Here are excerpts from Barack Obama’s recent speech on religion and politics that highly criticized liberal and progressive Democrats who discredit religious discourse in the public sphere.

Although Obama only refers to God as male (“I submitted myself to His will.”) and there is an implicit failure to observe the politics of crucifixion (“You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away.”), his mature assessment of the role of scripture in shaping personal conviction and public policy should be celebrated.

Also, while he’s received some criticism and some praise, most assessments disregard Obama’s explicit affirmation of the historic Black Church in shaping his outlook on religion. As many Black Church leaders have found themselves to be “unlikely” allies with the religious right, Obama’s charge for a public faith that resists the exclusive hording of faith language by conservative idealogues is refreshing.

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“I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I’ve ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.”

“And if it weren’t for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn – not just to work with the church, but to be in the church. “

“It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

“I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology – that can be dangerous. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. As Jim has mentioned, some politicians come and clap — off rhythm — to the choir. We don’t need that. “

“And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.”

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