I’ve been watching over the past few months as President Obama has stepped up his public display of religiosity, using increasingly Biblical language and heading more frequently and more publicly – with walks across Lafayette Park – to church.
I was in particular taken aback Feb. 2 when, during his appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama appeared to be reaching directly into the Bible for justifications and guidance for his policies.
He implied that Jesus would approve of his tax policies and found passages in the Bible that supported his financial reform law and various spending initiatives.
Have a look.
Imagine if Bush said he was rifling through the Bible to find suggestions for public policy?
Well, using Scripture in this way has not always been Kosher with Obama.
Take a look at the first several minutes of this video capturing his appearance in 2006 at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference in Washington, DC. Quite a different attitude.
A few choice quotes:
Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles . . .
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.
Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.
Spoken like a man who did not yet know much about the people outside Chicago he would need to win a national election.
Just a scant few years ago, Obama wasn’t looking for votes in places where many people can be found in churches clinging to their Bibles.
In 2006, he didn’t understand them. In 2008, he didn’t need them. But in 2012, he does.