Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Faith

GQ has an article on The Barack which includes this lovely little anecdote:

There are several black clergymen here, and when Obama encounters one of them, it’s as if they share a secret language, one Obama learned in the early ’80s, toiling as an idealistic college grad organizing churches on Chicago’s South Side. “Reverend, so nice to see you!” he exclaims to one pastor, vigorously shaking his hand. “Appreciate you! God bless you! Lift me up!”

The pastor nods his head and smiles at Obama’s biblical reference. But he’s interested in discussing more earthly matters. “With the faith-based initiative,” he asks, speaking of President Bush’s signature program, which has largely become a White House slush fund to reward religious allies, “can you kinda get us back in with the—” He pauses, trying to find the right words. “You know, it’s been very limited as far as churches are concerned.”

“Well, it depends on which church,” Obama replies. “There are some churches where it hasn’t been limited.”

“Right!” the reverend responds, lighting up and sensing that Obama understands where he’s going.

“One of the things that I’m going to do when I’m in there,” Obama says with the extreme politeness he turns on when saying something that won’t fully please his interlocutor, “is to look at this faith-based initiative and see how it’s worked and where the money is going. What you don’t want it to be used for is a way of advancing someone’s political agenda and rewarding friends and not rewarding enemies. Know what I mean?” The reverend tightens his lips, nods his head, and gives Obama a fairly unconvincing “mm-hmm.”

Obama revels in moments like these, when he has the chance to turn down an easy pander and tell a hard truth.

Meanwhile Mother Jones has a piece on Hillary Clinton which includes this subtitle:

For 15 years, Hillary Clinton has been part of a secretive religious group that seeks to bring Jesus back to Capitol Hill. Is she triangulating—or living her faith?

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection. “A lot of evangelicals would see that as just cynical exploitation,” says the Reverend Rob Schenck, a former leader of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue who now ministers to decision makers in Washington. “I don’t….there is a real good that is infected in people when they are around Jesus talk, and open Bibles, and prayer.”

When Clinton first came to Washington in 1993, one of her first steps was to join a Bible study group. For the next eight years, she regularly met with a Christian “cell” whose members included Susan Baker, wife of Bush consigliere James Baker; Joanne Kemp, wife of conservative icon Jack Kemp; Eileen Bakke, wife of Dennis Bakke, a leader in the anti-union Christian management movement; and Grace Nelson, the wife of Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat.

Clinton’s prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or “the Family”), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to “spiritual war” on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship’s only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has “made a fetish of being invisible,” former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God’s plan.

Clinton has championed federal funding of faith-based social services, which she embraced years before George W. Bush did; Marci Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, says that the Clintons’ approach to faith-based initiatives “set the stage for Bush.” Clinton has also long supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that has become a purity test for any candidate wishing to avoid war with the Christian right.

Again, this is why I’m voting for Obama. He may be religious, but he understands and respects State/Church separation better than any other candidate.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Democrat, Republican, Religious Right, fundamentalism, Christian[/tags]

  • Maria

    I like Obama the best too. I hope he is nominated and wins.

  • miller

    There were so many things in that article about Obama that were just perfect.

  • Valhar2000

    Well, I can’t say that this article has given me any hope for the future of the US (which affects the future of everybody else, as you all know). Once again, all I can say is that I hope that the US won’t drag the rest of the world with it if and when it collapses.

  • Claire

    there is a real good that is infected in people when they are around Jesus talk

    I don’t suppose there are any antibiotics for this yet. Maybe someday a vaccine? We can only hope.

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    part of a secretive Capitol Hill group

    How is it secretive if I’m reading about it on the internet?

  • PrimateIR

    From this website

    Obama says he believes in the importance of the separation of church and state, but says that a “sense of proportion” should guide how it is enforced. He says that the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance and voluntary student prayer groups on school property are two examples where conflict between church and state has been alleged, but should be less strictly policed.

    You know, there isn’t a good choice for atheists in the bunch. I guess all we can do is have a sense of humor about it.

    Valhar said

    Once again, all I can say is that I hope that the US won’t drag the rest of the world with it if and when it collapses.

    Just because we are the largest consumers of everything, I don’t think it can be avoided.

  • stogoe

    I had no idea Hillary was part of the Fellowship. Those people scare me. Personally I think Edwards is better than Obama – he’s actually talking about dismantling America’s War on The Poor.

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  • Ben

    Obama loses my support by not supporting impeaching Bush/Cheney. I’ll stick with Kucinich in the primaries.

