Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Note from Rowland (Feb. 25. 2010):

Robert Inchausti, also author of a couple of books about Thomas Merton, also Spitwad Sutras: Classroom Teaching as Sublime Vocation, and The Ignorant Perfection of Ordinary People. He is professor of English at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

I only recently discovered this author, and he's brilliant. I don't pretend to understand everything he wrote, but his main thesis in Subversive Orthodoxy (3rd printing December 2005) is pretty straight-forward: '[These] Christian thinkers [see a list of some of them below] aren't all that interested in defending their faith... Their thinking is not strictly speaking "apologetics" but something more engaged - an attempt to "say" what the world looks like through eyes transformed by an encounter with the living God... (p. 181)... 'They desire to live in the truth even more than they desire to be effective in the world... [For them] injustice is not something to be defeated. It must be constantly combated. When it disappears in one place it reappears in another... Evil manifests itself more in an absence of care, in an absence of perception, and in the negation of Being than it does in the presence of stupidity, violence, or even hatred' (188).

Here's the sort of sentence you have to study carefully - and then you may not understand it:

'The experience of a trinitarian model of human communication makes it possible to talk systematically about contingency, angst, and moral confusion without having to explain them away as mere epiphenomena of simpler structures of cause and effect...' (179).

You get the idea?

Here's a good teaser from a blog I came across:


Avant-Garde Orthodox

("orthodox" in the broadest sense)

Interesting article on what sounds like a good book

It's not easy to place thinkers as diverse as Walker Percy, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Martin Luther King Jr., G.K. Chesterton, and Northrop Frye into the same category. But Robert Inchausti, English professor at California State Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, says they were all avant-garde orthodox Christians. No matter their different political, denominational, or literary positions, they all sought to be faithful to Jesus while engaging the world. In Subversive Orthodoxy: Outlaws, Revolutionaries, and Other Christians in Disguise, Inchausi discusses Christian thinkers, writers, and activists who challenged secular worldviews on their own turf, yet remained thoroughly Christian.

Who are the avant-garde Orthodox?

These were orthodox Christian thinkers and artists who were not theologians and made important and somewhat revolutionary contributions to various secular disciplines. They're interesting people because they're both subversive of the existing modern order, but they are not subversive of the church or subversive of the faith.

They have a unique status as people who model for us how it is possible for believing Christians to enter into dialogue with the secular culture in a way that revolutionizes and transforms the secular culture and doesn't just protest against it or isolate from it.

If you look at some of the major Christian artists and thinkers and social critics over the last hundred years, you find a variety of political, artistic, and intellectual schools within which they operate. Yet, they still share Christ as their major inspiration. You have somebody like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who from an American political perspective would be very conservative. He single-handedly did away with Marxism as an attractive philosophy for Paris intellectuals. And at the same time you have somebody like Dorothy Day, whose entire witness to the poor in the United States was to defend small families and small farms and collectives and indigenous poor against a social Darwinism that she thought was running away with American culture during the Cold War years.


Some of those subversive orthodox Christians mentioned are

- Walker Percy
- Dorothy Day
- Jacques Ellul
- Søren Kierkegaard
- Jack Kerouac
- Marshall McLuhan
- Ivan Illich
- Andy Warhol
- Pasternak
- Wendell Berry
- Thomas Merton
- E.F. Schumacher
- Dostoyevsky
- Chesterton
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Solzhenitsyn
- Rene Girard


And a comment:

These were orthodox Christian thinkers and artists who were not theologians and made important and somewhat revolutionary contributions to various secular disciplines. They're interesting people because they're both subversive of the existing modern order, but they are not subversive of the church or subversive of the faith...



A mixed review:

Review By Dan Clendenin

Robert Inchausti, Subversive Orthodoxy; Outlaws, Revolutionaries, and Other Christians in Disguise (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2005), 219pp.

