion should help us come together.” As Christians, we are commissioned to carry out the social gospel. Obama has demonstrated the ability and willingness to promote an agenda that cares for the “least of these.”
Why do you support Senator Obama?
I admire how Senator Obama has put responsibility onto individual Americans. Unlike your typical politician, he has given ordinary Americans a voice and role in this process. To say it’s inspiring is an understatement — it’s empowering. The idea is best summed up in the message he projects on his website: “I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington … I’m asking you to believe in yours.”
I also have confidence in Obama as commander-in-chief. Some people talk about his lack of experience or credentials, but I’m not sure how much you can truly be prepared for the office of Presidency and the high-pressure situations that come with the job. In those situations, you need judgment. I completely respect and trust his judgment. I admire his vision; I admire that he surrounds himself with great people; and I admire that he has the knowledge to discern “Here’s what we should do.” If he’s given the opportunity, he’ll prove that he’s up to the challenge. Finally, I believe that it’s time to approach international relations with a different school of thought. I like that Obama is open to furthering diplomatic relations.
I’ll be honest, my decision to support Barack Obama has definitely caused a stir in my traditionally Republican community. But, I’ve gotten my parents onboard, and I’m working on my inlaws. I proudly wear the Obama t-shirt, and have a yard sign. This experience has caused me to reexamine the way I view single issue, single party voters. To them I say: challenge your own thought process. There should be a reason or purpose behind your actions. Be confident in your ability to discern what’s right and wrong without relying on what the people around you are saying. Know why you support that candidate. Oftentimes the truth runs much deeper than the political or religious label
attached to the candidate.
I know because I was there, and I’m frustrated with that mentality. Why do I have to put myself in a box? I’m not hitching my wagon to the Democratic Party, I’m hitching my wagon to Barack Obama.


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