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Benedict close.jpgOn Wednesday, responding to a question from Bishop Vann Johnson, Pope Benedict said:

Perhaps America’s brand of secularism poses a particular problem: it allows for professing belief in God, and respects the public role of religion and the Churches, but at the same time it can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator. Faith becomes a passive acceptance that certain things “out there” are true, but without practical relevance for everyday life. The result is a growing separation of faith from life: living “as if God did not exist.”

Obama Compassion.jpgOn Sunday, responding to a question from Cambell Brown, Barack Obama said:

What I believe is that all of us come to the public square with our own values and our ideals and our ethics, what we believe. And people of religious faith have the same right to come to that public square with values and ideals that are rooted in their faith. And they have the right to describe them in religious terms, which has been part of our history. As I said in some of my writings, imagine Dr. King, you know, going up before, in front of the Lincoln Memorial and having to scrub all his religious references, or Abraham Lincoln in the Second Inaugural not being able to refer to God. What religious language can often do is allow us to get outside of ourselves and mobilize around a common good. On the other hand, what those of us of religious faith have to do when we’re in the public square is to translate our language into a universal language that can appeal to everybody. And both Lincoln and King did this and every great leader did it, because we are not just a Christian nation. We are a Jewish nation; we are a Buddhist nation; we are a Muslim nation; Hindu nation; and we are a nation of atheists and nonbelievers.

To what extent is American civil religion, as articulated by Sen. Obama, a threat to religious belief, as conceived by Pope Benedict? (30 points)

  • Asinus Gravis

    The answer to your question is: ZERO.
    B16 was talking nonsense.
    The requirement to express your religious convictions in the political arena in reasoned arguments, as Obama correctly sees, does not detract from your faith having clear application to how we should live.
    It is surprising that a church committed to the natural law theory, as is the Catholic Church, would not insist on Obama’s point.

  • Mark Silk

    Maybe. But psychologically, the Obama (American) approach does seem to have a tendency to rub the distinctive edges off one’s particular belief system.

  • I don’t think there’s a threat here. Benedict is talking broadly about our culture and how its pluralist tradition–which he calls “secular”–both fosters religious practice and waters it down. Obama is talking more narrowly about the public square, glossing the idea that people of faith don’t have a monopoly on values and should frame their specifically public discourse accordingly…you can believe something “because God said so” or whatever, but you need to do better than that in the public square.
    Also, it should be noted that this line of thinking from Obama represents a move among mainstream Democrats toward MORE openness to religious language in public discourse, not LESS–because it isn’t simple separation boilerplate.