June 25, 2007

Is it "nice" to see Obama say "Faith got hijacked"?

John Amato writes that "It’s nice to see Obama say these words," but to me, it's entirely distracting to use the word "hijack," especially if the problem you're talking about has nothing to do with what we saw on September 11th but is simply the way some Christians take the conservative side on various issues and, failing to content themselves with mere belief, participate in politics. According to Obama, Christianity should move a person to political action -- Obama himself was speaking to a church congregation -- but only on the progressive side.
Mr. Obama used his 45-minute speech to recall the church’s and many others’ proud history of involvement in the American Revolution and the abolition and civil rights movements.

“But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together,” Mr. Obama said. “Faith started being used to drive us apart. Faith got hijacked.”

He attributed this partly to “the so-called leaders of the Christian right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us.” Yet he said that in traveling around the country he had sensed an “awakening” of an interfaith movement of “progressives.”
From these excerpts, Obama's famous rhetoric looks entirely self-contradictory. If he's trying to stimulate liberal Christians to political action, he too is using faith to "drive us apart."

ADDED: Here's the text to the whole speech. Excerpt:
But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us. At every opportunity, they’ve told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design. There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich. I don’t know what Bible they’re reading, but it doesn’t jibe with my version.

But I’m hopeful because I think there’s an awakening taking place in America. People are coming together around a simple truth – that we are all connected, that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.
So: People are "coming together around" the ideas espoused by the Democratic Party.
... Our conscience can’t rest so long as 37 million Americans are poor and forgotten by their leaders in Washington and by the media elites. We need to heed the biblical call to care for “the least of these” and lift the poor out of despair. That’s why I’ve been fighting to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and the minimum wage. If you’re working forty hours a week, you shouldn’t be living in poverty. But we also know that government initiatives are not enough. Each of us in our own lives needs to do what we can to help the poor. And until we do, our conscience cannot rest.
Clearly, he is using religion as a basis for political commitment. How is this not "divisive" in almost exactly the same way as the Religious Right? I'm not saying it's wrong. We have two parties. We don't need to cure that division. In fact, political actors like Obama ought to define the division. But to simultaneously define and decry the division is incoherent. There's a sleight of hand in Obama's rhetoric that I'm going to make it my business to point out.

UPDATE: How does Andrew Sullivan -- who is so skeptical of "Christianists" -- see it?
[Obama] is Bush's natural successor, and threatens to make secular politics even more elusive in a fundamentalist age. He also threatens, if he pulls it off, to be a transformational candidate, turning American politics into a battleground primarily between those who believe the Gospels mandate an expansive welfare state and those who believe they mandate government's moral regulation of human birth, death and sex. For my part, I believe Jesus had no politics, let alone the big government politics of our time. And the attempt of both right and left to coopt his truth corrupts faith and politics simultaneously.
Ah, and Sullivan purports to know "his truth." At least he's got the humility -- or is wily enough to feign the humility -- to say "I believe." And he does take what I think is the best of the Christian positions: that it's Christian to keep religion out of politics. But the urge to gain political power is so strong, and religion is so effective. It's hard to get the candidates to leave it alone.

67 comments:

George said...

Obama's interested in hijacking votes from Edwards and Clinton.

The article Drudge ran noted that Obama belongs to one of the smaller Protestant denominations (can't remember which) It permits gay clergy.

If I were a reporter covering Obama, I'd see if could get a, er, straight answer out of him on that issue.

Jeff Burton said...

I wonder where the chicken littles who are always hollering about "theocracy." As you say, the value of (or threat posed by) religiously motivated politics depends on which party it benefits.

jane said...

Not quite JFK, if his message is: Ask not what your religion can do for you; ask what you can do for your religion to make it more Progressive Democrat.

Troy said...

Of course Obama's next paragraph was on the multiple examples where Christ, Peter, Paul, etc. manipulated the levers of Roman gov't on behalf of the poor. Rome's problem was the lack of a proper social security safety net. The Jews' problem with Christ was his lack of a good policy platform.

