Monday, February 04, 2008

Obama on Faith

Obama's two documents in his "Faith" part of the policy section of his website have to be two of the biggest jokes there are. Change we can believe in and Barack's faith principles are documents that you'll look and look through while finding only a few actual, concrete, examples of just what he means. The only concrete principles on "Obama on faith" relate to "Faith is a source of justice"....but you look at the source of three of the four statements (one was two statements combined into one), which is the "Change we can believe in" speech and you see that the original context was much less radical than the out of context quotes would have you believe. Which is sad because these vague paragraphs are the only concrete, or close to concrete, expressions of how Obama's faith works in action contained in the "Change we can believe in" speech.

So what does this very long speech consist of if it doesn't state just how Obama's faith principles translate out into concrete moral principles that can applied to real world situations? The speech can be summarized in a few sentences: it's not necessarily bad to be religious, liberals shouldn't be afraid of saying that they're religious, there's room for all sorts of religions in Washington and in the U.S. When it comes to actually describing both his own principles of belief, which he says people shouldn't be afraid of affirming, and telling how he derives universal moral principles from them, which he says people should do, and how he parts of his campaign derive their inspiration from these same moral principles there's a deafening silence.

The "Faith is a source of action for justice" section of "Barack's faith principles" includes this paragraph:

"Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality."

But if you look at the original context of the paragraph, which comes from "Change we can believe in" you see that it followed this one:

"Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of "thou" and not just "I," resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.

Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality."

That's much less gung-ho than the original paragraph, with the "Some of this is already beginning to happen" sentence taken out, standing on its own.

Just like the next citation:

"Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

It's one paragraph down from the the one above, but the bigger issue is the paragraph that follows it:

"Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It's going to take more work, a lot more work than we've done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration."

It's not a barnstorming religiously motivated movement that's happening, it's some tentative partnerships.

Moreover, directly contradicting part of his stated views is his uplifting "Government alone cannot solve all of our problems--we have an individual responsibility to be our brothers' keeper and our sisters' keeper"

:“And although government will play a crucial role in bringing about the changes we need, more money and programs alone will not get us where we need to go. Each of us, in our own lives, will have to accept responsibility - for instilling an ethic of achievement in our children, for adapting to a more competitive economy, for strengthening our communities, and sharing some measure of sacrifice. So let us begin. Let us begin this hard work together. Let us transform this nation.” - Presidential Announcement Speech"

Ouch. Tighten your belts, auto workers.

But, you may ask, is he supposed to say "Let's have government programs. Government programs are great"? No, but there are ways of expressing a progressive agenda that involves expanding government programs without saying this. Making the idea that "Government alone cannot solve all of our problems" central to this statement sends a signal about where exactly his policies are going to be going towards. No one is forcing him to say this. He's buying into the idea of big government liberalism being bad instead of trying to be a Voice for Change by justifying programs in ways that address the concern.

It gets better though. Although he says "but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart - a hole that the government alone cannot fix."

he comes up with this choice paragraph next:


"I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation's CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway."

Yes, who needs a civil rights division when you can have heart to heart talks with CEOs?

Which brings me back to the #1 statement in "Barack's faith principles"

"God is constantly present in our lives, and this presence is a source of hope.

Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope:"



Hope. Yeah. Got it. I get the hope thing. Maybe you should write some concrete principles.

"I believe in hope because I believe in change, and change gives me hope that the future will change in a way that hope indicates is possible. The hope of change is bolstered by the change in hope, and the hope of hope is fulfilled when the change of hope into a change driving hope changes the hope of the nation into a changed hope filled vision of hope."

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