When asked to define marriage, he told Warren, "It's a union between a man and a woman."
"For me as a Christian, it is a sacred union. God's in the mix," he said.
Obama added that he does support same-sex civil unions, saying, "I can afford those civil rights to others even if I don't have ... that view."
Well, we already knew that he wasn't in favor of same-sex marriage. But does he have to parrot the extreme-right's rhetoric on that subject?
I would argue that he doesn't, that saying that it's a "sacred union" between "a man and a woman" isn't doing anything more than entrenching homophobia. Anyone who cares enough about same-sex marriage to vote on it is already a Republican and making a statement like that won't attract any voters.
What it does do is legitimize the views that:
policy works best when it follows one person's abstract understanding of their faith, one that not everyone adheres to,
the government should be and is in the business of officiating sacred unions,
love between two men or two women does not meet the criteria for sacred, and
being homophobic, gay, an ally, or just not caring are all on the same moral plane (coming from his last comment there).
Personally, I don't even see how he could say that civil marriage is a gender-based institution after laws that discriminated based on gender (at least on paper) were banned by the Supreme Court several decades ago. It's simply not, as a matter of law, something that has to do with gender, and the "one man, one woman" argument is pretty much all that the Religious Right has. Remember this?
What Obama saying all of these things does do is put them further in the center of American political discourse. It's not that extreme if both the Democratic and Republican nominee for president agree on it.
Warren: NOW YOU'VE MADE NO DOUBT ABOUT YOUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO TRUST IN CHRIST AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN ON A DAILY BASIS? I MEAN, WHAT DOES THAT REALLY LOOK LIKE?
Obama: AS A STARTING POINT, IT MEANS I BELIEVE IN THAT JESUS CHRIST DIED FOR MY SINS AND THAT I AM REDEEMED THROUGH HIM. THAT IS A SOURCE OF STRENGTH AND SUSTENANCE ON A DAILY BASIS. I KNOW THAT I DON'T WALK ALONE, AND I KNOW THAT IF I CAN GET MYSELF OUT OF THE WAY, THAT I CAN MAYBE CARRY OUT IN SOME SMALL WAY WHAT HE INTENDS. AND IT MEANS THAT THOSE SINS THAT I HAVE ON A FAIRLY REGULAR BASIS HOPEFULLY WILL BE WASHED AWAY.
BUT WHAT IT ALSO MEANS, I THINK, IS A SENSE OF OBLIGATION TO EMBRACE NOT JUST WORDS BUT THROUGH DEEDS THE EXPECTATIONS THAT GOD HAS FOR US. AND THAT MEANS THINKING ABOUT THE LEAST OF THESE. IT MEANS ACTING -- WELL, ACTING JUSTLY AND LOVING MERCY AND WALKING HUMBLY WITH OUR GOD. AND THAT, I THINK TRYING TO APPLY THOSE LESSONS ON A DAILY BASIS KNOWING THAT YOU ARE GOING TO FALL A LITTLE BIT SHORT EACH DAY AND KIND OF TRYING TO BE ABLE TO TAKE NOTE AND SAY, WELL, THAT DIDN'T QUITE WORK OUT THE WAY I THINK IT SHOULD HAVE BUT MAYBE I CAN GET A LITTLE BIT BETTER.
IT GIVES ME THE CONFIDENCE TO TRY THINGS INCLUDING THINGS LIKE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO SCREW UP ONCE IN A WHILE.[...]
Warren: FIRST, YOU'VE MADE NO DOUBT ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. YOU PUBLICLY SAY YOU ARE A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU AND HOW DOES FAITH WORK OUT IN YOUR LIFE ON A DAILY BASIS? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
McCain: MEANS I'M SAVED AND FOREGIVEN AND WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE WORLD. OUR FAITH ENCOMPASSES NOT JUST THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BUT THE WORLD. CAN I TELL YOU ANOTHER STORY REAL QUICK?
