March 31, 2008

Is God talking to you TOO, Senator Obama?

Filed under: Uncategorized — kerry @ 2:23 pm



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Is God talking to you TOO, Senator Obama?

Sorry, folks. I don’t know about you but I’VE HAD MY FILL of the religiously insane.

Barack Obama: “Committed Christian — Called to Bring Change”
Are there differences between Mike Huckabee’s and Barack Obama’s overt political appeals as Christians?
Glenn Greenwald
Jan. 21, 2008 (updated below – Update II)

Mike Huckabee has been widely criticized for his overt religious appeals to win votes. One of the most criticized aspects of his campaign was a television ad he ran in Iowa and South Carolina pointedly describing himself as a “Christian leader”:

Today, Greg Sargent posted a brochure which the Obama campaign is distributing in South Carolina which seem to include religious appeals at least as overt and explicit as anything Huckabee has done. The center page of the brochure proclaims — in the largest letters on the page — that Obama is a “COMMITTED CHRISTIAN,” and includes three pictures of Obama, all of which show him praying or preaching in a Church, and also includes a fourth picture: of the interior of a Church with a large cross lurking in the background. The page also says that Obama is “guided by his Christian faith” and quotes Obama saying: “We do what we do because God is with us.”

That same page prints Obama’s views “on the power of prayer,” and – using the same language George Bush has frequently used as a signifier to evangelical voters — says that Obama is “Called to Christ,” “Called to Bring Change” and “Called to Serve”:

Similarly, the front page of the brochure shows Obama in a chin-on-hand contemplative posture and underneath, it reads: “Answering the Call.” The last page shows two more pictures of Obama in Church, proclaims him again in large letters to be a “COMMITTED CHRISTIAN,” and describes how he “felt a beckoning and accepted Jesus Christ into [his] life”:Sargent speculates that the brochure is an attempt to counter the false whispering campaign increasingly being circulated in South Carolina (by whom, we should find out) that Obama is a Muslim. That very well may be, but the brochure seems designed with a far broader purpose: namely, to signify to South Carolina’s many Christian voters that Obama is one of them and therefore should have their vote for President, much the way that Huckabee sought to court the evangelical vote that was so critical to the GOP Iowa caucus.Leave aside whether what Huckabee and/or Obama are doing is inappropriate or not. Given how much religion has been infused into our politics, especially our Republican politics, I didn’t really think that anything Huckabee was doing was particularly unusual. It seems more like a mild, natural extension of the direction in which we’ve been headed for some time. That, for the moment, is not the issue.

Clearly, there are major differences between Huckabee’s views on the role of religion in government and Obama’s, as evidenced most recently by Huckabee’s call for the Constitution to be amended to comport with God’s will on abortion and homosexuality. Obama has no such positions (and I agree with both Pam Spaulding and Andrew Sullivan that Obama’s speech yesterday at Ebenezer Baptist Church was courageous and, in several important respects, admirable in the extreme).

But in terms of the propriety of their religious appeals for votes, is there really any meaningful difference between the two campaigns? Is it possible to criticize Huckabee for inappropriately exploiting his status in Iowa as a “Christian leader” — as many, many people did — while believing that Obama’s hailing of himself in South Carolina as a “Committed Christian” is perfectly fine? What’s the difference?

UPDATE: For all those angrily objecting to the notion that Huckabee and Obama are the same: nobody is arguing that they are. At least I’m not arguing that, as I think I made quite clear.

Instead, I’m focusing solely on Huckabee’s explicit religious appeal for votes, which conveys this message: “Like you, I’m a Christian; my Christianity is central to who I am and how I will lead; and therefore, as a devout Christian, you should vote for me for President.” Huckabee was criticized extensively for that appeal. Does anyone doubt that this same message is at least part of the brochure which the Obama campaign is circulating in South Carolina? Regardless of the numerous, significant differences between them, how can one be criticized while the other be defended for employing what seems to be the same tactic?

UPDATE II: Hordes of Obama supporters are claiming in comments and elsewhere that this brochure was nothing more than a perfectly innocent attempt to counter the whispering campaign that Obama is a Muslim. As I indicated, I think that probably is one of the purposes, although there would seem to be lots of other ways to do that other than by creating something this overt. If Obama supporters are really intent on denying that part of the purpose here is to appeal to Christain voters by emphasizing Obama’s “COMMITTED CHRISTIANITY,” I suppose there is no way to persuade anyone otherwise.

But I do think this question should be answered: the “Obama-is-a-Muslim” whispering campaign has been around for a long, long time — more than a year ago, it made national headlines. If the primary purpose of this flier — as Obama supporters insist — was simply to rebut that false claim, why didn’t Obama distribute this Christian brochure to Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada? Why is it only the heavily Christian South Carolina Democrats who received it? Didn’t he want to rebut the Muslim claims in other states besides South Carolina?

Finally, just to underscore the point (again), I’m not arguing that Obama has done anything wrong here. As I said, I thought much of the criticism of Huckabee for making overt religious appeals was overblown because that’s become the norm for our political culture. My point is simply that, with regard to this specific tactic of appealing to voters based on shared religious beliefs, Huckabee and Obama seem to be engaged in more or less the same exercise, and therefore, it’s irrational to criticize one while defending the other. Atrios makes the same point in a slightly different way.  