  • Aj

    Again, this is why I’m voting for Obama. He may be religious, but he understands and respects State/Church separation better than any other candidate.

    If he respected the separation he would have said he’d abolish it, he seems to have said he wouldn’t. It’s probably the most blatant thing Bush did against the separation of church and state.

  • Mriana

    It’s why I’m voting for Obama too. He seems more real and for the people. He seems to be someone who will hold up the Constitution for everyone. I think he knows that it IS a Secular document and not meant to serve any particular religion.

    I don’t trust Hillary, and I’m a woman.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Let’s see, Hillary is part of a Bible study group where she practices her own faith by *gasp* praying and reading the Bible together with other women… oh and she’s willing to even cross party lines and be friends with people who don’t always agree with her politics to do it… gee, that does sound really sinister to me too.. :roll:

  • http://www.matsonwaggs.wordpress.com Kelly

    Mike C-I think the point is not that she is “part of a Bible study group”, but that she is part of THIS particular Bible study group.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I didn’t see anything that sounded particularly ominous about this particular Bible study group to me. All I saw was an article that seemed to be spinning the story in such a way as to make a big deal out of nothing.

  • http://www.matsonwaggs.wordpress.com Kelly

    To me, this is very concerning:

    The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God’s plan.

    It doesn’t make me hate Clinton (although I’ve had no plans to vote for her anyway), but it does concern me, at a time when this government is giving so much power to a group of people that believe they are put in power by God and are there to carry out his will.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    To me, this is very concerning:

    The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God’s plan.

    I know this will seem troubling to most atheists, but you have to understand that this belief is nothing unique to “The Fellowship”. Most Christians believe that power and authority is a gift from God to be used responsibly and for the good of others. This is based on Romans 13:1 which states “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” In other words, even political leaders don’t just serve their own personal interests but should seek to be used by God to bless others. The hope is that this reminder would serve to restrain abuses of power, not encourage them. As Abraham Lincoln said “my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”

    The danger, IMHO, is when leaders attempt to reverse this equation automatically assume that God is on their side (as with GWB and all the “God Bless America” rhetoric post 9-11) and use their faith as an excuse to baptize whatever they happen to want to do. On the other hand, when leaders remember that being on God’s side means caring for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed; that it means being a peacemaker and remembering that all people, not just Americans and not just Christians, are God’s children; that it means being humble, and being willing to admit mistakes and turn around and take a different course (the literal meaning of “repentence”) – then I think this can be a very good thing.

  • http://www.matsonwaggs.wordpress.com Kelly

    I thank you for explaining that-and I do understand. I suppose it is because of GWB’s actions that I have concern over anyone thinking that they were put into power by a god. There are so many people now (in politics, clergy, etc.) who do use that to abuse the power they have been given.

  • Richard Wade

    The danger, IMHO, is when leaders attempt to reverse this equation automatically assume that God is on their side (as with GWB and all the “God Bless America” rhetoric post 9-11) and use their faith as an excuse to baptize whatever they happen to want to do.

    Yep, that’s George the Usurper.

    On the other hand, when leaders remember that being on God’s side means caring for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed; that it means being a peacemaker and remembering that all people, not just Americans and not just Christians, are God’s children; that it means being humble, and being willing to admit mistakes and turn around and take a different course…

    Sounds like Jimmy Carter. While I liked Jimmy very much there are a lot of people who don’t think he was a very good president.

    Just for once I’d like to have a president who knows who really put him in office: The people. He works for ME. Whether malicious or benign in their application, leaders who think that God was casting the deciding vote will have at least a reduced sense of responsibility to represent my wishes, if not a complete disregard for them. This idea that God gives presidents their power is just the modern version of the divine right of kings. It is a tiny, tiny step from “God gave me the responsibility of power” to “God gave me the right to power.” The problem is that God cannot be reached for comment to confirm what the President says.

    Only 494 days left of the Divine Right President, IF he’s actually willing to step down. He quietly signed an executive order stating that he wouldn’t have to if the nation were facing an emergency, you know. Remember how Giulliani wanted to remain mayor beyond his term because of 9/11?

    Think George wouldn’t do that? He thinks God put him there.

  • Polly

    @Richard Wade,

    Do you have a source for this?

    He quietly signed an executive order stating that he wouldn’t have to if the nation were facing an emergency, you know.

  • Richard Wade

    Polly, the software here gets weird when I try to make more than one link, so I’ll have to do these one at a time: This is the official White House website version. It is very dense and difficult to understand. Links to op-ed articles to follow.

