Praying Liberally: Looking at the Obama Plan

Obama's new plan to create a Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, that would increase funding to grassroots religious groups to solve problems ranging from closing the achievement gap in education to fighting global warming has turned into quite the news story. Although some say that this is Obama's expansion of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Obama attacked Bush's "Office" as a flimsy "photo-op", saying that the office has failed to provide support for meaningful faith-based initiatives.

This new proposal has reasonably drawn quite a bit of criticism from the left. Some say that this is just another example of Obama moving to the right for the general, a Sistah Souljah moment if you will.

I disagree. For starters, grassroots faith-based activism is at the core Obama's experience. As many of you know, Obama started his public service career as a community organizer, working with Chicago churches to fight for worker's rights and provide job training to those who had been laid off. Obama knows firsthand the possibilities of how faith-based programs can initiate social change.

Obama also rightly criticizes Bush and the Republicans for treating these religious groups as props instead of partners in the fight for a better world, and frames the need for faith-based efforts in an inclusive and liberal manner. While Bush created his OFBCI because he felt that people of shared faith could better communicate with each other, a divisive rationale, Obama argues that it is important to engage faith communities because they are the rootsy-est of the grassroots. The sense of local community they foster exemplifies Obama's bottom-up strategy.

To add to that, I agree with Obama (and this is one place where many readers might disagree, get your blockquotes ready) that "The challenges we face today ... are simply too big for government to solve alone." Part of a progressive strategy must be empowering those who are able to effectively make specific types change. There are certain issues that a Church is more equipped to deal with than the government. Some people might be more motivated to "Go Green" if doing so were part of a moral responsibility. A Church-based program might also be a good introduction into the environmental movement, for people not already familiar. Also, religious programs like soup kitchens and homeless shelters are already some of the most effective.

Finally, if you really look at it, Obama's plan doesn't break the barriers between church and state. The funding only goes towards secular programs, and the money can't be used "to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion."

I am really glad that Obama has continued his emphasis on bottom-up change. This is a program that might win Obama some votes in November, but more importantly, I believe, could help him make real, substantive change, once he's elected.

I have to say, Obama will be

I have to say, Obama will be the best president of USA.
The time will prove it.

I didnt vote for Obama but I

I didnt vote for Obama but I will have to say some of his ideas are good. I got to wish him luck!