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Sen. Obama Shows Courage, Savvy in AIDS Speech to Religious Right

By December 4, 2006

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"I've got two friends here, a Republican and a Democrat," declared conservative Pastor Rick Warren, influential author of runaway best-seller The Purpose-Driven Life," on World AIDS Day a few days ago at his 20,000 member Saddleback Church in Orange County, California.

"Why? Because you've got to have two wings to fly," Warren explained to his ruffled audience of 2,072 evangelical Christian pastors and leaders.

Later, grasping hands with two potential 2008 presidential candidates, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Pastor Warren led the group in prayer for sufferers of AIDS and HIV, and to stop the pandemic that's already killed 25 million people worldwide.

Both senators gave speeches at Warren's World AIDS Day conference. Sen. Brownback, well known as a Christian conservative, was speaking to his political constituency. Sen. Obama, however, was treading on openly hostile territory.

Incensed that a Christian who doesn't pass all the religious right litmus-tests would speak in one of "their" churches, many had demanded that Warren rescind his conference invitation to Barack Obama.

Railed commentator Kevin McCullough at uber-conservative WorldNetDaily, "Why would Warren marry the moral equivalency of his pulpit... to the inhumane, sick and sinister evil that Obama has worked for as a legislator?"

It's hard to judge who showed more political courage... and bipartisan savvy:

* Pastor Warren, for publicly moving his ministry into the non-political religious center previously occupied only by evangelist Billy Graham (a lifelong Democrat, I might add), OR

* Senator Obama, who risked to go where few Democrats have gone: a Christian conservative audience, to whom, I'm proud to report, he did not pander.

Senator Obama Delivers Courageous Speech
Barack Obama, a member of the United Church of Christ, delivered an eloquent and politically courageous speech, one in which he challenged conservative beliefs that pushing abstinence and fidelity are sufficient to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

And one in which he bucked liberal pundits when he graciously acknowledged the contributions of President Bush and the Republican-led Congress, $15 billion over five years, to fighting AIDS overseas.

The senator's speech demonstrates much of what I admire about Barack Obama's personal qualities:
* Obama doesn't pander to his audience. He maintains the integrity of his beliefs, regardless of political winds.
* He's unafraid of criticism, and unafraid of challenging others, both Democrats and Republicans.
* He's gracious and civil.
* He's a Christian who doesn't denigrate others' faiths and belief systems, but he doesn't hide his own.

I encourage all my readers, both Democrats and Republicans, to read Senator Barack Obama's Speech on World AIDS Day 2006.

For the health of our country, I encourage all to acknowledge the universal correctness of Rick Warren's political metaphor: " You've got to have two wings to fly."

And Democratic strategists, take note: per the Los Angeles Times, " Obama drew a standing ovation from the 2,072 pastors and others who came from 39 states and 18 nations to explore church solutions to the AIDS pandemic..."

Related Reading
Barack Obama is Rock-Star Popular on first Africa Trip in 14 Years
Obama's Controversial 2006 Speech on Faith & Politics
Rick Warren Corrects Me About His Ministries to the Poor, and I Have Questions
Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2006: AIDS Fight Needs Churches, Obama Says


December 4, 2006 at 6:11 pm
(1) ChristianMedia209 says:

Warren is an idiot who thinks Jews will go to Hell if they don’t confess belief in Christ. His bigotry helsp advance AIDS. Why use him unless yor as big (emphasis on big) a dope as he is?

December 4, 2006 at 6:41 pm
(2) Deborah White says:

Pastor Rick Warren is a leading, prominent conservative pastor, in large part due to the extraordinary success of “The Purpose-Drive Life.” For that reason, his political actions are inherently newsworthy.

December 4, 2006 at 8:36 pm
(3) ChristianMedia209 says:

Why don’t you address the fact that Warren believes Jews and othe non-Christians are going to Hell?

December 6, 2006 at 11:49 am
(4) Vaughn says:

Tip of the hat to Obama. Good on him. Thanks for reporting on this.

April 23, 2009 at 10:08 pm
(5) Obama says:

Obama is just so great! I’m glad we finally have a man in office that really cares about EVERYONE. Me being one of them as I am a carrier of AIDS.

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