Sunday, May 11, 2008
Obama and God
For those of us whose infra red signal from our television remote controls don't emit only a straight beam of invisible light for Fox News (or as many see it, Fake News), the notion that Barack Obama is a Christian, and not a Muslim, is not news in the least. The Democratic front runner has made it plain that his Christian faith is a cornerstone of his political and personal makeup, and he wears it, as most politicians today know they'd better, out front and openly for all to see.
As noted by Ariel Sabar, a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor, Obama has had a clear view of his spiritual path ever since he gave his will over to god while kneeling beneath the cross on Chicago's South Side in the church of the now infamous Reverend Wright. Obama says, "I submitted my self to [God's] will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth."
Of course this Christian smell test goes over well for most Americans, of which 60% believe in the literal interpretation of the creation story in Genesis, and 75% believe in the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection story of the New Testament.
And since most African Americans are overwhelmingly Christian, they see Obama's Christian identity as being just as necessary for the candidate as a pair of lungs.
According to Sabar's article, "Barack Obama: Putting Faith out Front," the Illinois Senator "speaks of the church as an abiding force in American public life, from the Boston Tea Party through the abolitionist and civil rights movements. He suffuses his speeches with biblical allusions – 'I am my brother's keeper' is a favorite phrase. And he has cast his generation of black leaders as modern-day Joshuas, after Moses' successor, who led the Israelites to the Promised Land. "
Sabar's article also suggests that Obama "takes very seriously the numerous passages in the Bible that talk not only about poverty, but of people of faith taking God's words and extending them beyond the four walls of the church."
But even though the majority of Americans and African Americans are comfortable with Obama's Christianity, and some of the concepts of taking care of the poor are laudable goals to strive for, Obama and the rest of America have an ideological dilemma that not too many people are willing to address--namely, that an honest assessment of bible scriptures reveals a disturbing number of unsavory philosophies.
African Americans such as Obama blithely ignore scriptures that endorse both racism and sexism without any attempt to reconcile the passages' antithetical position to modern sensibilities.
For instance, 1 Peter 2:18 says, "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."
Ephesians 6:5-6 says, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart."
Other New Testament passages echo the same sentiment, and the Old Testament is replete with instructions on selling slaves (even one's own daughter) and rules on how to beat them within biblical specifications.
The bible's misogyny is as blatant as its racism (and yet Hillary Clinton wears the bible on her pant suit sleeve too). I am sure most modern women at least must wince when they read the following:
1 Corinthians 11:7-9:"For a man...is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head."
1 Corinthians 14:34-35: "...women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says, If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
Ephesians 5:22-24: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife...wives should submit to their husbands in everything."
1 Timothy 2:11-15:"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent..."
Titus 2:4: "...train the younger women...to be subject to their husbands."
The problem is clear. The bible, and by proxy, Christianity, has a poor under girding when it comes to issues of race and sex. In addition, the sort of change that Obama champions is also dismantled completely if we are to follow biblical instructions.
Consider how Martin Luther King and other members of the Civil Rights Movement would have fared if they gave credence to the following: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2).
This edict is repeated in 1 Peter where Paul writes, "....submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:13-14).
If Obama and other politicians insist on touting Christian and biblical values, then they have to admit that George Bush does not suffer from hubris, but is actually accurate and rational when he contends he was appointed by god rather than a shamefully biased Supreme Court. The War in Iraq, which Obama opposes, should be embraced as a punishment of the evil doers, as Bush et al suggest, and we should take a sheet from the Britney Spears political toilet paper by trusting Bush and delightfully wiping his Executive backside whenever he has crap to spread.
In all, Africans should happily return to slavery, women should give back the right to vote if their husbands demand it, and whomever is elected should be obeyed without question because he is obviously in power because of God, and not corrupt Diebold voting machines.
Of course, despite all the scriptures I have cited that paint Christianity in a not so flattering light, Christian apologists can cite scriptures that espouse equality and tolerance. But doesn't that just mean that the bible has two or three minds about issues that guide how we act as human beings, and if the bible is so scattered in its approach to basic rules of decency, then what good is it?
I am not so naive to think that any serious politician in the U.S. can get elected without passing the Christian compatibility test, but some of us must insist on an honest discussion about the bible and its role in politics. And if the bible is at odds with modern decency, then why do we keep insisting that it be used to elect our people to the highest office in the land?