SeeObama’s brochure @


  1. Hmmm, how is this that much different than Hillary Clinton saying “faith saved her marriage”[1] or telling CBN, “I believe in the father, son, and Holy Spirit, and I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions in my years on this earth.”and “I think the whole Bible is real”? [2]

    For that matter, both Mother Jones [3] and Barbara Ehrenreich [4] have covered Hillary’s connection to a secretive right-wing Christian group inWashington known as The Family or The Fellowship run by Doug Coe.

    Hillary’s connection to The Family is more worrisome to me than Obama’s to his church.

    [1] Fox News,2933,278012,00.html

    Comment by RS Janes — March 31, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

  2. Kerry, concerning your remark:

    “grimgold , The government cut funding for upkeep on the dams in New Orleans, therefore they were not up to the standards they should have been. The government had been warned but ignored it. I hold the Cheney/Bush incompetent dictatorship responsible for the tragic, catastrophic results that followed.”

    The fact is that the federal govt did not properly build those levees in the first place, then ignored the warniings. It is not GW and Cheney that are at fault here, no matter how much you cherish any excuse to pound them. The fault lies with the Army Corps Of Engineers years before the GW administration.
    What should have happened is that the levees projects be put out for competitive bid to private enterprise, then built. This way the chances are far greater it would have been done properly. The Federal Government should get out of the levee building business entirely, especially as we have seen the results of their work.
    Our govt as presently structured is obviously the most wasteful, dishonest way to do almost anything.
    The sign the Katrina people should have been holding up would read: “Help me! Get the federal governmnet out of my life!”

    Comment by grimgold — March 31, 2008 @ 7:35 pm

  3. The fact, which you choose to ignore remains, as illustrated in the photo of the thread you are responding to, (NOT THIS THREAD!) Stupid and his clone John ignored the plight of American citizens in the life and death situations of Katrina to play with a guitar and eat birthday cake. Now that’s really “pretzeldential”! But that is only one in a long, long list of criminal neglect and raping of funds for the safety and security of Americans the slimy bush administration is guilty of. SO MUCH FOR HIS “COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE” BULLSHIT!

    The cheney/bush admin was warned about the levees and as usual they ignored anything that did not pertain to funding their oil war.

    Now just where do YOU think the funding for levee building and upkeep comes from, little green men from space?

    The cheney/bush admin does not ALLOW bidding for contracts but hands them to their thieving, criminal cronies. I thought everyone knew that by now.

    “The sign the Katrina people should have been holding up would read: “Help me! Get the federal governmnet out of my life!”

    Your statement above is about as cold and insensitive as anything I have heard come out of the mouth of old mama Bush and her “beautiful mind”!

    Comment by kerry — April 1, 2008 @ 10:59 am

  4. Grim,
    Don’t you dare try to blame the Army Core of Engineers when more than half of their resources were allocated to Iraq.

    Those men and women know how to get things done. They came out to our reservation in the late 90s to install basic services after we were denied by the utility companies. Phone and electicity lines were built in a circle around us so that no competitors could realisticly get through. If your spouse had a heart attack you would have to drive 20 miles to get to a phone, so we sued and the Gov’t agreed.

    The Army Core of Engineer’s were hardcore highly trained building-machines who completed all the work in 2 weeks when private companies claimed it would take years. I’m a professional builder myself and the ACoE are who I would trust with life or death projects.

    There are lots of major cities around the world that are below sea level and rely on levees. Tell me which ones are entrusted to inefficient private companies.

    Kerry’s right about government interference in Katrina recovery efforts. My mom was a Red Cross volunteer who was put in charge of her area because of her organizational experience. It was chaos and lots of food and water were turned away. I’m not sure what Bush’s FEMA was doing, but its priority was not saving lives.

    Comment by Danger Bear — April 1, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

  5. Thank you very much Bear, but I’m afraid that anyone who could make a statement like grimey made about the “help us” sign is too far gone to be reached with any humanitarian thoughts or reasoning.

    I have never known anyone from The Army Core of Engineer’s but I used to know a lot of CBs. Construction Battalion, they had a training camp in the Los Padres National Forest area not far from where I went camping every Summer. The guys were fantastic.

    My Jeep broke down way far off the beaten trail and miles up a fire trail. Both the starter switch and the clutch plate. Fortunately a couple hours later two deputies came driving up looking for some missing hikers. They were not equipped to tow me out but sent the CBs to get us.

    The CBs came back about an hour later with a weapons carrier and towed us back to camp, dropped us off and took the Jeep to their compound. They made a clutch plate from scrap metal, told me not to shut off the ignition unless I was on a hill and could get a running start on the way home, a 9 hour drive. They told me the plate would get me home and it did. I left the ignition on when I got home, went into the house to call the Jeep mechanic, unhooked my trailer, drove two blocks and had to be towed the rest of the way. When those CBs said it would get me home, that is exactly what they meant. LOL They all got a kick out of it when I wrote and told them what happened and for several years after I was invited to their yearly ball which was held in the area I lived until I moved far away and lost contact. It was my experience that the CBs took extreme pride in their ability to live up to their “can do” reputation and I have seen first hand the efficiency of The Army Core of Engineer’s when I lived in another country, although it was not on as personal level as I had with the CBs. Both are expert in doing the impossible with whatever they have or can scrounge up, not only their lives but the lives of their comrades in arms depend on it!

    Comment by kerry — April 1, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

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