Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Obama and religion

American secularists. Try bringing up god in relation to politics, and watch them bristle. And for good reason, too — did you see what the Christians did to the place once they got in power? We'll never get our bond back.

Expect a nuclear allergic reaction from reading them this passage (and others) from Barack Obama:
And during the course of that sermon, I was introduced to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed and that if I placed my trust in Christ, He could set me on the path to eternal life.
Ideally, a rational thinker would be in the White House. Someone who knows how to think critically, and who knows the difference between evidence and not-evidence. (Which disqualifies Grandpa McCain.) But until that day, we're stuck with either a politician who panders to religion, or (worse) a politician who actually believes it. Obama comes uncomfortably close to the latter.

But maybe we're not all sunk. Consider the situation we faced over here in Australia with Kevin Rudd, leader of the center-left ALP. From the outset, he made it clear that not only was he a believer, but that he didn't intend to abandon faith to the Right, and that his religious beliefs were going to inform his politics.

At the time, I found this inappropriate. Australia's secular! Couldn't we just let the right-wing have religion, and then the grown-ups can get on with the work? But of course, I voted Labor. (Well, Secular, with preferences to Labor.) And lo and behold, Labor did turf out the Liberals, and there was much rejoicing.

And then what did Rudd do when he got into office? He ratified Kyoto, he apologised to the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal Australians, and he introduced legislation to dismantle Workplace Agreements (which allow employers to pay you less than scale if you 'agree'). He sent Navy ships to monitor Japanese whalers, for Pete's sake! And that's just the first 100 days. Not a bad start.

Everyone picks and chooses out of scripture. As a credit to his character, Rudd picked and chose parts of the Bible that happened to correspond to not being a moralistic cretin. The Religious Right loves Deuteronomy because that reflects what they like — especially hating on gays. Rudd's more of a Sermon on the Mount kind of guy.
But if our starting point in this debate is supposed to be Christianity (and therefore a Christian view of morality), then my challenge to the Coalition is as follows: isn't our preparedness to feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless a moral value; isn't our preparedness to respond humanely to those who seek refuge in this country from political oppression elsewhere a moral value; and is not our response to the 1.5 billion people around the world in abject poverty also a question of moral values?
Obama's not as gung-ho on the separation of church and state as a Democrat ought to be (a bit like Rudd), but he does agree that faith has been hijacked (as does Rudd). He has reached out to non-believers. His rhetoric seems more inspirational than doctrinal. I think (or perhaps just hope) that Obama might be more a Rudd-style Christian, and less a Huckabee-style one.

I can live with that, at least until the coming Glorious Age of Rationalism bursts upon us.


  1. As for GAR, don't hold your breath. The states are still a feared of the Gods.

  2. Obama's 'home pastor' sounds kinda nutty.

    from New Yorker article on Michelle Obama:

    'The other Chicago connection that dogs the Obamas is Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., their pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ. Wright, who drives a Porsche and references Bernie Mac and Terry McMillan in his unorthodox sermons (“Take what God gave you and say, ‘In your face, mediocrity, I’m a bad mamma jamma!’ ”)...'In portraying America as “a Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies and outright distortions,” Wright promulgates a theory of congenital separatism that is deeply at odds with Obama’s professed belief in the possibilities of unity and change. Last year, Trumpet Newsmagazine, which was launched by Trinity United and is run by Wright’s daughter, gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to Louis Farrakhan, leading to accusations that Wright was anti-Semitic.'

    Also isn't Obama big on Niebuhr? Isn't he the 'just-war theory' guy? I've kinda had enough of rationalizing war in the White House.

  3. America is fearfully religious, and the degree of belief is much like some Wahabbi or Twelver Islamic nation...for real.

    The hypocrisy that occurs due to this considerable religiosity is profound and mind boggling.

    Hill Cumorah is not far from me and for Mormons, old Moroni said "Oh shit! Look at all them Lamanites!" up there. Trust me, religiosity is not limited to the Middle East or India!

    Politicians will pander to the religious communities as any con man would. There is big money to be extracted from the faithful and multi millionaire preachers are about a dime a dozen in the states.

    A rule of thumb is, if you see an area with a hard life style, like a coal mining region, or a hardscrabble existence area where money is limited, comforts are few and boredom is the norm you will find an abundance of preachers.

    there is a truism about parasites and foolers being preachers...when you stop being controlled by them you are free, but in the states you need to be cautious who you talk about free thinking with...the harangues from the fundys are loud and really tiresome.


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