Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Government, Faith-based Initiatives, and the Obama Administration

One thing is clear, Obama is NOT planning to get rid of the government's associations with faith-based initiatives. That's a good thing. Such initiatives have much to offer. But, THANK GOD, unlike the Bush administration, the Obama seems to be reticent to provide government funded evangelization. The director of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives under Obama is a former Pentecostal preacher. According to an article by AP's Eric Gorski, where much of the info for this post comes from, the administration wants to find ways to work with the faith community without blurring the line between church and state.

One stated goal of this administration as opposed to former Democratic administrations is to abortion reduction. As someone opposed to abortion and wishing to see much less abortions in our country, I find this much more realistic than the absolutist's attempts to outright ban abortion. As a member of the Office's Advisory Council frames it (former Southern Baptist Convention President, Frank Page), he will still still work to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, Page realized he "has to be a realist." He recognizes the reality is that abortions are legal and he "certainly desire[s] to see a reduction." This a policy that I think many can work with-- a place to start.

Activist Fred Davie, a representative of the gay community with a Yale divinity degree also sits on the Council. Noting that, in some respects, Obama is expanding the faith-based office, Davie noted the reality that many on the left "are realistic enough to know religion is... integral to American life." He feels that many on the left have come to see that religious institution have much help to offer to a needy country.

All-in-all, James Dunn, former head of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, an organization advocating church- state separation, believes that Obama is trying to find the "elusive" middle ground. As Joshua DuBois, the Pentecostal preacher leading Obama's faith based office put it, "We understand it is a fine line. But it's a line were comfortable walking." As an observer of the religious "nuttiness" of the former administration, I certainly hope that president Obama can indeed walk that line. It is about time that someone walked it and walked it well.

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