I’m sure that this is going get me marked as a rabid Obama supporter (which I am not). But I can’t help but gush over his impressive response on the issue of church and state. In an interview with BeliefNet, he was asked, “You wrote in The Audacity of Hope about the role that faith and faith-based programs could play in confronting social ills. Isn’t your view on that similar to George W. Bush’s?”
His answer — the clearest ever seen — follows below the fold.
No, I don’t think so, because I am much more concerned with maintaining the line between church and state. And I believe that, for the most part, we can facilitate the excellent work that’s done by faith-based institutions when it comes to substance abuse treatment or prison ministries…. I think much of this work can be done in a way that doesn’t conflict with church and state. I think George Bush is less concerned about that.
My general criteria is that if a congregation or a church or synagogue or a mosque or a temple wants to provide social services and use government funds, then they should be able to structure it in a way that all people are able to access those services and that we’re not seeing government dollars used to proselytize.
That, by the way, is a view based not just on my concern about the state or the apparatus of the state being captured by a particular religious faith, but it’s also because I want the church protected from the state. And I don’t think that we promote the incredible richness of our religious life and our religious institutions when the government starts getting too deeply entangled in their business. That’s part of the reason why you don’t have as rich a set of religious institutions and faith life in Europe. Part of that has to do with the fact that, traditionally, it was an extension of the state. And so there is less experimentation, less vitality, less responsiveness to the yearnings of people. It became a rigid institution that no longer served people’s needs. Religious freedom in this country, I think, is precisely what makes religion so vital.
I get goosebumps just reading it. 🙂
see, I’m not a religious person, per se, but I do believe in having faith – in someone, in something, in karma, in love, in honesty, in friendship, etc. I would like to think that at some point, our country will grow to not be known so prominently as a “Christian” faith-based country, and become simply a GOOD country that truly believes in religious freedom.
It’s difficult to teach literature sometimes, especially American Literature, because many past and present American authors take so much inspiration from the Bible. I try to do my best while in class to explain the reference to all of my students because my classes are not 100% christian. Some students have never even heard of the Holy Trinity or they just don’t get it when an author overtly or covertly parallels a story from the Bible. I would like to have more discussions during class to allow all students to see how something like the Bible can move a writer to write how and what they do, but I’m concerned that a student or parent who is NOT well informed would confuse my lecture with a sermon…so I usually end up with a quick little overview prefaced with a “I’m not religious and I’m not trying to make you religious, but here is what the author is trying to say…”
I agree with Barack that there should definately be a clear cut separation between church and state, but we cannot forget the need for the separation between church and school <- although, if we can discuss the Bible, the Koran, and other religious works in the context of the classroom as a way of making our students more well rounded to prevent sheer ignorance, then I’m all for it!
I find myself also leaning toward Obama, though his position on the role of faith isn’t my main motivator. I become very depressed at the thought of four more years of hearing slime about Vince Foster and Bill’s fidelity issues and Chinese donors…. What bothers me even more is the creeping sense that if McCain is the republican nominee, and Sen. Clinton is the democratic nominee, McCain will win, and we’ll be rewarding eight years of republican mismanagement.