In the early days of his administration, President Barack Obama has developed an unusual pattern as he talks about religion: He regularly puts nonbelievers on the same footing as religious Americans.
It is a rare gesture for a U.S. political leader. But what makes Mr. Obama's outreach especially remarkable is that it is accompanied by public displays of faith that sometimes go beyond even those of his religiously oriented predecessor in the White House.
The outreach toward both ends of the religious spectrum makes for a complicated balancing act, one that runs the risk of alienating one group, the other, or possibly both.
From inviting all sides of the religious prespective to discuss policy, to his executive orders on embryonic stem cell research, to his recognition of non-believers in his Inaugural address, Obama, while not always in agreement, recognizes and respects the plurality of voices in America. As the article mentions, this approach derives from his life experience:
Part of the explanation for Mr. Obama's references also may lie with his own story. He wasn't raised religious and only became a Christian as an adult, when working with churches as an organizer in Chicago.
"I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist; and grandparents who were nonpracticing Methodists and Baptists; and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even though she was the kindest, most spiritual person I've ever known," he said at National Prayer Breakfast in February. "She was the one who taught me as a child to love and to understand and to do unto others as I would want done."
In response to the article, a Baptist Joint Committee blogger asks rhetorically:
If the President is a man of faith personally, but chooses public rhetoric that is respectful of all Americans, and refrains from using his government position to impose his religious beliefs on others, doesn't that just mean he is fulfilling his constitutional duty? And not necessarily playing political games or trying to pull the wool over the eyes of one side or the other in church-state culture wars?Discuss.