Play the right guitar chords and worshippers in megachurch America will automatically start singing these words: "Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above. With wisdom power and love, our God is an awesome God."
So Barack Obama caused raised eyebrows when he turned to that page in the evangelical songbook during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
"We worship an awesome God in the Blue States," he said, in the speech that made him a rising star. "We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. ... We are one people."
Obama has mixed gospel images and liberal politics ever since and his ability to reach pews without frightening the skeptical elites is crucial to his White House hopes.
Thus, all kinds of people paid close attention last week when he spoke to the 50th anniversary convention of the United Church of Christ, a small flock that has proudly set the pace for liberal Christianity. At the heart of his speech was his own spiritual rebirth two decades ago, when he responded to an altar call by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
"He introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ," said Obama. "I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.