Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama to Give Speech on Race

This is from a New York Times article on Obama's speech on race, to be given on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama has also pitched himself as a candidate who can attract religious voters back to the Democratic Party, one who speaks the language of the Bible fluently and testifies about what he says is the impact of Christianity on his own life.

“What better way to try to undercut the way he integrates faith and political vision than to say we should all be secretly afraid of his church?” said Jim Wallis, a left-leaning evangelical who has had longstanding relationships with both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, and who says that Mr. Wright has been unfairly caricatured in recent portrayals.

1. Speaking the language of the Bible should be distinguished from presenting a biblical worldview and ethics, something Obama does not do. Case in point: he is for the ongoing, unlimited carnage of abortion on demand. He would do nothing to limit is legality; he would do everything to fund it federally. And remember, there are six justices on the Supreme Court in their late sixties. Any appointees he would make would endorse Roe v. Wade.

2. Jim Wallis misses the point and begs the question. There is nothing wrong with bringing one's religious beliefs into politics, if this honors the American ideal of so doing. The question is how it is done. If a man sat under extremist racial teaching for twenty years, this should lead us to question how he relates his faith to politics. His church affirms "black values" as mentioned in a previous post. The Declaration of Independence affirms "unalienable rights" given by God to all. Martin Luther King brought that nation back to this commitment and said we had to "cash the check." Indeed. But he never appealed to "black values" against other kinds of values.

I make a prediction: Obama speech will wow the crowd with soaring statements on race, faith, and politics. But remember the man's history and don't get lost in emotion untethered from reason.


Tom Hinkle said...

How much are you getting paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign?

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

I am an unpaid political commentator! I find Obama more dangerous than Hillary because he will probably win the Democratic nomination. I am trying to talk people out of supporting him, especially Christians.

But if Hillary is the candidate, I will argue against her views. Count on that!

Nick Tobias said...

In other words, you are a Republican throwing dirt on whichever Democrat comes in first!

While I am not a Democrat myself and indeed strongly disagree with the Dems on abortion for religious reasons, I am disgusted by the fact that the Religious Right has hijacked Christianity and shaped it to please their own political agenda!

Shouldn't we take our cues from Jesus Christ rather than pick and choose what we like because it fits what we think anyway?

Read the Sermon on the Mount, read the Bible and reconsider!

The God of the Bible has been a God of the Oppressed since he lead Israelite slaves out of Egypt, since Jesus called those oppressed by their own sinful nature to be free!

What is the GOP doing about the oppressed? About child poverty? About those who cannot afford health care? About those who lose their jobs because companies relocate overseas?

Yes, Obama is dangerous! Dangerous to the status quo of suffering in America!

Ken Abbott said...

Jim Wallis misses the point and begs the question.

Isn't that sentence a tautology?

Only mildly kidding. I labored to get through his God's Politics, which has to be one of the most misleading titles on any book ever published. I've not been able to take him seriously ever since.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

1. It seems that missing the point and begging the question are not identical concepts. But it takes quite a bit of skill to do both in one sentence!

2. To Nick: I do not know why anyone should think I haven't read the Sermon on the Mount, or don't care about the oppressed because I oppose the Democrats! Statism--the philosophy of the Democrats--does not liberate the oppressed; it enslaves them to the state. Pulling out of Iraq prematurely--which is what the Dems would do--will futher oppress Iraqis by exposing them to a terrorist takeover.

I care and act out my concern for those oppressed in the US and abroad, particularly Liberia and India. Why should you assume otherwise?

Ken Abbott said...

Actually, I meant to suggest the tautology was this:

Jim Wallis = missing the point and begging the question

If I hafta explain it, the joke ain't funny.

Jake said...

Dr. Groothuis, I'm not sure you actually answered Nick's question. He asked what the GOP is doing to help the oppressed, etc. - not what you as an individual Republican might be doing.

