Barack Obama hopes to make a dent in evangelical Christian and Catholic support for the Republican Party. At first glance, he's a good bet to do it. John McCain, his opponent, comes from a generation that reflexively clams up about religion.
Both men claim to be Christians, but Obama has mastered the rhetoric. He can speak in soaring tones about the kingdom, the glory, and redemption. Most importantly, he speaks of hope, which is a key Christian theme. The world isn't destined to end in simple destruction. This whole thing is going somewhere. Our lives matter and the choices we make matter. We must never give in to despair. That is the message of hope.
In addition to hope, Obama speaks in terms of humanity, not America. Dean Barnett is disturbed that Obama doesn't focus on America and that he poses as a citizen of the world, but this, too, is a key Christian theme. Nations burn, but we have a higher citizenship under God that remains. Most Christians know that they should love America and be thankful for it, but also that they should see the fate of humanity as interconnected.
Hope and Humanity. Obama is running a Christian campaign. It is one largely framed in the secularized and sanitized Christianity of the modern left, and regrettably, it suffers the same infirmities. It is full of Christian aspiration, but is desperately lacking in soul.
The problem with this secularized gospel is that it loses something at the very heart of the faith. The lost essence is a stubborn insistence upon the sanctity of life.
One of the key distinguishing features of the early Christian church was the determination of its members to save lives whether that meant gladiatorial combatants, plague victims, or helpless babes. Their conviction often took the form of rescuing infants from exposure to both the elements and the predatory instincts of wild animals. The Greco-Roman world, for all its admirable qualities, placed a very low value on life. Christians held the opposite opinion. For them, every life was sacred. Every person bore the image of God.
Some, like Doug Kmiec, seem to believe Obama is a deep well on the matter of preserving unborn life and that he will surprise us, but there is nothing in the record to support it. To date, he has proved himself to be as certain a supporter of Planned Parenthood as any politician on the planet. Remember this bit from a speech last summer:
There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice. On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield.
And then this one:
I have worked on these issues for decades now. I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law. Not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality. Steve and Pam will tell you that we fought together in the Illinois State Senate against restrictive choice legislation—laws just like the federal abortion laws, the federal abortion bans that are cropping up. I’ve stood up for the freedom of choice in the United States Senate and I stand by my votes against the confirmation of Judge Roberts and Samuel Alito [Applause]
Barack Obama is utterly at odds with the entire Christian tradition when it comes to the preservation of unborn life. Utterly, unquestionably against it.
In addition, this rock-ribbed support for abortion rights is in tension with the message of his campaign.
Hope. Where is the hope in abortion? What is an abortion but the act of someone who has lost hope? The platform of hope would be to promise to find more and better ways to support unwed mothers. Can a sweeping, transcendent campaign do no better than to advocate death as a solution to unwed childbearing? Not even a campaign that seems to promise a new age?
Humanity. The loss of protections for unborn children has been predicated upon a re-definition of what it means to be human. Those who have not emerged from the birth canal are somehow less than fully human. They are considered less than human for reasons of law, not biology. This is the same legal philosophy that protected practices of slavery and segregation. If anyone should be able to see the danger inherent in such a jurisprudence and argue against it, it should be an African-American constitutional law professor.
No, this Hope and this Humanity is a vacuous concept designed to be filled by the rapturous imaginations of the politician's listeners.