The problem with the social/progressive Jesus is that it is idiotic for one and -- more importantly -- jibes with NOTHING from the accounts of Christ's life. The good Samaritan had to help the victim himself -- not pass it off to 9-11 operators. The rich young ruler had to voluntarily give up his riches. Devotion to Christ is not shown through a system of confiscatory taxes.

Far left Democratic politics is more totalitarian and controlling than any religious cult -- without the polygamy and bad sneakers. We will make you do our version of the right thing or else!

TMink said...

Personally, my faith transcends my politics, and I am very skeptical of people from any political persuasion who justify the one with the other.

My spirituality certainly informs and guides my political thought, but to claim that I have it right and am pursuing a political agenda in a Godly manner and you or you are not strikes me as hubris or worse. The impressive Christians I know, who lead lives that are attractive and different, seek to conform to Scripture rather than run for office.

It seems that Obama is stating "Their faith guided politics is sinful, ours is blessed and Godly."

Now where is my wallet, I want to keep it close and closed with that kind of talk going around.

Trey

AJ Lynch said...

"An interfaith movement of progressives" ??

The term interfaith movement is itself an oxymoron. It diminishes an individual's choice of religion.

Interfaith is usually an annual event where different comunities celebrate shared values. It's not a movement to one kumbaya vague, anything goes amalgam of beliefs.

TM Lutas said...

I live this problem as I live under the most outspoken anti-war bishop in america. We disagree profoundly on the Iraq war (http://www.snappingturtle.net/jmc/tmblog/archives/006203.html) but the differences between his activism and mine are a difference in the facts, not in religious doctrine. And that's how it should be, with prelates proclaiming the faith and applying it to the facts of the world as it stands at the moment while their flocks do the same.

Somehow, I don't think that's what Obama has in mind.

Patrick said...

C.S. Lewis put it well when he noted during an argument against an official Christian political party that Christ gives us values but does not give us policy. He tells us we should help the poor, not how we should go about doing that. The conflation of values and policy seems, to me, to be one of the biggest problems with religious politics. It is hard for someone to accept that I might share the same values but have a different idea how best to address them.

Also too it seems odd to me to hear him say religion has been hijacked only recently. Religion has always been hijacked by politics in one way or another, as the Christian Roman emperors used to their advantage and the Bishop of Rome used to help his rule over Europe during much of the Middle Ages.

More recently I think of my alma mater, a respected Christian college, whose founder was extremely religious and saw his religion as the prime motivation for his fiery zeal for the abolitionist movement in the mid 1800s. The issues are different in our era, but the involvement of religion in politics certainly isn't anything new.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Usually in these situations when liberals start speaking of religion, and the newspapers start reporting it, we are always given a kind of progressive political activist Jesus, as opposed to the Jesus of conservatives who focuses on sin and redemption.

But as Troy suggests, the activist Jesus is all imaginary. That is, Jesus himself rarely went about fighting the system in place, nor trying to change it from within. He did not argue for masters to free their slaves, nor debate whether what was given to Caesar ought to be given to Caesar.

He spent the bulk of his time-from Biblical accounts- wandering about telling people not to sin. He didn't even heal all the suffering he was capable of healing (so much for the healthcare activist Jesus).

His primary purpose seems to have been to get man to focus on believing in him, and by virtue of that act, becoming closer to God and the good God can inspire. That is, change a man's heart first, and then the world changes. The creed of Obama is to change the world first, without much self examination into the nature of the heart.

What liberals invariably want is a Christianity that is all action and task, and largely at the expense of personal faith and introspection.

They would rather be washing Jesus' feet with water infused with organic herbs from peasants in Oaxaca than to sit still and listen to the words of Jesus.

You cannot have a Christianity of acts of kindness, as the good we should be doing should also be guided by the good that God has designed or called us best to do.

