In 2006 B. Hussein Obama decided to display his brilliant knowledge of Biblical hermeneutics in the public square. Recently, James Dobson, took issue with Obama.
Here I interact a little with the speech that Obama gave that Dobson criticized.
“While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do – some truths they need to acknowledge.
For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.”
First off B. Hussein Obama fails to tell us how he understands “the separation of church and state.” He seems to imply the understanding that the 1st amendment guaranteed that none of the States could have an established church. Quite to the contrary the 1st amendment only held that the Federal government could not impose a established church on the States. The phrase “Separation of Church and State” is nowhere found in America’s founding documents. It was a phrase lifted from a letter by Thomas Jefferson that was largely forgotten until the mid 19th century, only being appealed to as having some kind of nebulous force of law in a Supreme court decision in the 20th century.
Second, B. Hussein Obama is correct in identifying the Baptists as the ones who introduced the heresy of putative religious neutrality into the American framework. Now we must admit that this putative religious neutrality had a sanguine effect in America for it allowed Protestant Christians (and a few Roman Catholics) to build a civilization and a culture in America without internecine religious warfare. What this 18th century thinking allowed was for a Nation to be theologically Christian without being denominationally prescriptive. This innovative thinking worked for as long as it did in these United States in part due to the reason that there was so much room to spread out. Plenty of space goes a long way towards tolerating your wacky Methodist or Congregationalist or Presbyterian neighbors.
However, admitting that a Christian Nation could work in the context of denominational pluralism is a far cry from admitting that a Multi-Cultural Nation can work in the context of religious pluralism. It is one thing to build a Christian culture that is elastic and flexible enough to include Campbellites, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Quakers, Dunkers, Congregationalists and other assorted denominational nuts and bolts, it is quite another thing to build a culture that can contain and survive Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and God only knows what else. The former arrangement allowed for a “sweet spot” where all of the different Christian faith traditions could find common ground and stand together. The latter arrangement will not and can not yield the same kind of “sweet spot,” because there is such an inherent anti-thesis in the varied religious expressions.
So B. Hussein Obama is right in his Baptist bit analysis but he is wrong for suggesting that the application still applies.
Third, note how B. Hussein Obama injects slavery into this argument. Is Obama subtly suggesting that those who disagree with him on this issue have a slave master mentality?
“Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”
Unfortunately this is probably true. The implications of this, in my estimation, is that the nation will only be able to be held together by force. A multi-religious, multi-cultural nation can only be ruled in a strong arm fashion since no natural bonds of commonality can be achieved. Where there is a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation there can be no common literature to bind people, no common music to bind people, no common worship to bind people, no common traditions to bind people, and no common worldview to bind people. All that is left is force of arms with the State becoming god.
The dangers of sectarianism are far greater than even B. Hussein Obama realizes and his solution to fix sectarianism by feeding and coddling it will only increase the dangers.
“And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.”
Answer to the questions in order that they are asked above.
1.) The Bibles
3.) All of them (I think Obama is implying the Bible contradicts itself here)
4.) We could go with Ephesians or Philemon that teaches that slavery is ok. Obama hasn’t been reading his bible.
5.) The dietary laws were eclipsed in Acts 10. Obama hasn’t been reading his Bible.
6.) Was God being cruel and unreasonable in requiring this?
7.) Matthew 5-7 must be read against Romans 13. Obama hasn’t been reading his Bible.
Look, the obvious problem is that B. Hussein Obama hasn’t spent any time reading the Bible. All of these objections could have come from a bunch of high school Sophomores. And all of them are reasonably answered with just a little work. But Obama doesn’t want answers. All he wants to do is throw dust in the air and try to confuse the issue. Confusion serves the Obama agenda by allowing him to suggest that since the Bible is unclear good Christian people can vote for him and support his interpretation of Scriptures since his interpretation is as good as anybody else’s.
“This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”
1.) Why do the demands of Democracy over-rule the demands of God? Who voted to make Democracy God so that its demands trumps all other demands?
2.) For Biblical Christians all of their religion-specific values, are, by definition, universal values. Obama seems to assume that the gods have only parochial concerns that are constrained and limited to the faithful. When the God of the Bible communicates a value it is communicated as universal.
3.) I quite agree that Christian arguments should be amenable to reason, but the question that infidel like Obama and McCain have to answer is, “what standard will be used to adjudicate ‘reason’.” The Christian is glad to subject his convictions to argument and to make them amenable to reason. The question really is whether or not the infidel will submit to arguments that are universal and reason that is accessible to all.
4.) Christians must beware being snookered into accepting standards for reason that are amenable to pagans. The pagan will insist every time that his autonomous standards for what constitutes “reason” must be accepted unilaterally. We must remember that if we start with the infidel’s presuppositions we will end with their conclusions.
5.) Obama is correct that we cannot simply “evoke God’s will,” as if that will settle an argument in a pagan culture. We must indeed show why abortion (to use his example) is a universal evil. But in the end we need to realize that it is precisely because God’s will is what it is that we argue the way that we argue, just as it is the case that when people like Obama argue that abortion is a universal good they are arguing the way they are arguing because their god’s will is what it is. All argumentation begins and ends with some will of some god.
6.) The last sentence in the blockquote above is pure nonsense. In a multi-religious and multi-cultural society the ability to find a least common denominator consensus evaporates. Dobson was spot on to bludgeon Obama on this score.
Secondly, on this score, if Christians “have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all,” then why don’t infidel have to have to explain why abortion doesn’t violate some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all,” before it is implemented?
Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.
Again, Obama assumes that the standards of a pluralistic democracy trump the standards of the God of the Bible. What not R2Kt infected Christian would say this?
Second, it is clear from the quote above that Democracy, or some form of it is Obama’s God. Democracy does not allow for compromise on his principle that traditional believers must compromise. When Democracy speaks then followers are expected to live up to its edicts regardless of the consequences.
Dobson was right to attack Obama. If B. Hussein Obama’s interpretation of the constitution partakes of a fruitcake quality it is only because Obama himself is fruitcakey. Though Dobson was right to say that Obama is dragging Biblical understanding through the gutter he should be more concerned that this kind of ignorance actually convinces people.