Brody Question: There is the so-called "religious left" in this country that focuses primarily on social justice issues and there is the so-called "religious right" in this country that focuses more on personal salvation and the life and marriage issues. Some on the right believe that Evangelicals shouldn't be the only ones moving left. Rather, the left needs to move toward the middle as well and not just put the focus on their issues. What is your plan to bring these two sides together?
Senator Obama: Well, these are difficult problems and there are no easy solutions. But I think that there are some lessons that both progressives and conservatives might learn. For progressives, I think we should recognize the role that values and culture play in addressing some of our most urgent social problems. As I've said many times before, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed aren't simply technical problems in search of a ten-point plan. They're rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man.For example, I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers' lobby. But I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart - a hole that the government alone cannot fix. So solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I think progressives would do well to take this to heart.For my friends on the right, I think it would be helpful to remember the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy but also our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves.It was the forbearers of Evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they didn't want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it. Given this fact, I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism.Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we're formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we've got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.
I have no idea whether or not I would vote for Mr. Obama, but his candid take on his own faith and how it impacts the world are refreshing. It comes across as alive an authentic, not some rote set of rules to follow. It is tough to both speak for your faith and how that faith can make a difference in the world while still supporting the separation of church and state and religious liberty for everyone.