This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. The cup from the God Machine runneth over this week, so let’s get right to it. First up is President Obama’s efforts this week to connect health care reform and religious values in an event organized by and for progressive faith leaders and activists.

…Obama spent much of Wednesday taking a new tact in his fight for health reform: He reached for the stars.

In a conference call with faith leaders, organized through a largely progressive umbrella group, 40 Days For Health Reform, Obama spoke of the legislation that has bogged down in Congress as if it were a message from above. The president described the need to tackle health reform as a “moral conviction” that “no one in America should be denied basic health care because he or she lacks health insurance.” He paraphrased Genesis, saying that reform would address “what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation that we look out for one another, that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper.” He said reform was about the fight to “promote justice” and called the current debate a “battle between hope and fear.” For some opponents, he had a biblical condemnation, saying there were those who were “frankly bearing false witness” about the facts of health reform. […]

As soon as he was finished, the moderator of the call told participants, “God has given us a spirit of love, justice and action. Let’s put it to work.”

Earlier in the morning, Obama had participated in a similar call with rabbis around the country. Though that call was not open to the public, some quotes have been relayed, via Twitter of course, to the public. According to Jack Moline, a participant, Obama said, “I am going to need your help in accomplishing necessary reform” and “We are God’s partners in matters of life and death.” (It is not clear from the Twitter entry if either are exact quotes from the president.)

Aside from attacks on reform proposals by the religious right, there hasn’t been much of a religious angle to the debate over reform. We’ll see if this week’s event — sponsored by the PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good — changes that equation in the coming weeks and months.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* The NYT‘s Laurie Goodstein reported this week that the “prosperity gospel” movement, despite the deep and lingering recession, is drawing “sizable, adoring audiences.” Preachers of the “prosperity gospel” tell followers that they should donate generously — even more than their families can afford — so that God will reward them by multiplying their offerings.

* Mike Huckabee, back from a trip to Israel where he bashed U.S. policy in the region, told Pat Robertson’s television network that Evangelical Christians tend to be “so much more supportive of Israel than the American Jewish community.” Josh Marshall ponders the implications of the argument.

* President Obama filmed a video greeting to Muslims this week, in honor of Ramadan. Tim Fernholz noted, “Good for the White House to continue its outreach to the Muslim world in the face of continuing rumors about the president’s origins and religion. It speaks to a kind of confidence that I’d love to see Obama demonstrate in domestic policy.”

* The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., voted yesterday “to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as members of the clergy.” The denomination already allows gay men and lesbians to be ordained, so long as they remain celibate, making yesterday’s move a step forward. A close vote — delegates were split 559 to 451 — came after a heated and emotional debate, which may ultimately prompt a schism within the denomination.

* And finally, Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) said a prayer before a town-hall meeting this week. Because the meeting was held after-hours in a public school, an attendee told Scott he “broke a federal law” when he prayed. Scott replied, “[W]ell I can tell you this, ma’am, David Scott’s gonna pray wherever I want to.” The response generated applause, but it’s worth noting that there is no federal law prohibiting Scott or anyone else from praying in a public school.