On June 28, 2006 Illinois Senator Barack Obama addressed the Call to Renewal’s “Building a Covenant for a New America” conference. Call to Renewal publishes Sojourners, a magazine of the Christian left that provides sustenance for those committed to the Social Gospel movement, which began in the late 19th century under Walter Rauschenbusch. Sojourners routinely publishes articles by members of Christianity’s liberal faction such as its founding editor-in-chief Jim Wallis, along with articles by Emergent Church leaders such as Brian McLaren.
Rauschenbusch was greatly influenced by the writings of Charles Sheldon, such as the classic work In His Steps, which gave rise to the modern maxim”What Would Jesus Do?” While there is nothing inherently wrong with asking such a question, the Social Gospel movement has strayed from evangelical orthodoxy in its focus on social works to the exclusion of foundational Christian doctrines. A balanced Christian view can be found in the Evangelical Manifesto of May 7, 2008. See especially page 6:
It behooves Christian Evangelicals to read Senator Obama’s speech carefully.
About 2/3 of the way through the speech, in a paragraph that begins… “And even if we did have only Christians in our midst…” Senator Obama asks, “Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.”
If Senator Obama hadn’t presented this speech three months prior to the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion I would have suggested he borrowed from Dawkins. He presciently iterates the same misguided rhetoric the New Atheists have now brought into the mainstream. In any case, his comments make it quite clear that he is among those “folks who haven’t been reading their bibles,” at least not beyond a superficial level. Sadly, Call to Renewal’s Christian left failed to recognize the blatant error in Barack Obama’s remarks. As Evangelicals, I suggest we share this speech with any Christian friends who find his candidacy compelling.