Both a fireman and a baker can volunteer to bake cakes for a fundraiser for the poor, but who might be the better person for the task? And perhaps while you are off baking and feeling good about yourself, Disneyworld is burning down and your skills as a fireman are sorely missed. All the good that can be done is not necessarily the good that any particular Christian should be doing.

Obama might feel Christianity has been hijacked, but the actual truth is that many have neglected Christianity and are now taking it up as a tool in a political fight.

It's the difference between using Christianity for the goals of politics, or using politics for the aims of Christianity.

Kedar Bhatia said...

Is he really using the word 'hijack' to evoke 9/11 imagery?

I doubt it. It seemed to me like he was just commenting (hypocritically) on the way the religious sword is being swung around in American politics.

Dukedirk said...

As long as he's talking about the "so-called leaders" that's ok.

Now if he was just talking about "leaders", that'd be different...

vet66 said...

Obama makes me nervous. Anyone with a name seperated by one letter (B-S) from the worlds most notorious Islamist fanatic, Osama, should not use words like hijack against any western religion.

If he doesn't understand this, or the effect his using this language has regarding how he is perceived, is out of touch with his upbringing. If he was elected President, I suspect a resurgent CAIR, ACLU and pandering to militant Islamic culture invading our institutions.

Obama needs to put these worries to rest! Unless he is pandering to the muslim voters like Chappaquidic Kennedy is pandering to illegal immigrants.

Roger Sweeny said...

One of the great under-reported stories of recent years has been the religious left.

If you go to a divinity school affiliated with any of our major universities, you would think there is little else.

Religion there tends to be pretty politicized: environmental sin and redemption, "social justice", "peace" (except where it is trumped by social justice).

Graduates go out and find their parishioners are to their right, but they do what they can--often not much, at least in the short run--to bring them around. The denominational bureaucracies are often staffed by the more political graduates.

Doyle said...

The difference between the religious right and religious left is that the religious right tries to impose their religion on the whole country, which it insists is inherently Christian. Religious liberals like to keep their religion separate, sorta like the Constitution had in mind.

And "hijacking" is a nice if unsubtle way to hint that there are more than one variety of dangerous religious fanaticism.

Biff said...

I was more interested in Obama using the "church’s...proud history of involvement in the American Revolution and the abolition and civil rights movements" as an example of religion "bringing us together."

The first example led to the breakup of an empire, fueled antagonism between the US and Canada, and contributed to the imperial war between France and England, while the second example led to the US Civil War. Certainly religious views were used to justify positions on both sides of the civil rights movement as well.

Yep, religion sure brought us all together.

I have to admit that I find the continuing sloppy use of language and logic in Obama's public speaking to be disconcerting. I guess I expect to roll my eyes at almost every politician's rhetoric, but Obama's seems particularly superficial and slap-dash.

Fat Man said...

Check Obama's home church's web site. (Sorry I do not have the URL). Then come back and discuss the proper relation between religion and politics.

Internet Ronin said...

Mr. Obama used his 45-minute speech to recall the church’s and many others’ proud history of involvement in the American Revolution and the abolition and civil rights movements.

“But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together,” Mr. Obama said. “Faith started being used to drive us apart. Faith got hijacked.”


While I agree that all those mentioned in the first paragraph were worthy causes, I do believe that all of them were also once viewed by significant numbers of people as driving people apart. Mr. Obama conveniently overlooks the one other major movement in American history that was largely lead by organized religion, that of temperance, and ultimately, prohibition.

Internet Ronin said...

Doyle, I'm wondering where you think the black Baptist churches fit in.

AlphaLiberal said...

What a disingenuous post on the Senator's words!

You bear false witness to Senator Obama with this red herring:
"According to Obama, Christianity should move a person to political action -- Obama himself was speaking to a church congregation -- but only on the progressive side."

He never said that, or anything like it. He said:

- Religion has been used to divide people, by the right wing. You duck this point in your attack because you can't argue with it.

