Barack Obama has just completed his speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president. The speech was free of sectarian religion-talk, but embraced a kind of civic religion, a faith in the promise of America, which Obama connected to his own improbable life story, and to the "I Have a Dream" speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. 45 years ago. An excerpt from Obama's speech:
"It is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend. That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot. And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.''
Then Obama closed with a citation from Hebrews, the New Testament book that consists of a letter from an unknown author to early Christians whose faith was flagging. Obama said, "Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess." Obama was quoting from Hebrews 10:23 -- the King James translation is "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering," while the Bible translation favored by Catholics says, "Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope." The quotation refers, of course, to the promise of Christian faith; but in tonight's speech, Obama used the quote to refer to the hope and promise of the United States.
(Photo, by AP, shows Obama delivering his acceptance speech tonight in Denver.)