Senator Barak Obama (D-IL), the name Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), can't quite pronounce, is the great Black hope for liberal Democrats. In what was the first all-Black Senate contest in 2004, Obama defeated Alan Keyes 70% to 30%. Keyes was not from Illinois but was drafted by the GOP, which had failed to find an in-state candidate. All sorts of promises were made to Keyes which never materialized and he ran an under-funded, under-staffed campaign, ridiculed by the media for his views.
Obama wasn't yet sworn in when he first was touted as a possible Presidential candidate. Since his election it is almost as if he were running a national campaign. Congressional and Senatorial candidates all across the nation want Senator Obama to speak to their African-American constituency. So now when he speaks it is with a certain moral authority, which is unusual even for the Senate.
So it was with considerable interest that I read Senator Obama's op-ed in USA TODAY on religious conservatives. He begins by saying that his faith has shaped his values. He says "those who enter the public square are not required to leave their beliefs at the door." So far so good. He then goes on to quote pundits who say the greatest divide in American politics among white Americans concerning party affiliation is not between men and women, or red states or blue states, but rather between those who attend church regularly and those who do not.
Obama says that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson exploit the gap by telling Evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting that religious Americans are only concerned about gay marriage and abortion.
To Obama's credit, he does say that the gap has also been kept open by some liberals who try to avoid religious conversation altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that Constitutional principles tie their hands. Obama suggests that some liberals might even dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, thinking that the very word "Christian" described one's political opponents, not people of faith.