         One of the best things going in Christian publishing today is Brazos Press, an imprint of the otherwise Calvinist and conservative Baker Book House. Under the guidance of editor Rodney Clapp, Brazos is marketing genuinely creative, provocative. and broadly Christian authors who want to think and write with timely relevance at the intersection of contemporary culture and Christian faith. Robert Inchausti, professor of English at California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, for example, explores the cultural critiques of twenty thinkers who, whatever their many diverse differences, all took great exception to the received wisdom of their day. Dorothy Day led the way in social justice, as did Martin Luther King. Jacques Ellul and Ivan Illich offered big-picture critiques. Walker Percy and Boris Pasternak were novelists and, as such, two of our best theologians (none of the twenty figures he explores are theologians in the technical sense). Inchausti organizes these twenty subverters of conventional wisdom under five main chapter headings: the soul under siege, the novel as countermythology, antipolitical politics, macrohistorical criticism, and the role of the Christian mysteries in the life of the modern mind. I found these categories rather broad, and something of an artificial stretch to place radically diverse thinkers under each theme. Further, trying to tackle so many seminal intellectuals means he can devote only five to ten pages to each. The result felt choppy. GK Chesterton and Goethe in four pages each? King and McLuhan get about a dozen pages each, but these were "long" by the book's standards. In such short chapters I found it difficult to enter into the thought of the many subjects about which I was ignorant. If you do not already know Pasternak, William Blake, or Rene Girard, for example, this book might not be the best introduction to their thought. Still, it is a fine contribution for a Christian intellectual to tackle and honor the contributions of these titans and their efforts to map the journey of Christian faith in the real world.


And this from the Facebook page:

"In the early 1960s, an interviewer was trying to get Ernest Hemingway to identify the characteristics required for a person to be a "great writer." As the interviewer offered a list of various possibilities, Hemingway disparaged each in sequence. Finally, frustrated, the interviewer asked, "Isn't there any one essential ingredient that you can identify?" Hemingway replied, "Yes, there is. In order to be a great writer a person must have a built-in, shockproof crap detector."

"The incarnation, like the resurrection, and like the very notion of divinity itself, cannot be reduced to a precept, fact, or a theory; nor is it even, strictly speaking, a doctrine. It is, rather, a revelation that must be experienced in order to be understood, a reality wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, miniaturized into a narrative that proves itself apodictically true by the realities it reveals. The false knowledge that blocks our capacity to experience this shift in awareness from the mundane to the sublime changes from epoch to epoch and from place to place.." - Robert Inchausti (Subversive Orthodoxy).

Monday, February 22, 2010


F W Boreham: Angels, Palms and Fragrant Flowers (F W Boreham on Spurgeon), John Broadbanks Publishing, 2009.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was probably heard by more people in the second half of the 19th Century than any other English-speaking preacher. (Another Baptist preacher - Billy Graham - is said to have been heard in face-to-face crowds by more people in the second half of the next century than any other human being). And the gifted preacher and essayist F W Boreham - one of 'Spurgeon's men' who may have been the last student Spurgeon interviewed for his Pastors' College - has probably been read by more people than any other Baptist in the 20th century.

So when Boreham writes about Spurgeon, it's interesting.

On a snowy morning, on January 6, 1850, the teenager Charles Spurgeon wandered into a Primitive Methodist chapel in a side street in Colchester, 'hoping that some minister would tell him how he might be saved'... The boy under the gallery... 'was only fifteen, and he died at fifty seven. But in the course of the intervening years, he preached the gospel to millions and led thousands upon thousands into the kingdom and service of Jesus Christ' (xiv, 34).

From the age of 20 Spurgeon's sermons were published each week until his death: they 'went on to sell into the millions of copies and were translated into 25 languages' (xv).

A few teasers in a category we might title 'Can you believe this?':

* There were long queues by the five or six thousand people who packed into Spurgeon's Sunday morning services. 'And this sort of thing went on, summer and winter, year in and year out, for a generation. The service was never advertised. Mr Spurgeon's trouble was to keep people away. He was everlastingly imploring his own members to absent themselves in order to make room for... strangers. He had no organ and no choir. The singing was led by a precentor with a tuning fork' (43).

* The secret behind Spurgeon's appeal? Certainly not his appearance. Boreham tells us that Spurgeon was 'by no means a handsome man... [indeed] physically he was one of the least attractive figures in the public life of England. But when he uttered the name of Jesus, he stood transfigured. His soul caught fire. His face literally shone...' (13).

* Another clue? 'He was moved to the depths of his being by his passion for the souls of men' (15). Sometimes Spurgeon would leave home early in the morning, listen to the stories of some thirty or more persons during a whole day, attend a prayer meeting and another meeting at night, and at ten o'clock wonder why he felt faint! He'd forgotten to eat all that time! (48)

We are indebted to Dr. Geoff Pound, who probably knows more about Boreham than anyone else, for this 'Boreham taster on C. H. Spurgeon'. It's worth getting a few copies to give to young aspiring preachers you may know.

