Obama: Noise Theology And Smart Politics

March 4, 2015 Nemes Politics

President Obamas statements, last week, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast were theologically sound and politically smart. In spite of this, his comments set off a storm of criticism from conservative critics who took him to job for both his faith and his politics. While I can not read their hearts, their rhetoric was so predictable and so extreme, that I presume some were triggered by a mix of blind ideology and anti-Muslim animus, combined with a tinge of bigotry. More to the point, the Presidents critics are just plain wrong– theologically and politically.

What President Obama stated was so extensive, it bears duplicating:

… [We] see faith being twisted and distorted, made use of as a wedge– or, even worse, in some cases as a weapon … We see ISIL, a ruthless, ferocious death cult that in the name of religion, lugsperforms unspeakable acts of barbarism … claiming the mantle of spiritual authority for such actions.

Humankind has actually been facing these concerns throughout human history. And lest we get on our high steed and think that this is unique to some other put, keep in mindkeep in mind that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed horrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our house country, slavery and Jim Crow all too oftenfrequently was validated in the name of Christ …

So this is not special to one group or one faith. There is a tendency in us, a wicked tendency, that can pervert and misshape our faith …

… we ought to [for that reason] begin with some fundamental humility … Our job is not to ask that God reactreply to our idea of fact … [And] we need to speak out versus those who would abuse His name to validate oppression, or violence, or hatred with that intense certainty.

The President was unwavering in his condemnation of ISIL, while at the same time recognizing that at the root of their wicked ideological background is the sin of blind certainty, through which this group, and those like it, effort to validate their actions by, in impact, enforcing their will on God. The remedy is humility, coupled with an understanding of our own failings– lest we, too, fall under the trap of big-headed certainty.

Theologically, all this is rather sound. However latter-day Pharisees were outraged at the Presidents require humbleness and his acknowledgment of the times we have failed to live up to the suitables of our faith.

In response, one Republican leader described Obamas says the most offensive Ive ever heard a president make in my life time … He has actually upset every thinking Christian in the United States … Mr. Obama does not think in America and the values all of us share. A Southern Baptist leader termed the Presidents words a regrettable effort at wrong-headed moral comparison recommending that instead of meddling in faith exactly what the president ought to do is supply a moral framework … and a clear approach for beating ISIS. He continued: The wicked actions he mentioned were plainly outside the moral parameter of Christianity and were fulfilledmet frustrating moral opposition from Christians.

These criticisms were but a rehash of the GOPs talking points that were used after President Obamas Cairo speech. Then, too, he was implicated of producing what his critics called an incorrect moral equivalency in between our opponents and us and insulting America, with not too subtle reminders that he was not like us.

The President has not lacked his protectors, specifically those who supported his theological view. However as much as I valued his understanding of value of grounding our faith in humbleness, the President is not theologian in chief. He is, above all, a political leader whose duty is to protect the national interest of the United States. And it is on this basis, and not on theological grounds, that I discovered the way President Obama framed his opinions to be not just wholly supportable, however extremely vital.

The reference of the Crusades and the Inquisition was not a historic throwaway line. Nor was it directed solely at an American customer base that feels no obligation for these old actions. Because these events specify part of Islams encounter with Western Christianity, acknowledging them is an essential method to start the conversation with Muslims. Simply as in earlier speeches when the president kept in mind other times when we have failed to live up to our perfects– as in our use of abuse, or Guantanamo, or the criminal offenses of Abu Ghraib– it is a method of stating to Muslims I am hearing you, now listen to me. This is diplomacy, at its ideally.

Preaching at Muslims about their failings and countering this with the pretense of our perfection is not a way to start or have a discussion or to produce alliances. If we listen thoroughly to the discourse taking puthappening in the Muslim world, we discover that they scoff at our claims of maintaining our values. They ask, exactly which values do you indicate: backing Israels displacement and oppression of Palestinians; the war on Iraq; the abuses of prisoners; supporting lawbreakers of human rights when it serves your nationwide interests?

If we desirewish to have an honest conversation of how we work together to address a common danger– in this case, the danger positioned by ISIL– is it not best that we begin by eliminating the barriers to that discussion? For those who do not get that easy point, its called excellent politics or sound diplomacy.

On the other hand, if we give up to the Presidents critics, we can act like the Pharisees arrogantly feigning perfection. We can sit atop the pedestal we construct for ourselves damning others, while commending ourselves. Weve tried that before and found that when we did we were talking to no one however ourselves. We might have felt self-validated, but we were extremely alone in a world our actions had actually made more unsafe.

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