- The Religious Right has made a priority of some very un-Christian policies, such as tax breaks for the rich. Again, you don't address his point. Do you think Jesus preached that we should give more to the wealthy? (got a link? ;)

Typical, disingenuous Althouse. You don't address the merits of an argument but, instead, construct a strawman argument.

That's not intellectual, it's dishonest.

mcg said...

Do you think Jesus preached that we should give more to the wealthy?

So when Jesus counseled the rich man to sell all his posessions and give the money to the poor, do you believe he meant giving it to the government?

But thanks for letting us know that you believe tax cuts constitute "giving more" instead of "taking less".

Paul Zrimsek said...

Render unto Caesar that which is anybody's. Caesar will spend a suitable proportion of it on God's behalf.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I kid, of course. Obama's real message here isn't anything to do with religion at all; it's "shut up and agree with me."

PatCA said...

As far as divisive religion, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

AlphaLiberal said...

Someone said:
"So when Jesus counseled the rich man to sell all his posessions and give the money to the poor, do you believe he meant giving it to the government?"

I think Jesus was silent on who the middleman could be. Jesus was not "anti-gubbermint."

Giving someone a tax break is giving them more money, yes. It's pretty simple; there's a status quo, then there's a policy change (taxes reduced on wealthy and investment income) and then there's a result: Wealthy people have more money in their pockets.

Put all the lipstick on it you want, it's still a pig.

mcg said...
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mcg said...

What utter nonsense. That it takes such gymnastics to suggest that the government is in the business of giving instead of taking proves the weakness of your position. If a thief breaks into my home weekly and rifles through my valuables, and then suddenly stops, by your logic I'm supposed to thank him for what he's given me.

mcg said...

Well heck, while we're doing gymnastics, perhaps it would do well to point out that the current tax system is more progressive, not less, after the recent tax cuts. So the government gives to the rich so it can take more from them!

Kirk said...

AL,

Since the income tax is (still, regrettably) steeply progressive, the top 50% of taxpayers pay virtually all the taxes, and bottom 50% pay for all intents and purposes none. (The progressivity continues as you go up the scale, but I'm too short of time at the moment to try to google the particulars.)

I think that it's a very bad situation for the nation that literally half of the citizens are not contributors, and that it's no moral outrage if Congress decides to tax the upper percentiles a bit less than they currently do.

Kirk said...

Oh, and Paul Z. is spot on as far as the real significance of Obama's speech goes.

AlphaLiberal said...

Kirk:

That's nonsense. You leave out the payroll tax, raised ostensibly to pay for Social Security and raided on a bipartisan basis since. This is a regressive tax, a tax on work and labor and phases out very early.

Beyond that, I doubt your numbers. But this isn't a government finance thread. It's a faith in politics thread.

mcg said...

Oh, but A.L., I do agree with you that Jesus did not stake out an "anti-government" position. But nor was he pro-government. What I am doing here is challenging your notion that tax cuts for the rich are non-Christian, but I concede that they are not necessarily Christian either.

Dewave said...

but is simply the way some Christians take the conservative side on various issues and, failing to content themselves with mere belief, participate in politics.

Big double standard here. Why should someone who believes in something, like universal healthcare or a flat income tax, have to 'content' themselves with 'mere belief' instead of trying to make their ideas become reality?

A person's political inclinations are shaped by his worldview. Everyone has a worldview. A religion is just a worldview that answers the question "Is there a god", either by saying 'yes' or by saying 'no'.

Therefore, obviously, a persons religion will shape how he perceives the world and what political positions he will take

Internet Ronin said...

So, A.L., what do you think about black churches organizing opposition to gay marriage?

mcg said...

On taxation: this is one of those cases where it depends on how you state the numbers. It is true that the graph of total taxation (payroll+income) as a percentage of income isn't strictly increasing with income, thanks to the payroll tax ceiling. I for one believe that should be rectified in some way or another. I'm not fond of simply eliminating the ceiling, but I concede that any change is necessarily going to pinch someone.

