Obama, Christianist

Jonathan Zasloff defends Obama's faith-based maneuvering:

Progressives have been partnering with faith-based groups long before George Bush claimed to be born-again. The biggest difference with Bush was twofold: 1) he suggested that he would funnel money to faith-based groups for programs involving active proselytization, which is unconstitutional; and 2) he actually used the program to support groups in order to generate support for Republicans, which might have been illegal.

Obama made it very clear that he would do no such thing: he's no more a "Christianist" than any policy wonk who contracts with faith-based social services providers to provide social service. So what's new? The fact that he is saying it, that he is out front with it, that he is sending a cultural signal that he embraces it. In that sense, it is both good policy and good politics. And as the Beliefnet story makes clear, it puts McCain in a box because for him to do something similar would be transparently opportunistic.

Some on the right seem to be amused or shocked that I used the term "Christianist" to describe Obama's faith-based politics.

But I've used that term with respect to Obama many times before, and in so far as he is happy to have government fused with religious groups' social services, he is. He doesn't use his faith to discriminate against and marginalize minorities, but he does use it to justify big government paternalism. He's not as bad as Bush-style Christianism, but he's not in a different category either. If Obama could get religious institutions supportive of the Democratic party at the grass roots, he'd be thrilled, and his TUCC experience shows exactly that. There's liberal Christianism and conservative Christianism. I prefer my Gospel and my politics distinct - for the sake of each.