Shalom/Salaam/Pax! Rowland Croucher

February 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010


Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri Nouwen by Michael Ford, 1999.

Henri Nouwen, with Thomas Merton, were the first 20th century Catholic writers on Christian Spirituality to be widely read among non-Catholics. (And each of them was criticized for 'never having an unpublished thought.' 'Like Merton', says this biographer, [Nouwen] seemed to feel that, unless he was writing things, he wasn't fully experiencing them. There was a gravitation in both men towards writing too much.'). Many evangelicals, after reading some of Nouwen's books, didn't know they were exposing their minds to the spiritual theology of a Roman Catholic! 'It was possible for him to speak in the morning to a group of left-wing Catholic liberation theologians, lead a lunch-time seminar with Nonconformists, and in the afternoon exhort members of the Religious Right'.

Henri Nouwen broke new ground in other respects as well: he (with ethicist Margaret Farley) was the first Roman Catholic appointment to the Protestant faculty at Yale University. As a scholar in the fields of psychology and theology he had little appetite for statistical research or a critical analysis of biblical texts, respectively. He regarded biblical criticism as inimical to a 'doxological life' of true obedience. A lot of scholarly talk might 'stimulate the curious mind' but doesn't 'stir the listening heart'.

Nouwen believed that it was from the wounded places in himself that he could touch the wounded places in others. He certainly was a troubled - even tormented - man. He would often phone for help or encouragement to friends anywhere in the world at odd hours of the day or night. (He often spent more on phone bills than on rent). He said with great honesty to a friend: 'You might think I'm famous and don't need others... But actually I need you more...' He would complain that his friends didn't care enough about him. In many ways he tested friendships: 'the deprived part of Henri needing to know that he was loved unconditionally...' He 'became a pious conservative' for much of his adult life, 'frightened of making a stand on social issues because he wanted to be friends with the right, the left and the middle'. (Yet he was sometimes criticized by conservative Catholics for sharing the eucharist with all-comers, and 'could happily receive the sacrament from an Anglican woman priest...').

Some of his friends offered interesting counsel: Mother Teresa, after hearing him for ten minutes simply said: 'Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring your Lord, and never doing anything which you know is wrong... you will be fine!'

So what was his problem? It was many-faceted - a complex mix of nature/nurture factors. He longed all his life for affirmation and affection from his father. His mother believed it was wrong to give too much love-through-touch to her son (though she read, avidly, everything he published). He knew he was gay from the age of six, but couldn't tell anyone except a small trusted circle of friends later in his life. To those with a homosexual orientation who asked his advice, he recommended celibacy as a vocation; but although he didn't expect most gay people to be celibate he did expect them to be in a relationship - a covenant relationship - as he would expect of heterosexuals. (His own clerical formation was messed up because 'holiness' was equated with keeping the flesh in check: 'They were to shower in light robes so they never saw each other fully naked; they slept with their arms crossed on their chests above the bed-covers. The body was not to be trusted').

Michael Ford describes Nouwen as 'adolescent' all his life, repressing his sexuality because the Catholic Church offered no way for him to resolve those complexities. And sometimes - especially during his years at Harvard - he 'seemed to take a particularly hardline approach with students towards homosexuality... Some claim he was ruthlessly unsympathetic to a number of gay men... teaching them [that] homosexuality was an evil state of being'. Nouwen's frenetic activity, Ford suggests, was also one of his ways of coping with his struggles in this area. Another was to ask his therapist to hug him non-sexually - sometimes for a long time, and occasionally this reduced Henri to uncontrolled sobbing. After he saw the movie 'Maurice', based on E M Forster's novel about homosexuality between the classes of English society, a friend who was with him wrote: 'As we were driving back... we had to stop on the highway because he was sobbing uncontrollably. He was just terrified. His whole body was shaking. He was so caught up with the story and the dilemma the two main characters were living, because it was his. All I could do was hold him and let him cry. He was really in pieces.'

Finally, a couple of paragraphs from The Genesee Diary which reflect his amazing honesty:

'I have always had a strange desire to be different... I wanted to say, write or do something 'different' or 'special' that would be noticed and talked about. For a person with a rich fantasy life' [for example Nouwen had a lifelong fascination with the circus and its clowns, and also the life and art of Van Gogh] 'this is not too difficult and easily leads to the desired 'success'... You can even preach the Gospel in such a way that people are made to believe that nobody had thought of that before. In all these situations you end up with applause because you did something sensational, because you were "different".

