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For President Obama, what is the relation between religion and politics?

This issue ignited arguments during the campaign, given his middle name, and his relationship with Reverend Wright.

On entering office Obama's religious identity was not as distinct as his predecessor's. The President's views place him in the arc of Reinhold Niebuhr, a favorite of Christians who emphasize pluralism and social justice over any doctrine or sect.

Nevertheless, in the President's first high-profile speeches he spoke of his Christian faith and other faiths in more explicit language and greater depth than expected. In Cairo, he concluded with direct quotes from the Koran, the Talmud, and the Bible.

His Nobel lecture reflected the transcendent powers of religion, yet emphasized its limits, saying, "…no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint…" Obama argues for commitment without excess, fidelity without fanaticism.

Obama's language indicates a commitment to moral dialogue, after years of moral assertion. His goal may be to rescue "moral clarity" from confusion with "moral certainty."

Moral clarity suggests that we can agree on what is irretrievably wrong, like killing of innocents, and still accept that there are plural views of good, of morality.

What do you think? Given religion's expectations and global dangers, is this too milk toast? Do we need moral certainty? Or, do you endorse moral clarity, a more nuanced relationship between religion and politics?

Adapted by William Vocke from an article by Joel Rosenthal

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