However, it doesn't change the fact that total tax revenues come primarily from the wealthy. According to the CBO, eliminating the earnings cap on payroll taxes would have raised $110 billion in additional revenue in 2006, while the income tax produced $1.04 trillion, or almost ten times that, in 2006.

AlphaLiberal said...

Perusing comments and Ann's conclusion, that Obama is guilty of the same practice he accuses others of, I stunned by her blind eye for the politicization of religion by the right.

There is no equivalent politicization of religion by Obama or any other Democrats. Althouse is really comparing apple seeds and elephants and saying they are the same. Her post is lazy and dishonest.

- There are no liberal religious broadcasting empires along the lines of the TV and radio corporations of the religious right.

- With the likely few exceptions, no-one in the liberal religious I'm aware of is trying to deny conservatives their faith. It's commonplace for the right to call liberals "anti-religious" and much worse because they don't follow Republican policies. (See: Coulter and her fans in the top echelons of the Repub Party).

- There's no religious litmus test used by liberals anywhere akin to the abortion issue manipulated by Republicans.

- Democrats are NOT using government to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to our religious base. Bush has opened up the spigot from the federal treasury.

- Democrats, as a rule, want to defend the freedom of religion for all. Republicans only want freedom of religion for their narrow base of supporters.

- The religious right is very open about using the power of government to force their doctrine upon all. (See: "People who don't understand what 'freedom' means."

- There is nothing like the right wing religious political machine on the left; the open partisan alliance with the Republicans from so-called "religious leaders." This in terms of scale and audacity.

This list goes on and on. Once again, Althouse is dealing with a well-established public issue by leaping to bash the Democrat and by being silent on fault on the Republican side, of which there is much and which she appears to be woefully ignorant.

Kirk said...

AL,

I left out the payroll tax because the Bush "tax breaks" you were whining about didn't involve them.

However, you shouldn't take this to mean I'm in favor of it, not at all. If you want to join me in calling for the abolition or privatization of Social Security--brother, here's my right hand!

Internet Ronin said...

Well, A.L., FWIW, I think your comment is lazy and dishonest, because almost all of those things you accuse the right-leaning churches and their friends of doing, the left-leaning churches and their friends have done in my lifetime (and some are still doing it). You choose to turn a blind eye to it, I guess.

Me? I'd prefer all churches get out of the politics business. I'd be very happy if churches immediately lost all tax preferences the minute a single one of their preachers or priests so much as mentions politics from the pulpit, in their newsletter, or in other public appearances.

AlphaLiberal said...

mcg, the issue of faith in politics is important and deserves attention, so I don't want to distract. Thanks for your reasoned responses.

On the wealthy paying a greater percentage: they take a great percent of the fruits of our society. Plus, taking that money from the poor means taking money from someone's essentials budget as compared to someone else's luxury budget.

"tax = theft" is a red herring that sounds like some rich kid's whine.

And, on the social justice side, much wealth these days comes from knocking down wages and benefits (even sick days are being reduced these days, as if being sick is a luxury). The rich are doing damage to our society by the way they take their wealth when they throw people out of work, cut benefits and otherwise treat their employees like spare parts to be cast off at the first opportunity.

Troy said...

AL -- nearly the entire social agenda of the left is a secular version or perversion of late 1800s Christian social gospel pablum. The rest is cobbled from that other great secular religion -- communism and its little cousin socialism. The fact that churches buy into it highlights a weakness in the post modern church to pass the buck of dealing with the needy to the gov't. There's a reason the demographics in mainline denominations skews old and rich.

Saying the religious left is apolitical is laughably ignorant at best.

Internet Ronin: Prohibition is an embarrassment in the evangelical past (mostly). That torch -- for the worse has been passed to the nanny-state left -- no trans-fats, cigarettes, underage drinking, jaywalking, off-color words, etc. etc.... The lefts list of "Thou shalt nots" is longer than God's.

