Given a political problem that began with the words of Barack Obama’s pastor, Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech of March 18 had little to do with religion. The troubling comments of Jeremiah Wright, some of which I’ve reviewed, were typical of the far left, but they had nothing to do with religion. Yet the comments that Obama did make about religion are worth a look.
For what it’s worth, I thought Obama’s speech was masterful. The people still mad about his affiliation with Wright never would have voted for Obama, anyway.
I was surprised to hear Obama make such a strong statement regarding the motives of terrorism in the Middle East:
[Wright’s view wrongly] sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
After describing where Wright went wrong, Obama then discusses what he appreciates about the man:
[Wright] is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth — by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Obviously if people want to voluntarily care for the sick, the poor, and people with disease, they are free to do so. But Obama believes that these Christian policies should be imposed through political force. He named four main policy issues in the speech: health care, education, jobs, and the war. His policies are typical of the left; he wants to expand federal political control of health care, education, and employment, even though existing political controls are the cause of problems in those areas. (Obama’s plan to socialize medicine would disproportionately harm the very people he claims to chamption.) For decades the left has been promoting what is essentially a secularized and coercive version of the Christian ethos. The only difference with Obama is that he is explicit about the religious connection.
Nevertheless, the policies that Obama promotes, however much they violate individual rights and economic liberty, remain separable from religion. That’s more than can be said for some of the policies that John McCain endorses.
5 thoughts on “Obama’s ‘Perfect Union’ Speech”
Obama: [Wright] is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith [… in … ] a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth — by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services [….]
AA: […] Obama believes that these Christian policies should be imposed through political force. […] he is explicit about the religious connection.
Nevertheless, the policies that Obama promotes, however much they violate individual rights […] remain separable from religion. That’s more than can be said for some of the policies that John McCain endorses.
Because of my interest in gaining a method for choosing candidates, I want to make sure I understand your criterion for selecting (or not selecting) a candidate.
Are you saying that if one religious candidate supports political positions (e.g., welfare) shared by the secular left, you might vote for him, but if a religious candidate supports positions (e.g., teaching “intelligent design” in governmental schools) uniquely held by some religious people, you would oppose him?
This post was not intended to offer a case for selecting one candidate over another. However, last month I did offer some reasons for selecting Obama over McCain, even though neither choice is a good one.
I only now realize that your Feb. 1, 2008 article on Obama’s view of faith-based welfare also provides helpful information.
Tentatively I have come to the conclusion, suggested in my first post, that A is preferable to B:
A. A candidate agrees with all the principles of Christianity (for example) and wants to impose the socially appropriate ones (shared by the Left) onto society, but rejects any financial or institutional ties to any particular religion.
B. A candidate agrees with all the principles of Christianity (for example) and wants to impose them all (whether ontological, epistemological, ethical, or political) on society as specifically religious doctrines–e.g., teaching Intelligent Design in governmental schools because the Judaeo-Christian Bible (for example) says that is the way to go.
The difference is between (1) someone who wants to impose bad ideas which might be supported philosophically, and (2) someone who wants to impose bad ideas which can only be supported theologically.
The choice is ugly but meaningful.
Thanks for the opportunity to begin to clarify these issues.
Laughlin’s last comments contain a few problems. Obama’s policies are not “socially appropriate,” nor are any policies that would violate individual rights. Yet there is an important distinction between policies that can arise from a secular base (e.g., the abolition of slavery, a good policy, or forced wealth redistribution, a bad one) versus policies that can only arise from a religious base (e.g., the prohibition of abortion or tax-funded teaching of creationism).
It is not a requirement of the separation of church and state that a candidate “rejects any financial or institutional ties to any particular religion.” Instead, a candidate must pledge not to institute any religion or religious doctrine through political force.
To violate the separation of church and state, a candidate need not seek to enforce “all the principles of Christianity” in politics, but to impose some onerous religious doctrine or doctrines through political force.
Yet we cannot merely look at candidates A and B in a vacuum. We must consider social trends, party politics, and other matters.
You’re the first site I’ve seen to point out that Obama’s reference “radical Islam” is really quite unusual (and in a way, impressive), particularly for someone on the left.
The speech was a masterful presentation of the case for everyone joining together to support government programs. I’m wondering what its long term impact will be.
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