By Any Other Name
Roger Kimball links to an interesting post on President Obama's religious beliefs, based on an interview he gave on the subject to Cathleen Falsani in 2004. The president-to-be explained the various religious influences in his life and gave the impression that although he was Christian it was of no particularly definite flavor. "I don’t think as a child we were, or I had a structured religious education."
I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I’m not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I’ve got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others....
Just how indefinite that belief was came through when the interviewer asked, "what is sin?" And Obama answers that it is "being out of alignment with my values." In a very literal sense Obama saw himself -- though he did not use the term -- as a kind of source of religious truth. In another part of the interview he emphasized the almost apostolic sense of his preaching:
OBAMA: The most powerful political moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth. I can feel it. When I’m talking to a group and I’m saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I’m just being glib or clever.
INTERVIEWER: What’s that power? Is it the holy spirit? God?
OBAMA:Well, I think it’s the power of the recognition of God, or the recognition of a larger truth that is being shared between me and an audience.
Ed Klein the author of The Amateur a book on Obama, claims that Obama's religious beliefs were even more malleable than he lets on. He says Jeremiah Wright told him that he made it "comfortable for him [Obama] to accept Christianity without having to renounce his Islamic background." On an interview on Hannity, Klein said:
Klein: About ten days later he made this secret meeting with the Reverend Wright after he’d already denounced him and begged him not to speak any further. Now we know this is true not only because the Reverend Wright told me so but because the Secret Service logs logged in this meeting. So we have confirmation that it actually took place.
Hannity: Now so they offered him — and this is all on the tapes that you have with Reverend Wright — Reverend Wright said this, so Reverend Wright, am I reading this correctly — is angry at Obama?
Klein: Reverend Wright is more than angry. He is absolutely fulminating. He feels that he’s been thrown under the bus by a man who he mentored for 23 or 24 years. You know we — all of us — complain about the fact that Obama sat in that church and listened to that hate speech for 20 years. But what we don’t realize is that even before he became a member of the church he was very close to the Reverend Wright who was like a second father to him and who was his spiritual advisor, his political advisor and in fact the Reverend Wright told me on tape that Obama came to him and said “I need some spiritual advice. I don’t know exactly who I am.”
And the Reverend Wright said — and this is on tape — “well we know your Islam background and you have that. But what you need now is some coaching on Christianity.” And I asked the Reverend Wright: “did you convert him from being a Muslim to a Christian?” And he said, “well I don’t know if I could go that far. But I can tell you that I made it comfortable for him to accept Christianity without having to renounce his Islamic background.”
Hannity: And this is all on tape?
Klein: This is all on tape.
Clearly the many names of God are but different aliases for the one truth belief from the bosom of the One. Why does any of this matter? One reason, as the Bookworm blog argues, is religions in various guises are always pushing their doctrine in the public space although they may never call it that. While they characterize themselves as nondenominational, secular or even atheist they are nevertheless embarked on a serious mission to impose a belief system on the public through government instrumentality. The Bookworm includes this clip from the move The Contender to illustrate how atheism might to all intents and purposes be another kind of religion.
The Bookworm inserts this commentary on the monologue.
I stand for a woman’s right to choose.
[So does the President, and he stands for making everyone in America, including religious institutions and religious worshippers that are doctrinally opposed to that "right," pay for women's choices.]
I stand for the elimination of the death penalty.
[This has not been an issue for our president, although he does seem uncommonly fond of drones.]
I stand for a strong and growing armed forces because we must stamp out genocide on this planet, and I believe that that is a cause worth dying for.
[Here we have an early articulation of R2P -- responsibility to protect. In the Progressive canon, our country is not worth fighting for and dying for. Genocide -- provided that those on the receiving end of genocide are neither Christians nor Jews -- is the real reason a Progressive United States should have a military. In this regard, it's ironic that president Obama not only presided over two wars, but started a third.]
I stand for seeing every gun taken out of every home. Period.
[Three words: Fast and Furious.]
I stand for making the selling cigarettes to our youth a federal offense.
[Because, really, who needs education, the marketplace of ideas, and free will?]
I stand for term limits and campaign reform.
[Obama hasn't said much about term limits, but he's made it clear that his idea of campaign reform is to stifle corporate speech, despite the fact that corporations are aggregations of citizens and pay taxes; and that his personal contribution to campaign reform is to campaign more than all the other presidents since Nixon put together.]
And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism.
And -- the Joan Allen character might have added, though it would have spoiled the effect, that she would stop at nothing until all these things were enforced by law. How many of them are already enforced by law or are soon to be? How's that for religious freedom?
Thus, simply because people call themselves atheists and proclaim they restrict their worship to the Chapel of Democracy in no wise proves they don't have a doctrine to sell. The First Amendment provision that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...." is not really about religious doctrines. It is about limiting power. In particular, it is about preventing factions from using government instrumentality as an means of coercion so some people can force others to align to their set of values.
There was a time when the Joan Allen character's reference to the Chapel of Democracy would have sounded alarm bells among immigrants who had latterly fled the very thing -- established religion. Thus American government was conceived in the first place as an institution of limited purposes, established for specific and enumerated reasons lest it become precisely what the Allen character proclaims it to be: a chapel of a political faith.
So although it cannot be helped but that all politicians will be have some belief system, Kimball's interest in Barack Obama's beliefs has some basis. Ought we be wary about President-prophets; or suspicious of people who want to take away your guns, who make you drink organic water or force you to pay for their medical procures or employ the Armed Forces to enforce their moral imperatives all over the globe just because they do not wish to "sin" against their values?
That is precisely the objection the Left makes to a "Mormon President" Romney. That he will enforce upon an unwilling public the practice of consuming Jello and wearing white polo shirts. And you can concede the point. But they are utterly blind to the perils of a electing Bishop of the Church of Progressive Belief, or whatever it is they call it, to the Oval Office. Yet the words of Shakespeare remind us that a thing may have many names and still be the same thing.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
The same would be true for religion, and you would think people could figure that out for themselves.