There is much discussion of Sen. Barack Obama's speech to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Hartford, CT. In that speech, Obama made the assertion, that is both obvious and banal, yet heralded as heroic, that the Christian Right "hijacked" Jesus for partisan political ends. I fail to see why this obvious sentiment, having been repeated by many over the years, is somehow "news" except that we have a liberal politician and Presidential candidate saying it. Alas for others who are both Christian and of a progressive and liberal bent, I can only say that this is a less than heartening development.
The vocal and very public rise of the Christian Right has been documented ad nauseum, and I for one believe it is in eclipse, even while it continues to make much noise and have a death-grip upon Republican Party politics, especially in this Presidential Pre-Primary season. Part of the reason I believe that the Christian Right, for all the nuisance it can still cause, and all the noise it still makes, is now and will continue to fade as force to be reckoned with is the dawning realization that the blind support of one political party have failed to yield tangible results, with the possible exception of 44 states banning, either legislatively or constitutionally, same-sex marriage. We are no closer to Christian prayer being mandated in public schools, the removal of evolution from the science curriculum, the outright banning of abortion, or any other of the main themes of the Christian Right than we were thirty years ago. In fact, while the Republicans had a working majority in Congress, they failed to move forward (with one exception) on any of these issues (the exception was the recently upheld so-called "partial-birth abortion" ban). While this has heartened some, most conservative Christians are waking up to the simple fact that they have been used and manipulated by the Republican Party for the purposes of gaining and maintaining power, with no real desire to move forward on their agenda.
Now, Obama is doing for Progressive Christians what first John Connally, then Ronald Reagan, did for the Christian Right - saying things to them they have been saying to others for years, giving them the kind of legitimacy they must have lacked because a politician failed to say them. For me, I would have much preferred than Obama said little about this. I will assume he did so out of good intentions and a serious commitment to progressive Christian views. This does not mean, however, that his political views are in lock-step with those of progressive Christians.
More important is this - even were he elected President, the argument between politically conservative Christians and their liberal counterparts is one that cannot, indeed must not, be a part of public concern. This is an issue to be hashed out between and among Christians, and there is no reason to believe there could be an end to these debates. To me, it is rather troubling that a public figure of Obama's stature would choose to pick sides in a debate that has little to do with public affairs. It is all well and good that Obama takes solace from his faith, and finds his political positions rooted in aspects of his Christian faith. This only reduces Christian debates to partisan bickering, rather than serious question divorced from the various swings within the American electorate.
There are many progressive Christians who are heralding Obama's statement; there are even some non-Christians who are glad. I would much prefer Obama talk about substantive proposals for ending the Iraq occupation, reinstituting Executive submission to Congressional oversight, health care reform, and other issues than chide members of the Christian Church for disagreeing with him. It is unbecoming, and distracting from real issues. It also poses the threat that progressive Christians will be taken for the same ride the Christian Right has been on since the rise of the Moral Majority.