If you believe the Republicans, the Democrats are Godless heathens who will trigger the apocalypse with their atheistic ways. However, from Obama's speech on Thursday, it is easy to pick out the same religious rhetoric. Perhaps Obama believes that it is necessary to pepper his speech with religious references in order to have a prayer of getting evangelical votes. I have a hard time thinking he is that naive. Perhaps Obama really is a man of faith.
Here are five faith-filled moments from the speech.
1. Obama spoke to the evolution of his faith life during his first term, in lines that echoed his speech last year at the National Prayer Breakfast:
"While I'm proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, 'I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.' "
Obama’s message to religious voters:I pray more than ever and am acutely aware of my limits as a mere mortal.
2. Obama quoted the Bible’s Book of Jeremiah, saying that the ordinary, hard-working Americans he has met while in office “remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a ‘future filled with hope.' And if you share that faith with me," he continued, "If you share that hope with me, I ask you tonight for your vote.”
The message to religious voters: I share your religious faith and believe the future is hopeful partly because God says so.
3. Obama tipped his hat to American exceptionalism, the belief that God has given the United States a unique role in history:
"We keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth."
The message to religious voters:Don’t let the Republicans fool you into thinking I don’t believe America is blessed and exceptional.
4. Obama framed the election as a moral choice between sets of values, terminology that has mostly been associated with the Republican Party and its religious “family values” wing:
"Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known; the values my grandfather defended as a soldier in Patton’s Army; the values that drove my grandmother to work on a bomber assembly line while he was gone."
The message to religious voters:We Democrats have values, too, and they’re superior to the GOP variety.
5. Obama acknowledged the rights of religious believers but left out nonbelievers:
"From Burma to Libya to South Sudan, we have advanced the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women, Christians and Muslims and Jews."
President Obama used the word God five times in his inaugural address. And according to my search of the database of The American Presidency Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara, he has used it thousands of times more during his presidency.
This wasn't of course, the first time that Obama made religious references. In remarks at annual National Prayer Breakfasts, Obama called us “children of God” in 2009, spoke of “God’s grace” in 2010, quoted from the Book of Job on “God’s voice” in 2011 and invoked “God’s command to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’” in 2012.
This April he used a weekly radio address to talk about Passover and Easter—“the story of the Exodus” and “”the all-important gift of grace through the resurrection of his son.”
And in dozens of speeches over the last two years Obama has spoken of our “God-given potential.”
For better or for worse, we now have two religious parties in the United States. The Constitution may be godless, but both parties are hell-bent on presenting themselves as godly.