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According to Barack Obama, religious faith must be used to "tackle moral problems" but not "divide the nation." Since when have "moral problems" not divided the nation? Do the words "slavery" and "segregation" ring any bells? Then again, Obama also tries to suggest that religion only divides people when it is "hijacked." It's implausible that he's so ignorant as to truly believe such things, which means he's telling people what they want to hear, however disconnected to reality, for the sake of votes.
"Doing the Lord's work is a thread that runs through our politics since the very beginning," Obama said in a speech to United Church of Christ's Iowa conference.
Source: Sioux City Journal
Doing "the Lord's work" is a thread that runs through Christian churches; in secular politics, however, politicians are expected to do the work of the people. What an individual politician thinks their god wants is ultimately irrelevant — or at least should be. It's true that many politicians in the past have resorted to justifying their positions on scriptures or claims about their god demands. The fact that others have done it in the past, though, is not a good reason for continuing the practice today.
If a politician cannot use evidence and reason to justify their positions and must resort to private religious revelation, they should give up politics and enter the ministry. A liberal Democrat who advances a political agenda on the basis of claiming to be doing "the Lord's work" is no better than a conservative Republican doing the same thing.
"And it puts the lie to the notion that separation of church and state in America means somehow that faith should have no role in public life," Obama said.
Continuing with the theme of channeling the ghost of Jerry Falwell, Barack Obama here is misleading people by playing on multiple definitions of the word "public." There is "public life" in the sense of what people can easily see in public (as opposed to kept hidden in private) and then there is "public life" in the sense of the government. The separation of church and state does not prevent people from expressing or practicing their faith in public, but it does prevent the integration of their personal religious faith into the government.
If Barack Obama in any ways means to say that his personal religion should be integrated into the government of all citizens — including those who reject his religion — then he is in effect denying that church and state should be separated. Ultimately, it means that he wants his church integrated with the state — after all, there is no "religion" in the abstract and disconnected from any particular theology and traditions. There can only be specific theology, specific beliefs, and specific traditions — all of which exclude other theologies, beliefs, and traditions.
"...somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked," Obama said, drawing applause from the delegates. "Part of it is because the so-called leaders of the Christian right are all too eager to exploit what divides us. ...I don't know what Bible they're reading. But it didn't jibe with my version," Obama said.
Faith started to drive people apart? Religion has always divided people — there has never been a religion which has not excluded some people and insisted that some beliefs or practices were better than others. Barack Obama is, in fact, engaging in exactly the same sort of division which he decries. When he says that others who disagree with his personal theology are not reading the same "version" of the Bible as he, then he's little different from the leaders of the Christian Right who have expressed much the same attitude: Christians who adopt the wrong political positions aren't following genuine Christianity in the first place.
Barack Obama is turning out to be the perfect politician: he decries certain tactics while using precisely those tactics in order to make himself appear superior to the people whom he emulates.
He said all Americans of faith should focus on solving major issues that he argues have moral dimensions. "My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won't be fulfilling God's will unless I go out and do the lord's work," Obama said.
Excuse me, but if someone is running for President of the United States, shouldn't they be seeking to do work on behalf of and in the interests of the citizens of this nation rather than the alleged interests of their alleged god? If the desires of their god are so important, why not enter the ministry?
Anyone who puts the wishes of their god — or to be more specific their interpretation of what they think their god is telling them it wants — ahead of the interests/needs of the people is saying that their god is sovereign rather than the people. This, in turn, is contrary to the basic principles of a democratic republic.
Anyone who says to the people “my god is sovereign, you are not,” is quite simply not fit for elected public office. They are a theocrat, not a democrat, and there is no room for theocrats in the government of a liberal democracy. I frankly don't care what Barack Obama thinks his god's will is and don't want him abusing the power of elected office to impose his ideas about his god's will on the rest of the population.
We do, at least, have an excellent question which can be put to Barack Oabama so long as he insists on parading around while swaddled in religious rhetoric: “who do you believe exercises political sovereignty over our nation: your god or the people?”
"The Iraq war is not just a security problem. It is a moral problem," Obama said. "These are the challenges that test our conscience as Americans, a people of faith."
Just in case readers were wondering, we now have an idea of what Barack Obama meant by "moral problems." It would appear that everything involves "moral problems" — which is probably correct. Most to all political issues involve moral issues at some level, but what this means is that when Barack Obama insists on applying his personal religious beliefs "only" to tackle moral issues, he's being disingenuous because he means to use his religious faith on pretty much every political matter that comes up.
Anyone who adopts such an arrogant attitude and deceitful statements in an effort to inject their private religious beliefs into government not only doesn't deserve my vote, but is in fact unfit for public office. I object just as strongly to someone basing public anti-poverty laws on the basis of private religious revelation as I do to someone basic public anti-abortion laws on the basis of private religious revelation. Using religious scripture and revelation as a basis for public policy is anti-democratic because it’s a means for shutting off public debate.
When a politician like Barack Obama says “we should do this because it’s what god wants,” they are trying to force responders to argue “no, my god wants something else.” That’s an easy argument to lose and, moreover, is the wrong argument to have. People who correctly answer “so what — we should do what’s in the best interest of the community and what’s consistent with our principles of liberty” are easy to paint as anti-god/anti-religion which, in the current climate, automatically causes their position to be discounted no matter what it is.
Basing public policy on private religious revelation is best way politicians have found to avoid answering hard questions about or making hard arguments in defense of their proposals. The people deserve better — they deserve politicians who can make reasoned, public arguments on behalf of their positions. Unfortunately, that may require a people who can understand reasoned arguments.