'In recent years I have become increasingly aware of the dangerous possibility of making the Word of God sensational. Just as people can watch spellbound a circus artist tumbling through the air in a phosphorized costume, so they can listen to a preacher who uses the Word of God to draw attention to himself.'

(His friend Jean Vanier wrote: 'Aristotle said that if you are not loved, you seek admiration, and you saw with Henri that double movement: the sense of not being loved and the feeling of loneliness - and a terrific need for admiration...').

I have been enriched by Henri Nouwen's writing for several decades, but reading this biography left me feeling so sad...

(For other reviews etc. see )

Rowland Croucher

January 1, 2010

Monday, September 21, 2009


Review: A. W. Tozer in Pursuit of God (James L. Snyder) (2009)

There were two significant 20th century Evangelical pastors who taught about 'spiritual theology' from the classical saints and mystics. On one side of the Atlantic Britain's Dr. W. E. Sangster - a Methodist - wrote Masters' and PhD dissertions on 'holiness' and Christian sanctity. In America ex-farm-boy A.W.Tozer (who had one day's - yes - high school education and no seminary training) fell in love with the mystics and imparted their wisdom to his sometimes perplexed Evangelical compatriots (who wondered: can anything good come out of Catholic spirituality before or after the Protestant Reformation?).

Fast forward a couple of decades: in the late 1970s four authors triggered an avalanche of books, articles and seminary courses on this subject: Quaker Richard Foster, Episcopalians Morton Kelsey and Tilden Edwards, and Anglican Kenneth Leech. Now only hard-core Evangelicals/ Fundamentalists have any problem with the spirituality of people like Bernard of Clairvaux or Fenelon or with the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing.

A W Tozer is about the best example of a well-educated Christian 'auto-didact' I know. This self-taught Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor became a supreme wordsmith, and read widely in theology, history, philosophy, poetry, and literature. He wrote two best-selling books about God - The Pursuit of God (penned overnight on a Pullman train journey) and The Knowledge of the Holy, which have been translated into many languages. Forty other books were written by him or by others compiling his sermons and editorials. He knew his Subject: Tozer's advice to pastors: 'Think twice as much as you read' (p.10) or 'ten times more than you read' (p.71 - take your pick!) - and pray without ceasing'. He would often lose track of time during private prayer- sessions (and sometimes missed arranged speaking appointments as a result!).

Tozer was a prophet and a mystic. He cautioned: 'Our religious activities should be ordered in such a way as to leave plenty of time for the cultivation of the fruits of solitude and silence': good advice for us noisy Evangelicals! And yet sometimes Tozer had such a craving for solitude that he bought a round-trip train ticket so that he could have three or four hours of privacy for reading and thinking and praying. He had few real friends: 'friends and knowing God were incompatible in Tozer's thinking'.

He was not perfect. Sometimes he could be caustic. He never took vacations and rarely a day off. As a father he followed uncritically his own parents' practice: his father ran the farm and mother raised the children. Often the only way Mrs. Tozer could enjoy his company and his help was to read to him while he did the ironing! 'Tozer saw his family as a distraction from his supreme goal of knowing God' (p. 174). (But when after six boys their only daughter appeared, he changed those priorities a little!).

Nor was he a good 'pastor': indeed he was something of a recluse. Hardly anyone ever came to him for counselling. The deal with his churches was that he preached and wrote for his denominational journal, and someone else did the pastoral work. There's a charming story about his arrival back in town from conference-speaking, and his chauffeur - he didn't own a car - told him one of the elders was in hospital. Tozer said 'That's not far out of our way, let's visit him!' When he came to the man's bedside the poor fellow was startled. Turning to his wife he asked 'Are you and the doctors hiding something from me? The pastor's here: am I really that ill?'

Tozer was provocative: he told a conference of writers that fiction was a very poor vehicle for expounding God's truth!

But he could be funny. A person introducing Tozer went on and on about Tozer's marvelous qualifications. When Tozer eventually got to speak, he said 'All I can say is dear God forgive him for what he said, and forgive me for enjoying it so much!'

And he was occasionally dogmatic: about what is sometimes called the 'Second Blessing' he wrote: 'No believer was ever filled with the Holy Spirit who did not know he had been filled. Neither was anyone filled who did not know when he was filled. And no one was was ever filled gradually'.

