Obama is calling for change, service and reconciliation by we individualistic Americans. That is bad news for culture war, racial war, religious war, secular war, progressive war, conservative war warriors. The fact that the ideological fundamentalists of both the left and the right, of both secular America and religious America, are attacking Obama, and/or correcting him and admonishing him is a good sign that Obama is of indeed the right man for the job of President. He is self-evidently not about helping one side or the other in a divided America "win." He is about America winning.
People with vested interest in our ideological divisions, people like me -- authors who make our living exacerbating the differences between our various American tribes -- have found a lot of fault of with Senator Obama lately. Maybe we expected him to somehow become president without needing to be elected. Good God! He's playing politics! The sky is falling!
In order to change anything Obama must actually become President first, not run for pure-of-heart progressive-in-chief. Yes, that means he will use his money advantage and forget public funding. Yes, that means he'll reach out to evangelicals.
Obama happens to have his feet planted solidly on planet earth. Obama knows that in America whatever our secularists hope for we are-for the foreseeable future-a religious nation. If Obama wants to make big changes he knows he'll need all Americans on board including people some of his bedrock supporters don't like. That means that angry black men and women and angry white men and women and angry religious men and women and angry secular men and women will either get over their anger and embrace hope and forgiveness of the "other" or lose influence in Obama's America.
I am one of the people that Senator Obama has reached by the power of his inclusive and far-seeing character. I'm a former religious and conservative activist, one of those culture war, warriors. But I'm tired of hate. I'm tired of always having to be vindicated. I'm tired of seeing politics as a form of revenge, (as I chronicle in my book CRAZY FOR GOD -- How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All -- Or Almost All -- Of It Back).
As a lifelong Republican (who reregistered as an independent out of disgust with the dirty-tricks, hate-filled Rovian Republican Party), as a former right-wing activist, as a white middle-aged middle-class man, if Obama can change my mind he can reach anyone, maybe even the people who say they are progressive Democrats but who are too rigid in their ideological "theology" to ever win an election and be happy about it.
Having been raised in a fundamentalist evangelical home I know fundamentalism when I see it. And the progressives carping about Obama becoming too centrist or too religion-friendly -- whatever -- reminds me of my mother complaining about this or that evangelical pastor or group who's theology wasn't "pure" enough.
The era Obama will lead us into is the new and green, post-consumer America. In that truest holistic sense he's the most "pro-life" candidate ever. We'll be concentrating on the common good rather than on we individual's perceived "needs" or on our latest "I want."
The Obama presidency will be all about "us" rather than "me," "we," not "I." Obama will encourage and fund service, connection and reformation within and by all classes and types of Americans. He has said that the centerpiece of his presidency is going to be a call to service. He includes military service, the Peace Corps, Teach For America and other government and nongovernmental programs on his list.
Obama says that as President he will encourage all college-age students to serve our country in return for financial aid and encourage all high school students to also get involved. He will also be a military-friendly Democrat. Expect ROTC to be back on campus alongside Peace Corps recruiters. Expect a wrong war to end and a stronger military as a result. Expect a world that actually respects us again.
Obama's message of "us" rather than "me" is finding a home in the hearts of tens of millions of non-ideologically driven Americans, black, white, rich, poor, religious, atheist... while making those who define themselves as idiological purists nervous. Hence the Religious Right in the person of Jim Dobson, has attacked Obama on the one hand and members of the American left are admonishing him on the other hand. They both have it wrong.
The old paradigm doesn't apply. Obama's America is not about ideological vindication. Obama is not about progressive Americans "winning" or centrists winning. Since the problems we face are global we are all going to have to begin to think as Americans first and whatever our identity-politics "identity" is, second.
Those of us who subscribe to private "truths" whether religious or secular, left or right will be out in the cold in the new America. Vindicating private truths will not be what Obama's America is all about. Rather we are going to become one nation again in a way that we have not been since Franklin Roosevelt took us to war.
This time the war that will bind us together again will be a war on old ways of thinking, old energy sources that are destroying our planet, old individualism run amok, an outmoded earth-destroying old consumer culture that finds unity in shared products, rather than shared aspirations.
I believe that those of us who trust Obama's character and those of us who have been reached by him -- and who continue to believe that he will lead us to a better future -- are going to have our trust rewarded by a great presidency. Hang in there Obama supporters.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.
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