This story at the Baptist Press is not surprising: President Obama's use of "fabrications" to describe claims by pro-life critics of his health care plan's coverage of abortion. FactCheck.org, a non-partisan site, sides with the President's critics on this one.

I say it's not surprising because I've come to expect such things. Obama sees himself as someone who helps bring conflicting sides together. As the editor of an ecumenical magazine and as director for a fellowship of Christians who are committed as Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox to their churches, I understand the natural desire to try to see many things from both sides of an issue–to a point, of course, and our readers like the edges of our traditions kept clear and sharp, all the same ("The Divisions We Must Sustain," as we titled one of our conferences.) Of course, I like to find ways to help one side at least appreciate where the other really stands, and not revert to caricatures that may be tried but not true.

But you can't paper over everything. You can't, despite what the ELCA recently decided (it decided not to decide, but then went on to decide–a head feint) to respect both parties in the homosexualist debate. For some things, you can't, as they say, have it both ways.

Well, then, back to President Obama, and why I am not surprised by a very elastic use of language and meanings. I blame my knowing this on an RNS story, which I saw this summer but was unable to write about earlier. You'll see by the end, from the quote from Ralph Reed, why I expect our duly elected President to generally seek to come away from engagements with his suit never wrinkled.

Seminar Bedfellows

IN 1997, at a Harvard seminar on “social capital,” first-term state

senator Barack Obama sat down with the Rev. Jim Wallis (of Sojourners),

Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, Clinton aide George

Stephanopoulos and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. Also on hand,

among several dozen participants, was black Houston megachurch pastor

Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who became a spiritual adviser to both former

President George W. Bush and President Obama.

The so-called Saguaro Seminar was established in 1997 by Harvard

political scientist Robert Putnam. He brought together a “diverse group

of pastors, politicians, pundits, artists, academics and community

organizers” to meet every few months for three years “to talk about how

we can begin to reweave the fabric of American community,” he said in a

recent interview.

Participants have enjoyed influence. Both Stephen Goldsmith and

John DiIulio, intimately involved with the White House faith-based

office under George W. Bush, attended the seminar. And now Obama has

filled top White House posts with Saguaro alumni. Wallis and Caldwell

are now close spiritual advisers.

According to Daniel Burke of Religion News Service, Obama has

“implemented a host of ideas kicked around those tables 10 years ago.

In ways large and small—from extending an olive branch to Muslims

overseas to revamping the White House faith-based office to seeking

common ground on abortion, Obama has echoed themes straight from the

Saguaro playbook.”

Ralph Reed said that it was clear back in 1997 that Obama was

“going places.” “He wanted to be able to turn to the conservative and

say, ‘I want to talk to you,’ and turn to the liberal and say, ‘I want

to talk to you,’ and he would wind up pleasing nobody,” Reed recalled.

“He’s always trying to split the baby.” (Source: Religion News Service)