While everyone is focusing on Barack Obama's shifting positions on issues such as campaign finance, NAFTA, telecom immunity and Iraq, we're missing his incursion into enemy territory to capture those reviled, though politically coveted values voters.
His recent proposal to adopt a modified version of President Bush's faith-based initiative is just another piece of his strategic plan to seduce evangelical voters to his cause.
Obama is aiming for a threefer: wooing values voters, reconciling with small-town Americans, and neutralizing the taint of Jeremiah Wright and turning the religious issue into a net plus for his campaign. Hey, no one says this guy is politically naive.
You see, most liberals aren't really concerned about the intermixture of church and state unless it involves the Christian church, and only then if it involves the promotion of biblically based ideas and values. They have no problem with the government's endorsement of the values of other religions, New Age, or secular humanism. Even the state's or politicians' endorsement of nominally Christian values don't bother them, as long as they are watered down enough to detach them from any legitimate connection to Bible-centered Christianity and reframed to embrace the secular liberal worldview.
That's why liberals react as though the world is coming to an end when Christian conservatives promote their values in the public square and political arena but approve when Democratic politicians campaign from the pulpit of churches whose congregations are sympathetic to their political agendas. That's why the press attacked Republican Mike Huckabee for using religious symbols in his campaign ads but praised Obama for "bridging the cultural divide" when he did the same thing.
So while liberals complain hysterically when social conservatives cite Scripture, praise Jesus, or oppose same sex-marriage or abortion, they swoon over liberal politicians who interpret Jesus' many exhortations to care for the poor as a mandate for socialism. Commingling church and state is fine as long as it's in furtherance of the liberal political agenda.
To be sure, some on the far secular left are complaining about Obama's recent emphasis on faith, but most liberals have no objection to it because they suspect Obama's brand of Christian values is not remotely threatening to their secular ones -- which says it all, does it not? Even Obama's faith-based program ensures that the federal government can only provide funds to faith-based groups if they agree to use the money for secular programs.
In the words of the Rev. Leanne Tigert: "Obama has really opened up an avenue for many of us 'progressive people of faith' that says you don't speak for us. We are people of faith; we are pro-choice, pro-gay/lesbian equality, civil rights. He's giving us a voice." Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, aptly described Obama's values agenda as "secularism with a smile."
Obama believes faith should be used to "bring us together" instead of to "driv(e) us apart," apparently impervious to Jesus' admonition that the truth will divide us.
Indeed, based on his public statements, it seems that Obama's Christianity is stripped of its unique claims and diluted into a universalistic, pluralistic hodgepodge of meaninglessness. For Obama, Jesus isn't the only way, but just one of many ways to God.
All but the fringe left will realize that Obama's faith overtures are the fulfillment of the left's dream to win back values voters, who have been voting Republican at least since Ronald Reagan.
Obama's efforts represent the culmination of the Democrats' grand scheme, engineered by linguistics professor George Lakoff, to repackage their policies in values terminology to appeal to Christian voters without really changing those policies they find objectionable.
It was Lakoff who suggested that Democrats spin "out in a new morality play in which everything, from Social Security to the driest spending cuts, is cast in terms of right and wrong," and "Democrats are freely quoting the Bible."
I suppose we can say then, with no small irony, that "the messiah" has become a disciple -- a disciple of George Lakoff's, en route to accomplishing what liberal columnist E.J. Dionne described as "a New Reformation that is disentangling a great religious movement from a partisan political machine." Or to put it another way, trustbusting the GOP's reputed monopoly on values voters.
Christian conservatives have plenty of cause for concern over these developments, but there is a hint of a silver lining to this story. The Washington Times has reported that pro-life black pastors are becoming wary of Obama's policies, especially on abortion.
Perhaps the pastors' disenchantment could lead to greater scrutiny of Obama's calculated strategy to win over Christian voters, along with eye-opening revelations about what he really believes and what values he is actually trying to promote. We can only pray.