Troy said...
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AlphaLiberal said...

ronin, the sheer size of the right wing religious political machine dwarfs anything done in history. For Althouse to declare equivalence flies in the face of the facts.

Plus, please share with us the leftwing efforts to deny people their faith as we see on the right. (Note Republican leader Romney cozying up to hatemonger Coulter).

Show us where the left says "you're not really a Christian if you are a Republican". Our media is now filled with conventional wisdom that used to just be the claims of the lunatic right.

As a liberal Christian, I've disavowed organized precisely Christianity because it's become so politicized toward the Right. So it's a sore topic.

Troy said...

And IR -- I also agre with the tax exempt status. I had one preacher talk about tax policy from the pulpit. While I agreed in his substance -- I felt violated and irritated (I could've made Cowboys kick-off without a policy talk!). He was filling in for the Sunday and was never asked back (I can't say since -- I've moved away since then).

AJ Lynch said...

Mcg:

Re FICA - would you support a lifetime earnings cap? For instance, once a person has earned let's say $5MM in his lifetime and paid FICA on those earnings, he gets a get out of jail card and does not have to pay ever again? Would hit athletes pretty hard where they escape brunt today.

Internet Ronin said...

A.L., I don't give a lot of thought, or credence, to anything Ann Coulter says or writes. I've wracked my brain, and I can't think of anyone I know personally who's ever mentioned her except to denounce her. Ann Coulter is a one-woman circus freak show whose primary purpose is making lot of money any way she can.

As I said already, I wish all churches would get out of the business of politics or lose their tax preferred status. You only want the right-leaning ones out because you hate the fact that they out-organized the ones you like, such as the ones that issue political tracts about "social justice," to name but one hot-button issue.

aet2u said...

Mr. Barrack should read a little book by a John Hopkin's University historian entitled

Revivalism and Social Reform which very effectively demonstrates (and remains a historical classic) that the major social reforms of 19th century America were led by CONSERVATIVE Christians. I wonder if his campaign will continue to be marked by such ignorance statements which does not bode well for an Obama presidency but that is the case on many levels.

aet2u said...

Mr. Barrack should read a little book by a John Hopkin's University historian entitled

Revivalism and Social Reform which very effectively demonstrates (and remains a historical classic) that the major social reforms of 19th century America were led by CONSERVATIVE Christians. I wonder if his campaign will continue to be marked by such ignorance which does not bode well for an Obama presidency but that is the case on many levels.

AlphaLiberal said...

Troy sez:
"The problem with the social/progressive Jesus is that it is idiotic for one and -- more importantly -- jibes with NOTHING from the accounts of Christ's life. "

Riiight. this is what I'm talking about. To hear the religious right, feeding the poor, helping the sick, and social justice had nothing to do with Jesus.

To observe the conservative Christian agenda, Jesus spent all his time denouncing gays, along with any efforts to provide stewardship over the Earth.

Or maybe Jesus was just so adamant about busting unions, allowing large power to have more freedom (deregulation) and otherwise comforting the comfortable.

And preachers, like Pat Robertson, who seek to enrich themselves, often in unseemly and predatory ways, are following Jesus. Jesus who? I think you have the wrong one!

(Learn more about Pat Robertson's association with the brutal thug Charles Taylor).

Wrong on all counts.

mcg said...

AL: cool, now w're talking.

On the wealthy paying a greater percentage: they take a great percent of the fruits of our society. Plus, taking that money from the poor means taking money from someone's essentials budget as compared to someone else's luxury budget.

I am entirely in favor of progressive taxation for the very reasons you state. Indeed I very much appreciate the rebate portion of the Fair Tax system (though I am not convinced on its overall merits). Having said that I believe that every wagearner ought to be paying taxes, even if the amount is small. I think, frankly, that it's important for everyone at every income level to feel at least a little pinch from the government as an incentive not to support runaway spending.

"tax = theft" is a red herring that sounds like some rich kid's whine.

And equating a tax cut with a gift to the rich is no less whiney?

