A possible clue...

His record as a Senator is average, which it should be for someone in their first term. He has no military experience. He has little foreign affairs experience. He has never administered any government agency of significance. A visit to his website reveals a platform cobbled together from excerpts of speeches and standard liberal boilerplate. So why is Sen. Barack Obama so popular?

Some have proposed a kind of "Clinton fatigue" among Democrats. The party faithful have had enough of Bill, and Hillary, who's ascendence was in his wake, is descending accordingly. Some have thought her votes for the Iraq war have cost her dearly among the well organized and financed anti-war leftists who control large sections of the Democrat machinery and by and large flocked to Sen. Obama. Others have speculated that in the PC culture of the Democrat party Sen. Obama has the personal demographics to make him a multi-culturalist's dream candidate. There's as many ideas as pundits but perhaps there's something more.

People who measure such things have increasingly noticed that the Democrat party has become the secular party, a place where non-believers and liberal believers have found a home and one that has grown increasingly intolerant of traditional or historic faiths and the idea of transcendent truth. Surveys on religious affiliation and political party trend, as a rule, sharply to identifying the party as the choice of non-believers, agnostics, and liberal believers of all stripes. Anecdotally it would be hard to identify, for example, a single prominent national politician of the party with a consistent pro-life record and the party as a whole is moving as quickly as it can without incurring the wrath of the folks back home in embracing an agenda of marriage and family unmoored from historic norms. It could reasonably be said, except for perhaps the interesting fixation of African American evangelicals and pentecostals in the Democrats, that the party is a kind of political wing for the unitarian universalist movement in this country. And therein lies a possible clue.

Could it be that Sen. Obama's success comes from his ability to, perhaps even unconciously, tap into the spiritual hunger of a group of people who've long abandoned traditional forms and create a kind of spiritual energy with vague catch phrases like "We are the change we've been waiting for..." and a kind of elocution and energy long on emotion and short on troubling things like substance that fills a void of the increasingly secular Left? Has Sen. Obama, in fact, created a kind of "political pentecostalism" complete with an emotional contact to a kind of transcendency that allows the fervor of religion without having to actually believe in anything other than believing, a perfect kind of faith for a party increasingly faithless in the traditional sense?

This at least is an interesting possibility. People who wouldn't be caught dead at a Benny Hinn event or in the mega pews of a Joel Osteen have perhaps found in Sen. Obama the preacher they've been looking for, someone like them who makes them feel good, insists on little except supporting the preacher, and requires none of the contemplation or sacrifice that comes with maturity in faith or politics. Whether he stumbled on this by accident or it's a product of purpose and design it may be possible the Senator has effectively taken the the ethos of so much of our current Christian culture, shallow, emotional, form without substance, and grafted it to a kind of generic secular vision laced with words evocative of spirituality and in doing so created a hybrid packing all the emotional wallop of a camp meeting but with no larger altar call then to vote for him.

Will it work? We'll see. But in a time such as ours it could happen and that says a lot about where we are, how far we may have to travel, and what tasks lie ahead for us as Orthodox Christians.

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