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Invoking Jesus: Obama v. Bush

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That's right.

You're not surprised, because you've heard the cable TV pundits and news reporters rend their garments over this, worrying about how the current president is tearing down the wall that separates church and state. Haven't you?

[i'm OK with there no longer being a Politics forum, but introducing a revamped Religion Forum presents a fine line to walk when the major religion stories of the week are dominated by what the president has to say about religion to the Muslim world, or by how often he likes to use Jesus' name in his domestic speeches. That said, if mods want to delete this post, I won't take it personally. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.]

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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That's right.

You're not surprised, because you've heard the cable TV pundits and news reporters rend their garments over this, worrying about how the current president is tearing down the wall that separates church and state. Haven't you?

Sure, but Obama is far less "exclusionary" in his religion-speak and acknowledges other schools of thought. That might have something to do with the media reaction. But then, the right wing media has been doing enough weeping and gnashing of teeth about that to cover for MSNBC and CNN(wasn't a writer for World Net that suggested after the Cairo speech that Obama might be a secret Muslim?).


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Sure, but Obama is far less "exclusionary" in his religion-speak and acknowledges other schools of thought. That might have something to do with the media reaction. But then, the right wing media has been doing enough weeping and gnashing of teeth about that to cover for MSNBC and CNN(wasn't a writer for World Net that suggested after the Cairo speech that Obama might be a secret Muslim?).

Refresh my memory. I don't remember Bush being all that exclusionary in what little religion-speak he offered. I always sensed a Reaganesque civil-religion thing with Bush.

So you follow right wing media? I try to avoid it myself, as I do left-wing media right now. That leaves me very little Fox (Special Report and Neil Cavuto) and NPR. Not really a fan of the three nets either.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Sure, but Obama is far less "exclusionary" in his religion-speak and acknowledges other schools of thought. That might have something to do with the media reaction. But then, the right wing media has been doing enough weeping and gnashing of teeth about that to cover for MSNBC and CNN(wasn't a writer for World Net that suggested after the Cairo speech that Obama might be a secret Muslim?).

Refresh my memory. I don't remember Bush being all that exclusionary in what little religion-speak he offered. I always sensed a Reaganesque civil-religion thing with Bush.

I don't disagree that he kind had the vague civil religion thing going on, but what I was addressing is Obama seems more willing to give face time to other faiths that Bush did not. Bush would make comments about Islam that often seemed more like "covering his bottom", Obama's quoting of other Holy Texts comes across as some who

So you follow right wing media? I try to avoid it myself, as I do left-wing media right now. That leaves me very little Fox (Special Report and Neil Cavuto) and NPR. Not really a fan of the three nets either.

Neil Cavuto can be pretty right wing on his show. :) I keep my ear to the ground...I have plenty of friends who are conservatives, so I get links to articles, and it is hard to miss some folks. :)


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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I'm thinking that the Muslim understanding of "messiah" (in reference to Jesus) is actually very close to the Jewish take on same, for the most part. Jesus is greatly revered by Muslims, as is his mother. To speak against either is *not* a good idea - among Muslims.

Certainly, and I think the current administration finds that common footing better than the previous administration did.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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e2c wrote:

: It sure is a nice break from the "America is a Christian nation" rhetoric that's so prevalent in many circles (media, churches, etc.).

Perhaps, but must that sort of rhetoric REALLY be replaced by such nonsensical Obaman rhetoric about the U.S. being one of the largest Muslim nations in the world, etc.?

Oh, and thank you for indirectly making a point that I was going to make in reply to Christian: It's not the frequency of Jesus references that matters to the media etc., it's what those references MEAN. And if you water Jesus down so that he means anything to anyone (and anything to any religion), then the media etc. won't have a problem with that.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It's not the frequency of Jesus references that matters to the media etc., it's what those references MEAN. And if you water Jesus down so that he means anything to anyone (and anything to any religion), then the media etc. won't have a problem with that.