I don't think there is any doubt that plenty of individual Republicans care about helping the poor and oppressed, and would agree that Jesus commanded us to do so. But the party they support typically seems more interested in helping big business, the wealthy and the privileged, and I think there is often a disconnect between what Christians believe (or at least what the Bible teaches) and who they vote for. There is certainly room to argue that Dems don't do enough, or that the things they do are or are not successful - but much of the time I don't see the GOP even trying.

I think Nick asks a good question. How does the GOP work to help the poor and oppressed? And before anyone answers, I'll certainly grant (I can't speak for Nick obviously) that Republicans have a better record regarding the defense of the unborn. But that's not the only issue - so what else?

Laura G. said...

Ok, none of you know me, but I can't help but jump into this discussion on GOP and Dems regarding the poor and the oppressed. I'm a 25 year old female who has a lot of strong opinions on all of this.:

1. True, abortion is not the only issue Christians should be concerned about.

2. What is the GOP doing about the poor and the oppressed? A couple of thoughts....
Why is it that so many in our generation can only see helping the poor and the oppressed in terms of government handouts and bandaids? Part of helping the poor and the oppressed means creating jobs for them and having the government take less of your money so that you can take care of yourself and in return help out others who are poor and oppressed. If socialism or communism worked (which is the extreme end of liberalism), what went wrong in Russia, Cambodia, and Germany? Why do so many nations with this supposed "wonderful" universal health care system have more people in waiting in the emergency room than we do in America?

You ask if we should take our cues from Jesus Christ? Yes!
But taking your cues from Jesus Christ is for the church. You start taking that into government the way you are suggesting and you get empty humanitarianism with no lasting change.

Obama is dangerous because he is full of empty rhetoric and lack of experience. In fact, none of our candidate choices are real great, but that's why I'm glad that care for the poor and the oppressed is NOT contigent on who comes into office.
You don't have to be a conservative right-wing fundamentalist to understand why conservative principles fight for the poor and the oppressed, you just have to read the likes of Reagan, George Will, William F. Buckley, and J.C. Watts and think a little more to get it.

Jake said...


I'll note first that I consider myself a political moderate. I don't think either political party correctly represents a Christian position. There are things I agree with on each side, but I do tend to think the Dems are more interested in helping the poor.

The characterization of people of our generation only being interested in handouts and bandaids to help the poor is a ridiculous overgeneralization. Of course creating jobs is necessary - I'm not sure that Republicans have historically been better at this than Dems. And please explain to me how the huge amount of overspending by the current administration is going to result in having the government take less of our money - because eventually its going to come back and bite us. If government is going to take my money - and it will always take at least some of my money - I'd like it to be used better than its currently being used.

Following Jesus is for the church, absolutely - but since I'm sure you don't believe that compartmentalizing our faith is a healthy thing, I HAVE to apply my faith and the Bible's teachings to the positions I take in regards to our government. To do otherwise is to say that my faith doesn't have anything to say to government, and I emphatically reject that notion, as I assume most on this blog would.

Laura G. said...


1. I don't think I have to explain to you how the huge overspending by the current administration is going to result in spending less of our money, because clearly this president has not been a fiscal conservative who has put those principles into practice. I didn't claim anything about the current Republican president.

2. And no, I was not suggesting compartmentalizing my faith, I thought that was clear when I explained how conservative principles in government helped the poor and the oppressed and then how in turn the church should respond. I don't see what is compartmentalized about that.

3. Maybe my comment about handouts and bandaids was an overgeneralization, but it fits well with my experiences of many of our generation. So forgive me if I am wrong. I hope I am.

The Daily Fuel said...

Laura, talking about generalizations, please consider learning about healthcare in other countries before making sweeping, meaningless, and misleading generalizations like "so many nations with this supposed 'wonderful' universal health care system have more people in waiting in the emergency room than we do in America."