  • Richard Wade

    Polly, For the last hour I’ve been trying to post several links to the official White House version of the May 9, 2007 Executive Order and several op-ed articles, but for mysterious reasons my posts do not show up here. I’ll try later.

  • Richard Wade

    Polly,
    Here’s another try: The first is the official White House website version, very dense and difficult to understand. The others are op-ed articles about it.
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.html

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/may2007/230507martiallaw.htm

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55824

    http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/context.jsp?item=a050907NSPD51#a050907NSPD51

    According to the analysts it gives him near dictatorial powers over all three branches of government, with no time limits, vague definitions of what an emergency is, and no need to consult congress.
    Some people are very concerned, others dismiss it with a tone of “Aww he’d never do that.” For more, Google “may 9 directive,” and maybe add “bush extend term”

  • Richard Wade

    Polly,
    Okay, after nine attempts to attach links one at a time or even put them into text I give up. I’m sorry, you’ll have to Google it yourself. Search for “May 9 directive” and try adding “bush extend term.”

    I found the official White House website version which is very dense in legalese and hard to understand. Other references were op-ed pieces.

    According to the analysts it gives him near-dictatorial powers over all three branches of government with no time limits, irregardless of his term limit, vague definitions of what an emergency is, and no need to consult Congress. Some people are very concerned but others dismiss it with a tone of “Aww he’d never do that.” I really hope I’m being paranoid, but I’ll be holding my breath as we get close to Inauguration Day.

    Hemant, why the heck can’t I attach even one link or even type web site addresses into the text? The comment just won’t show up.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Richard — The Spam catcher caught you. I despammed the comments… they should be appearing soon!

  • Richard Wade

    The Spam Catcher caught me. It was a horrible experience. Thanks for the rescue, Hemant.
    Okay now I can apologize for the redundancy of the posts, rather than the lack of information.

  • Mriana

    I’ve been there, done that, Richard, and it’s a real pain in the butt. Hemant told me that his spam catcher and I would have to talk. So we did. :lol: I’ve not had a problem since. Guess his spam catcher and I have finally reached an understanding.

    Actually, I think it doesn’t like links. So many links and the spam blocker starts getting smart with people. :roll: I got lucky in a post where I posted three links recently, but most of the time, if you post more than two, it eats your post. :roll:

  • Richard Wade

    Thanks for your encouragement, Mriana. I’ll get over it with help from a Spam Catcher Survivor support group. What with all this filter technology, I get paranoid about You Know Who living in El Hacienda Blanca, (hint-hint, wink-wink) having everything anybody ever says against him recorded and catalogued for future reference. (wink-wink, nudge-nudge, know what I mean, know what I mean?) ;)

  • Mriana

    Oh yes, I understood clearly. Now let’s hope the Shrub is so anti-intellectual that he never learned any Spanish. :lol:

  • Richard Wade

    He Who Must Not Be Believed speaks a little Spanish, after a fashion. I’m counting on such words not being triggers in the spyware. We’ll have to keep one step ahead of them as they catch on, such as using French Pig Latin, like a-lay aison-may anche-blay.

  • Mriana

    :lol: Um… yeah. Um… My Pig Latin is very bad and my French is non-existant. :(

  • Richard Wade

    No problem, we don’t need it yet. He Who Would be King is losing help faster than he can recruit.

  • Polly

    @Richard W,

    Thanks for the links! I’m sorry you had so much trouble.
    It looks as if they’re on to you.

    Truly scary stuff! It’s an over the top expansion of pre-existing powers. How the hell did he get away with this? This is why I think it’s better for the legislature and the executive branch to be from different parties. The idiots gave him everything in return for not vetoing a single thing.

    This should have been headline news (on network TV which is all I have) Why the hell aren’t we being informed of this instead of celebrity gossip!?!? (Granted I could spend more time with the Times.)
    Bread and circuses, bread and circuses…

    ” El Hacienda Blanca,”
    You know on Spanish radio/TV they call it “La Casa Blanca”? That strikes me as funny everytime I hear it.

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  • http://www.livingstrongandhealthy.com/ Livingstrong

    Obama is just a better liar than Hilary Clinton. He says that he believes in evolution, but he also believes in Jesus; he says he never heard the atrocities that his pastor Wright said, even though he attended his church for 20 + years. I just can’t imagine how many happy dinners the both of them shared through out all those 20 years, making fun of America and insulting whites and everybody else who didn’t think the way they do.
    No, I don’t buy anything he says either.


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