Well of course taxation is not theft. My intent is to expose the problem with a claim that the status quo sets some sort of moral zero point. I simply reject the idea that reducing taxation is somehow "giving" to anyone. The fact that a given rich person doesn't "need" the relief in some life-or-death sense doesn't change that.

And, on the social justice side, much wealth these days comes from knocking down wages and benefits (even sick days are being reduced these days, as if being sick is a luxury). The rich are doing damage to our society by the way they take their wealth when they throw people out of work, cut benefits and otherwise treat their employees like spare parts to be cast off at the first opportunity.

I'm going to accept your characterization of things for the sake of argument, and move instead to the remedy. I think we can look at countries like France and Germany as examples of what can happen if you put onerous regulation on those with the money and power to control employment. I think what their higher unemployment teaches us is that realistic governments frankly have to tolerate a bit of profit-motivated "cruelty".

And this seems like a good point to bring faith back into it. The primary reason Jesus's message was neither pro- nor anti-government is simple: because its focus wasn't on government at all, but on the individual. He said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for man to enter the kingdom of heaven---overturning the conventional wisdom of the time (and today!) which conflated material and spiritual blessing. But it would be inappropriate to believe we're doing that man any spiritual favors through confiscatory taxation and onerous regulation :)

So I return to my original objection, which was to your matter-of-fact claim that tax cuts for the rich are non-Christian. It might very well be that someone supports them for non-Christian reasons (i.e., to selfishly horde money), but I also think there are defenses that a Christian can rightly put forth as well.

Thorley Winston said...

I have to admit that I find the continuing sloppy use of language and logic in Obama's public speaking to be disconcerting. I guess I expect to roll my eyes at almost every politician's rhetoric, but Obama's seems particularly superficial and slap-dash.

Gee it’s almost as if he wasn’t as “bright” and “articulate” as the kid glove treatment he’s received thus far from the MSM would suggest.

Trevor said...

For added context, another interpretation: It is not an impossibility ("camel through the eye of a needle") that a rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven, instead it is that the rich man must humble himself (stoop like an unencumbered camel through a gate known as "Needle's Eye") if he hopes to be saved.

mcg said...

Trevor: thanks for that, it is very interesting. I do understand that passage in roughly that way, even without the reference to a gate. The context that follows makes it clear, esp. when Jesus says "with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Elizabeth said...

Trevor:

I've heard that alternative explication of the camel-needle story and think it has a lot of merit, but it actually came up in my church group recently and the facilitator pointed out that the text seems to indicate that Jesus' hearers interpreted it as an impossible statement rather than a difficult statement, since the immediately following line is:

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" (NIV)

Implying that they heard Jesus as saying Jesus as saying the rich could not be saved, not that it would be hard for them to be saved.

(Jesus then replies, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible," which admittedly one could argue is talking about salvation by grace rather than our own merit.)

Regardless of our exact interpretation, I think we're in agreement that Jesus posits the having of wealth as a hindrance rather than a help in entering the kingdom of God.

Kirk said...

AL,

"On the wealthy paying a greater percentage: they take a great percent of the fruits of our society. Plus, taking that money from the poor..."

OIC. You think we still live in a feudal society. Not much point having a discussion if that's your starting point, is there?

Internet Ronin,

"I don't give a lot of thought, or credence, to anything Ann Coulter says or writes."

Me neither, as a rule. She's just a skinnier, screechier version of Al Franken; who wants that on your side? At least half of what she says is completely indistinguishable from what a Soros-paid mole would say. Bleah.

Fen said...

Doyle: The difference between the religious right and religious left is that the religious right tries to impose their religion on the whole country

Hardly. The religious rights tries to impose its values on the whole country, same as your "religious" Left, ie. humanists, socialists, climate change priests, etc.

Trevor said...