But he could also be open-minded. In a sermon he asked 'Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world... Is he strumming a harp in heaven, or at the other extremity? We don't know, but the last we hear of him he's walking in the wrong direction'. He encouraged reading the Catholic mystics, without necessarily agreeing with their theology. His primary question was simply: how well does this person know the living God? If Bernard of Clairvaux sponsored crusades that was bad. But if he wrote hymns that included such sentiments as 'We taste Thee O Thou Living Bread, /And long to feast upon Thee still;/We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead/ And thirst our souls from Thee to fill' he couldn't be all bad! He carried on a correspondence for a while with Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk.

And when asked if he were an Arminian or a Calvinist, he quoted Graham Scroggie: 'I am a Calvinist when I pray and an Arminian when I preach!'

This book is a reprint of an older edition and includes a couple of dozen typos. Ignore them, and be inspired!

Rowland Croucher
September 21, 2009

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Review: A Gentle Bunyip: the Athol Gill Story, by Harold Pidwell (Seaview Press, 2007).

Athol Gill was arguably Australia's highest-profile Baptist New Testament scholar. When he died in 1992 from a massive heart attack at the young age of 54, memorial services were held in his honour at the Community Church of St. Mark (Clifton Hill Baptist Church) and Collins St Baptist Church in Melbourne; and in Washington DC, San Francisco, Liverpool, San Salvador and Zurich.

Athol was, according to his friends and enemies, controversial. He might be the only senior Baptist figure to have been voted out of office in two state denominational meetings (Queensland and Victoria). But he made history in Victoria by losing one Assembly vote (by just a few percentage points) then later winning by 90%! I was at that meeting, and, with many others, spoke for him. In essence my message then (and now): 'We must expect - indeed encourage - prophets to do whatever it takes to get our attention. But if we then persecute them for siding with the poor we'll have a hard time at the Judgment!'

Why did Athol Gill get up the noses of Australian Baptist conservatives? Three clues:

* His friend and colleague Graeme Garrett said of him: 'I knew Athol could be tough. He spoke his mind, not always tactfully.' When, in the 1970s, I was senior pastor of a middle-class church in Blackburn, Melbourne, negative comments used to float back to us via his students. (But in retrospect, yes, we did some good work among the homeless poor, but could have been much more radical in terms of social justice).

* He inveighed against those who armed themselves with proof texts and a 'flat Bible', and were not willing to wrestle with the diversity of interpretations in the various biblical sources. For example, the picture we have of the poor in the Chronicler, or early Proverbs, or John, is not the same as that in the pre-exilic prophets, or Jesus (especially in Luke). So how do we develop a valid hermeneutic about the poor from this range of emphases? Simple: we start with Jesus, and work backwards and forwards from his teaching and example, understanding how, for example, the theological viewpoint of the priests, Levites or cultic prophets influenced the books we know today as Joshua, Judges, I and II Chronicles etc. etc.

* Although Athol preached 'Good News for the Rich' as well as 'Good News for the Poor' the rich 'copped it' from him incessantly: it is 'difficult, if not impossible', for the rich who don't really care for the poor, to get into the Kingdom. More than once middle-class parishioners gave him an 'ear-full'. Despite a few texts in Proverbs which blame the poor for being slothful, the overwhelming message of the biblical prophets is that the poor are not destitute by accident: the systems of this world are biassed towards legally or illegally transferring wealth in only one direction. Was he a Marxist? 'No, Marx was too conservative!' Read Pidwell's book to figure that out!

And read it for an interesting commentary on what happens when a strong, charismatic leader exerts disproportionate power over others within a community (like endorsing or otherwise the choice of life-partners) or fails, despite his best efforts, to ensure a smooth leadership-succession. Read it also to follow the story of a renewed inner-suburban church: when Athol Gill wanted to baptize some converts at Clifton Hill Baptist Church, folks who'd been there for decades confessed they didn't know where the baptistry was!

When I read biographies of pastors/scholars/theologians I want to know how they came to their belief-system, what they did with their beliefs in terms of practical ministry, and what those who knew them best say about them as persons. Pidwell's offering is very good in the first two areas: but I would have liked more about Athol-the-man from a few others who knew him well - like his wife and children, John Hirt, Tim Costello, Rowena and Andrew Curtis, Ken Manley, Keith Dyer et. al. (But see the feschrift edited by David Neville, 'Prophecy and Passion: Essays in Honor of Athol Gill' for some more on Athol the man and his ideas: my review is at ).