One question is enough to show the absurdity of your "emergency room" argument: Where else in the world do people end up with thousands of dollars in bills because of an emergency room visit or catastrophic illness for which they did not have health insurance coverage? Besides, waits in emergency rooms happen in the United States, too(just go to an inner city hospital), and they are not the worst thing that can happen: you have a broken foot, you wait until a life-threatening gunshot injury has been treated.

No system is perfect, but no system I know of is as ridiculously biased towards the "haves" as the US healthcare system.

Laura G. said...

Wow, sirfab, you really are having fun patronizing me. Well if you would like to further this discussion, post your email so I can send you some fine articles on universal healthcare that are too long to post here. But perhaps you've read all the ones that support your view and don't care to see others.

The Daily Fuel said...

Laura, sorry. I don't want to get in a pissing contest here about who started what.

I don't want to burden others with information they may not be interested in (and which is not completely relevant to the original post here), so please come to my blog and post the links you are referring to there.

Jake said...


With all due respect, you did not "explain how conservative principles in government help the poor and oppressed." You stated that you believe they do, rattled off some very general references to authors, and then made an extremely patronizing statement about how anyone who "thinks a little more" will "get it."

My comments about compartmentalizing faith were in reaction to your statement about how "following Jesus" the way I was talking about in government leads to "empty humanitarianism". If I misunderstood something, I apologize - I'm just not sure how else to take that statement.

Anonymous said...

The prediction that "Obama's speech will wow the crowd with soaring statements on race, faith, and politics" hit the nail on the head. It was certainly filled with these soaring statements.

Good speeches are powerful, but often dangerously so. After all, even the strongest moths have trouble resisting the allure of the pretty blue bug lamp. (Texans must include bugs in poor analogies from time to time)

Laura G. said...

I apologize, my tone did come across as patronizing when I was trying to suggest how to understand conservative principles. Clearly, I feel like strongly about conservative ideals and tend to think they get a bad wrap. So perhaps I should have said something like "I have found a book by J.C. Watts called, 'What Color is a Conservative?' to be helpful and that the more I read of deep conservative principles (not always or even often how Republicans candidates run their presidencies) the more I get how they make sense. I am someone who cares deeply about the poor and have in fact lived in the slums of Cambodia for 6 months working with AIDS orphans. I am not some heartless white person who is defending Republicans so that I can be rich. I defend conservative principles because I believe they best allow me to live my life for Christ and enable me to give more sacrificially.
In regards to the empty humanitarianism comment, his is what I meant. If the government is the one taking care of the poor and the oppressed, there is very little you can do to let people know that you are doing what you do because Jesus loves them. I worked for Early Head Start for year and felt this tension over and over. They were thankful for this government program that maybe helped them, but at the end of the day, I still didn't have the ability to share Christ verbally as I hopefully had shared him through my actions to them (of course falling short often even in action). So I struggle with bettering someone's physical life while not being able to speak into their life about this Jesus whom I do it for. That to me is empty humanitarianism. The people I helped often thought I was a nice good person and that the government helped them and that was it. That is incomplete and non holistic ministry to me. I would much rather do that same good through private non-profits who are free to share Christ in word and deed.
And finally, feel free to respond. But I am done here for a while. I am slacking on the job which certainly does not hold well with my conservative principles:)

The Daily Fuel said...

Hi Laura.

I know you were talking to Jake, but I could not help noticing your statement on empty humanitarianism.

It confirms my suspicion that the reason so many Evangelicals (including Dr. Groothuis, I venture to say) oppose government sponsored social programs is that they leave no room for what I would call "missionary humanitarianism".

Two of my best friends are Christian missionaries. One, a dentist, provides free dental care to people around the world. The other is engaged in disaster relief and has been to SriLanka after the Tsunami, Iran and other countries hit by devastating earthquakes. I love both of them dearly, and see the good they do.

As an atheist, though, I have very mixed feelings about Christian missionary work, not because it is deplorable (it is not) but because it leads people to see other humanitarian work as empty. I am sorry, but the patronizing continues.

