Decades after the sociologist Robert Bellah introduced the term “civil religion,” academics are continuing to track how politicians talk about religion in the public sphere. Here is an overview of how President Obama is increasing his use of religious language in recent days:
President Obama is “ramping up his ‘God talk’ for the re-election campaign,” says political scientist John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum for Religion & Public Life.
But Green and two other experts who track religious rhetoric in presidential politics speculate this strategy to connect with evangelical voters may not work for Obama…
These kinds of God mentions won’t move the dial for conservative evangelicals but, Green says, they could be just right for ambivalent voters who “don’t want a hard-edged faith shaping national politics.”…
Questioning someone’s religious sincerity is totally a factor of whether you already like that person. Baylor University sociologist Paul Froese says,
If Obama held a prayer rally, it would never work. People who don’t like him won’t believe him.
I wonder how the average American would react to this article. On one hand, the argument here is that appealing to audiences with the “right” religious language matters for votes. On the other hand, is this simply ammunition to make some people more cynical about the use of religious language in election seasons? Politicians have to walk a fine line of appearing sincere but not too exclusive so as to alienate potential voters.
More seriously, this will continue to matter in the months ahead as Americans get longer looks at Republican challengers (and the article contrasts Rick Perry’s approach to religious language). I hope we will continue to get updates on this from these same academics.