McCain: VIETNAMESE KEPT US IN PRISON IN CONDITIONS OF SOLITAIRY CONFINEMENT FOR TWO OR THREE TO A CELL. THEY DID THAT BECAUSE THEY KNEW THEY COULD BREAK DOWN OUR RESISTANCE. ONE OF THE TECHNIQUES THAT THEY USED TO GET INFORMATION WAS TO TAKE ROPES AND TIE THEM AROUND YOUR BICEPS, PULL YOUR BICEPS BEHIND YOU, LOOP THE ROPE AROUND YOUR HEAD, PULL YOUR HEAD DOWN BETWEEN YOUR KNEES AND LEAVE YOU IN THAT POSITION. YOU CAN MANAGE, IT'S VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. ONE NIGHT I WAS BEING PUNISHED IN THAT FASHION. ALL OF A SUDDEN THE DOOR OF THE CELL OPENED, THE GUARD CAME IN, A GUY WHO WAS JUST WHAT WE CALL A GUN GUARD. HE JUST WALKED AROUND THE CAMP WITH A GUN ON HIS SHOULDER. HE WENT LIKE THIS AND THEN HE LOOSENED THE ROPES. HE CAME BACK ABOUT FOUR HOURS LATER, HE TIGHTENED THEM UP AGAIN AND LEFT. THE FOLLOWING CHRISTMAS, BECAUSE IT WAS CHRISTMAS DAY, WE WERE ALLOWED TO STAND OUTSIDE OF OUR CELL FOR A FEW MINUTES, AND THOSE DAYS WE WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE OR COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER ALTHOUGH WE CERTAINLY DID. AND I WAS STANDING OUTSIDE FOR MY FEW MINUTES, OUTSIDE MY CELL. HE CAME WALKING UP. HE STOOD THERE FOR A MINUTE AND WITH HIS HANDLE ON THE DIRT IN THE COURTYARD HE DREW A CROSS AND HE STOOD THERE AND A MINUTE LATER, HE RUBBED IT OUT AND WALKED AWAY. FOR A MINUTE THERE, THERE WAS JUST TWO CHRISTIANS WORSHIPPING TOGETHER.
I'm not going to criticize them for answering the question, but I can't help but wonder what a Jewish candidate for president would have answered. Or how about a Muslim? An atheist? A Buddhist? A Hindu? A follower of a Native American Religion?
Of course, they wouldn't give the same sort of answer that either Obama or McCain did. And people wouldn't respond the same way. Even assuming that the Jewish person's (or Muslim's, or atheist's, etc.) campaign had extensively researched and prepared for questions of faith, there's no way that they would give the "right" answer.
It's the same as the tests of whiteness that are being set up here, many of them far too subtle to be called out in an open-forum without getting labeled as shrill, overly sensitive, and paranoid, all to derail the idea that Obama could be a president. In the same way, asking the candidates to talk about their relationship to Jesus constantly, and buying into it as a test to see who'd be the better president (because something completely unprovable like a relationship with Christ is exactly the type of thing that politicians would never lie about), is really just setting us up for both policy failure and discrimination. It's not what we're supposed to be about, but, here, in front of the whole world, Obama and McCain pretty much agreed that we were.
Since 1991, the number of unchurched has nearly doubled from 39 million to 75 million, according to The Barna Group, a company that follows trends related to faith, culture and leadership in America.
The latest study shows that the percentage of adults that is unchurched - defined as not having attended a Christian church service, other than for a holiday service, such as Christmas or Easter, or for special events such as a wedding or funeral, at any time in the past six months - has risen from 21 percent in 1991 to 34 percent today...
The unchurched are also younger (median age: 38) than most U.S. adults (median age: 43). Born-again adults are substantially older than either group (median age: 46).
While one-quarter (26 percent) of American adults are single-never-married, nearly two-fifths(37 percent) of the unchurched fit that definition.
The study revealed that the unchurched are also less likely to participate in elections, less likely to donate to non-profit organizations, and less likely to use media or to engage in community activities.
"The unchurched are more likely than others to be somewhat isolated from the mainstream activities of the society in which they live," said director of the study, author and researcher, George Barna.
Barna also described the group as "non-committal" and "independent." He noted that to unchurched people, embracing church life is "both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive."
"Unchurched people are not just lazy or uniformed," the researcher continued. "They are wholly disinterested in church life -- often passionately so.
75 million people is no tiny voting block - elections are won with those numbers. But they're less likely to turn out, and I'm guessing a big part of it is that they're completely turned off by spectacles like the one we saw Saturday night.