Call to Renewal Address: Barack Obama

1246 Words Jun 21st, 2018 5 Pages
In his 2006 “Call to Renewal Address”, Barack Obama gives his thoughts on the role of religion in democracy through a response to earlier accusations of his un-Christianness during his 2004 Senate race against Alan Keyes. He addresses both his accuser, who suggested that Obama's views disrespect his faith as a Christian, and his liberal supporters, who urged him to ignore these statements because “a literalist reading of the Bible was folly” (2). In his speech, Obama recommends a middle ground between these two views, in which “the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values” (7), as the only way to connect religion and politics in a “pluralistic democracy” (7). This attempt, …show more content…
While the idea of a democracy in which religion and politics both compromise and provide input in the public square seems amenable to both religious and secular Americans, and the possibility of finding such a compromise is an attractive premise for Obama, and for any politician wishing to reach as wide an audience as possible, Obama's speech includes some unavoidable contradictions that prevents his idea from working in practice. Most noticeably, Obama admits that “religion does not allow for compromise” (7), while suggesting that “any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion” (8). Most importantly, he says that “this goes for both sides” (8). The idea that both the religious and the secular must “persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality” (7) is central to his vision of a connection between religion and politics, and these common terms of argument are impossible if one side is inherently based on uncompromising commitments.
Obama attempts to handle this problem by separating the role of religion in one's personal life from that of one's public, political life. He differentiates between basing one's life and basing one's policy-making on the “uncompromising commitments” (7) of religion, calling the former “sublime” and the latter “dangerous”. In his view, religion should be central in private, but cannot be the deciding factor in choices that affect the public. Unfortunately, this
Open Document