Democrats need to get religion and mean it, according to Sen. Barack Obama.
Obama took his party to task for ceding faith to the Republican Party at a speech in front of church and lay leaders at the National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
"If we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyes's views will continue to hold sway," the Illinois lawmaker said.
"Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith by politicians who come and they're clapping kind of off-rhythm to the choir," Obama continued. "We don't need that."
Controversial religious figure Jerry Falwell responded by saying that unless Democrats change their positions on gay marriage and abortion they don't have a prayer with conservative Christians.
"The issue has never been the genuineness of someone's faith," Falwell said. "The issue has always been the platform."
But not all conservative Christians are concerned only about gay marriage and abortion. Many are increasingly concerned about the environment and economic justice which could, some evangelicals say, open the door for a savvy Democrat.
"Evangelicals are a broad disparate group," said Bob Brendle, pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. "Rev. Falwell doesn't speak for evangelicals across America."
Obama said Americans want a deeper, fuller conversation about religion. He told "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts that he was not just talking to Democrats in his speech.
"We have this split inside our politics in which the Democrats oftentimes are perceived as having been reluctant to talk about faith and religion, partly because of legitimate concerns about separation of church and state," Obama said. "And Republicans are often perceived as being heavy-handed with religion when in fact I think most evangelicals are a lot more open-minded to a whole host of issues than people give them credit for," Obama said.
Still, many Democrats may wonder whether a fuller conversation about religion translate into more votes.