Indeed. And it is easy right now to not have a problem with a Jesus that says: Islam and Judaism both correctly describe the Messiah. This is classic American civil religion.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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FWIW, according to Wikipedia's 'Islam by country' page, the U.S. has about 2,350,000 Muslims.

That is less than Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, C


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I don't think anybody here has vilified Muslims. Unless you can point out specific examples...?

As for "slamming" Obama ... well, if he's going to say stupid things about religion, there's no reason NOT to call him out on that.

And of course it arguably DOES fall within a discussion-of-religion forum's mandate to discuss how religion is being, um, discussed. Even by politicians.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Folks, I'd relax about the political aspects of this one mere thread. It is about faith and was clearly opened as taking a political angle on an aspect of faith. We may not have a Politics forum, but exploring a political angle is not out of bounds and, if my careful reading of early The Change threads is correct, perfectly acceptable. If anyone doesn't want to talk of politics in a political context concerning faith, one is free to avoid the thread.

Certainly, and I think the current administration finds that common footing better than the previous administration did.

I'm not so sure. Obama has different baggage than Bush had, or any Republican president would have. Bush, like any evangelical is quite comfortable talking about faith issues in general, but with a media either hostile or clueless of conservative christianity, conservative presidents usually tread lightly. As I say, Obama has different baggage to be sure. Media hostility to aspects of his base is not one of them.


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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I do recall liberals expressing dismay over Obama's willingness to embrace religion on the campaign trail and afterwards... and I have this general issue of "media criticism" (for areas of faith or otherwise) to be a bit of a moving target. Before the election I was hearing we would never hear criticisms from the media or comedians of Obama. When I notice that I have seen plenty of media criticisms and comedians making Obama jokes-it becones "That doesn't count! Are they calling him stupid???"

Even as a Christian I found it hard to connect to Bush on a faith level. His faith kind of came across as a guy who never really thought about spiritual things. Jesus was "magical". Ultimately, unless you have a theocracy, applying Christianity as a governmental leader will be problematic.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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As I say, Obama has different baggage to be sure. Media hostility to aspects of his base is not one of them.

It will be interesting to watch this baggage being unpacked over the next few years. So much of Obama's God-talk is a total throwback to Tillich-era Protestant Liberalism which was repristinized in West Wing Christianity. American theology over the last 10 years has become pretty critical of this heritage, and it will be interesting to see where the chips fall in public discourse.

For example: The emergent/ing church that embraces Obama grew out of theology overtly critical of Obama's theological background. How will this all pan out?

Even as a Christian I found it hard to connect to Bush on a faith level. His faith kind of came across as a guy who never really thought about spiritual things. Jesus was "magical". Ultimately, unless you have a theocracy, applying Christianity as a governmental leader will be problematic.

I had the same issue with Bush, but I have kind of an equal and opposite reaction to many of Obama's statements. As per the thread, there is a functional equivalency to their invocation of Jesus along opposing party lines.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: . . . exploring a political angle is not out of bounds and, if my careful reading of early The Change threads is correct, perfectly acceptable.

Yes. If we can explore "political angles" in relation to film and music, etc., then it would seem we can explore them in relation to "faith matters", too. Provided we stay tethered to the "faith matters", etc.

MLeary wrote:

: For example: The emergent/ing church that embraces Obama grew out of theology overtly critical of Obama's theological background. How will this all pan out?

That's a fascinating question.

Meanwhile, Obama's long-time spiritual and racial mentor, Jeremiah Wright, just told a reporter that "them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me," right around the time that Obama was publicly proclaiming that "we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms". Of course, Obama cut all ties to Wright just a year ago or so, but again, the fact that Obama was so closely linked to Wright for so long does make you wonder just how "vigilant" he has been about such matters.

(FWIW, I am aware that "anti-Semitism" is not necessarily a "faith" issue. On the other hand, Jeremiah Wright, as the pastor who "led Obama to the Lord" and set the spiritual and social context within which Obama spent virtually his entire political career to date, IS very much a "faith" issue.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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