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Senator Kennedy at Liberty University

In case you haven’t heard, Senator Kennedy passed away this week.   I’m sure that many who read this blog, might find him to not be representative of their political beliefs (as he isn’t fully representative of my own political convictions.)   However, Senator Kennedy was a profound influence in government for many, many years.   If you look into his political history, you would find that he was a voice of collaboration on many issues between differing parties.   Nonetheless, I found this on God & Country Report at www.usnews.com.   (I think he found it HERE.)   Whether you agree with his politics or not, I think this speech was a great one.   Given to a crowd he isn’t used to speaking to.

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Nearly 25 years before it became fashionable for Democrats to engage religious right leaders, Ted Kennedy delivered a remarkable speech on faith and politics at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University (then called Liberty Baptist College).

Speaking in 1983, amid the first wave of modern Christian right activism—which Falwell helped unleash—Kennedy pushed back against the fledgling movement but also took on his own party’s growing secularist base. The separation of church and state, Kennedy said, “as vital as it is, is not a simplistic and rigid command .  .  . [it] cannot mean an absolute separation between moral principles and political power.”

The senator from Massachusetts outlined four tests for determining a proper religious role in politics. Almost a quarter-century later, Barack Obama struck a strikingly similar tone in his first major address on religion in politics, made to a gathering of Jim Wallis’s Sojourners. “To say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates,” Obama said,” is a practical absurdity.”

Video of the Kennedy speech’s first few minutes reveals how comfortable he was in the lion’s den, racking up laughs and applause:

Despite all that’s been written and said about Democrats “getting religion” in recent years and about religion in politics entering a post-religious-right era, it’s hard to imagine a liberal Democrat speaking at Liberty University today.

Read Kennedy’s full address here.

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.