That's more helpful context. Thanks, mcg and Elizabeth. Either way, I think you don't hear much about this aspect of Christian thought from the right as you do from the left in public discourse. What I see Obama saying is that, at least in part, he sees the Christian voter understanding a disconnect between 1) the Moral Majority version of Christianity that is obsessed with sex and Hollywood and Muslims and 2) the Jesus who espouses humility and charity (the love-kind and the fund-raising kind) and the "what you do to the least of them, you do to me" kind.

This isn't divisiveness. Unless you mean calling out a division between the piper (Falwell, Robertson, et al) from the people.

Troy said...

Fen...

Last time I checked -- the democratic institutions sought to impose through consensus and compromise policies based on their values. What exactly is wrong with that? "Faith-based" initiatives is too religious for many and not religious enouygh for many also. That being said -- the votes were there. If the Religious Right hijacked the democratic process with better organized phone calls, e-mails, etc. -- well.. that's the rules of the game. Go congregate with like minded individuals and organize. There are plenty of secular churches out there.

McG -- I completely agree with your tax comments. My Bible has many stories about rich folks who schemed their way to them (Jacob anyone?) and others about folks who worked their tails off (Hello Abraham). Jesus hung around many rich folks -- St. John was acquainted with Caiaphas the High Priest -- something a poor fisherman from Galilee most likely would not be so James too then, Joseph of Arimathea (sp.?), Zacchaeus.

Jesus said it was hard for a rich man to enter heaven -- not impossible. And since less than 1% of the world is wealthy at any given time (I'm not sure what Bureau of Labor Stats Jesus was using to determine wealthy) he wasn't talking about a huge portion of folks in any case. Most of us slum it with good old pride, lust, and envy -- the standard temptations.

TMink said...

Trevor, good posts, good points.

Thanks.

Trey

The Emperor said...

Wow, you're going to point out a politician's hypocrisy and inconsistency. How bold of you! Are you the first to do this?

Roger Sweeny said...

Wow, you're going to point out a politician's hypocrisy and inconsistency. How bold of you! Are you the first to do this?

And the alternative is ... just let it pass?

But he's such an inspiring story.

AlphaLiberal said...

McG, I had to attend to the job today and didn't have time to pursue our discussion. but I thank you for engaging on the issues.

I was a bit rushed and not able to put all my thoughts down as well as I might with time.

I do have qualms about the left rushing to mimic the right on faith and politics. But I'm happy to see Sen Obama say these things, which need discussion.

The Emperor said...

Roger,

The alternative is to do it without making a big pronouncement about how you are going to do it, as if no one else has ever done it.

William said...

But the urge to gain political power is so strong, and religion is so effective. It's hard to get the candidates to leave it alone.

Kind of like that ring, in that one movie about the return of the king. Hallelujah.

mcg said...

A.L.: I am not one of those people who assumes that someone is ducking debate on a blog thread just because they have to return to their real life. I too am happy with Obama talking this way; it throws a sort of gauntlet down and I'm find with that.

Roger Sweeny said...

The Emperor,

I just reread the post. She pointed out the hypocrisy, and then in the last sentence (before the update) said, "There's a sleight of hand in Obama's rhetoric that I'm going to make it my business to point out."

It seems to me she's doing it the say you want, no "big pronouncement about how you are going to do it, as if no one else has ever done it."

TMink said...

I get the feeling that many people think it is perfectly natural, acceptable, and even admirable to vote their conscience, so long as it is a secular or liberal Christian conscience.

Why is it deplorable for me to vote my Biblically informed conscience? Karma Sutra good, Gospel of Mark bad? Tibetan Book of the dead acceptable, Mere Christianity verbotten? Letter to a Christian Nation sacred, The Book of James profane?

Splain this to me please.

Trey

peter hoh said...

About the Sullivan post cited in the update: Did Sullivan mean to write "his truth" or did he mean to type "this truth"?

I suspect the latter, but I can't prove it. It seems to me that Sullivan has had a number of typos sneak through in the past week.

Ann Althouse said...

Peter: I think he meant "his," to refer to the truth of Christianity, Jesus' truth.