I regularly use Athol's two main publications - The Fringes of Freedom and Life on the Road. But in the last 90 pages of this book Pidwell offers us a previously unpublished (and unedited, and replete with 40-50 typos!) essay by Athol titled 'Poverty and the Poor in the Bible' which summarizes his life-work as a scholar and teacher. Someone should write some discussion-questions to accompany Athol's notes for discussion-groups in our churches.

Pidwell's biography is must-read for anyone who wants to accompany one man on his journey as an advocate for the poor. What would Jesus do for the marginalized, the homeless, schizophrenics - the 'little people' - in a city like Melbourne? I think he would (again) have a bias towards these poor, like Athol did.

Review copy supplied by Ridley Melbourne Bookshop,

Rowland Croucher
December 2007.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Come now & join the feast
From the greatest to the very least
Come now & join the feast
Right here in the belly of the beast.

Patriots you can bring your flags,
We'll be washing feet and will need some rags...

-- Shane Claiborne

I was privileged yesterday (29/7/2007) to hear Shane speak at a UNOH conference: a dynamic, sincere, and most interesting presentation. He's a terrific story-teller, humble person, and in my view, a prophet.

Shane is a founding partner of The Simple Way Community, Board member of the Christian Community Development Association, Author of The Irresistible Revolution (Feb 2006/Zondervan)

With tears and laughter, Shane unveils the tragic messes we’ve made of our world and the tangible hope that another world is possible. Shane graduated from Eastern University, and did graduate work at Princeton Seminary. His ministry experience is varied, from a 10-week stint working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, to a year spent serving a wealthy mega-congregation at Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago.

During the recent war in Iraq, Shane spent three weeks in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team (a project of Voices in the Wilderness and Christian Peacemaker Teams). Shane was witness to the military bombardment of Baghdad as well as the militarized areas between Baghdad and Amman. As a member of IPT, Shane took daily trips to sites where there had been bombings, visited hospitals and families, and attended worship services during the war.

Shane is a founding partner of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia that has helped to birth and connect radical faith communities around the world, many of whom have become known as a “new monasticism”, which produced the book Schools for Conversion. These communities seek to follow Jesus, to rediscover the spirit of the early Church, and to incarnate the “Kingdom of God” -- a way of life standing in stark contrast to the world of militarism and materialism. At the Simple Way, their little revolution is lived out locally, as days are spent feeding hungry folks, doing collaborative arts with children, running a community store, hanging out with neighbors, and reclaiming trash-strewn lots by planting gardens. Shane and The Simple Way do much work to expose the fundamental structures that create poverty and to imagine alternatives to them.

Shane serves on the Board of Directors for The Christian Community Development Association, one of the largest national associations of faith-based organizations whose pillars are Redistribution, Relocation, and Reconciliation. Shane writes and travels extensively speaking about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus. He is featured in the DVD series “Another World Is Possible” and is the author of the book The Irresistible Revolution.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Barack Obama speaks out on faith and politics: 'Call to Renewal' Keynote Address

by Sen. Barack Obama

[Note from Rowland. I like this guy. I happen to be a 'swinging voter' politically: I vote on issues and on the perceived credibility of the party/candidate. But from what I'm hearing/reading about this guy, I'm impressed].

Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here at the Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America conference, and I'd like to congratulate you all on the thoughtful presentations you've given so far about poverty and justice in America. I think all of us would affirm that caring for the poor finds root in all of our religious traditions - certainly that's true for my own.

But today I'd like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments over this issue over the last several years.

I do so because, as you all know, we can affirm the importance of poverty in the Bible and discuss the religious call to environmental stewardship all we want, but it won't have an impact if we don't tackle head-on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America.

For me, this need was illustrated during my 2004 race for the U.S. Senate. My opponent, Alan Keyes, was well-versed in the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson style of rhetoric that often labels progressives as both immoral and godless.

Indeed, towards the end of the campaign, Mr. Keyes said that, "Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved."

Now, I was urged by some of my liberal supporters not to take this statement seriously. To them, Mr. Keyes was an extremist, his arguments not worth entertaining.

What they didn't understand, however, was that I had to take him seriously. For he claimed to speak for my religion - he claimed knowledge of certain truths.

Mr. Obama says he's a Christian, he would say, and yet he supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination.

Mr. Obama says he's a Christian, but supports the destruction of innocent and sacred life.

What would my supporters have me say? That a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? That Mr. Keyes, a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the pope? More...