I have already made this point before and I will make it again. If a catastrophe had happened to me, as an educated atheist, I would not be thrilled if the persons who came to the rescue tried to "fill" their humanitarianism with religion. Particularly if they are part of a political movement that is determined to destroy (trust me) the role that government plays as a relief-giver so they can free the field for themselves. I can envision a day, and am terrified by it, when all the taxes I pay will be spend on "national security" and none of it will be used for anything which I consider meaningful (education, healthcare, social services, etc.) because the majority of the people will have bought into this dangerous "empty humanitarianism" rhetoric. From what Dr. Groothuis has written here, I am sure that is the world he would like to bring about.

By the way, have you considered the possibility that the opinion that people around the world have of the United States has fallen to historical lows is that they see our foreign policy as one of domination, and not of help and solidarity with the rest of the world? I wrote an article about this right after the Tsunami of 2005, and you may be interested in reading it.

Jake said...


Thanks for your response. I understand where you're coming from (even if I don't really agree on many points), and if I came across harshly I apologize.

My difficulty with what you're saying (and I say this as a Christian Pastor who absolutely believes that the church needs to be dedicated to helping the poor and oppressed) is the implication, which it seems SirFab is picking up on, that the only people who should be involved in helping the poor is the church. I find this problematic for a couple reasons: 1) because there are plenty outside of the church who do great humanitarian work, and characterizing it as empty is unfair; 2) because while I believe passionately that evangelism is vital, we help people as Christians because it is the right thing to do, not only to gain a hearing for the gospel message; and 3) because the reality is that the church has historically not done a great job helping the poor and oppressed in a comprehensive way - so saying the church should do it, when it isn't, doesn't help the people that need help right now.

Government can have a part in helping the poor. From a Christian perspective, is that enough? Of course not, and we need to continue doing our part as Christian people. But that doesn't mean that there is no part for the government to help others.

SirFab, I agree with you completely - if we help people only because we want to convert them, there's a problem. And I think that the Bible teaches that we help people because God calls us to live a certain way, with compassion and concern for justice. Does that mean that I won't share my faith? No - I want to tell people about the hope I have and the reason that I try to live my life the way I do. But again, if that is my reason for helping, I think people see through that and tend to feel manipulated, and with good reason.

And I think you're dead on about the way our country is viewed by others around the world.

The Daily Fuel said...

Thank you Jake.

I understand that most Christians who do good around have very sincere motivations. As I said, the two friends I mentioned in my post are among the dearest people I have in this world. I have nothing but admiration for the things they do (I, for one, would be hard pressed to join them in the enormity of what they do). I have even given money to their charity, even though it is a Christian charity and I know that the money might be used in ways I disapprove of, to support the splendid work they themselves do. They really expect nothing in return and I know that they do what they do for God with cheerfulness, tact, and enthusiasm for the glory of the God they worship. I am sure there are many good Christians like them.

I vehemently disagree with those who think that good works need to have a Christian or religious component. I am not suggesting that an atheist who does good works is superior to a Christian who does good works. Secularists and atheists have their value system and worldview, too, like anybody else, and they like to promote both themselves, either explicitly or by example. But the reward for doing charitable work should come from the fact that we have helped others. Working for God's glory can be a component of that reward, may be the main component of it, but it does not have to be the motivation.

I don't know how most Christians feel about this topic, but it seems to me that most Christians on this blog are quite extreme in their social conservatism, to the point that they reject the idea that the government should have any role in providing help for the needy (it is obvious the case for Laura, who refers to government help in terms of "handouts and bandaids", and in the case of Dr. Groothuis, who has only negative adjectives in his vocabulary when it comes to the government). I wonder how anyone can so widely miss the point that "handouts" are based, to a large degree, on what we have all paid into the system. It is a social contract: we help those in need with our money, taxpayers money, because they need help, and because a large number of of these people will use the help they receive to become more productive and to contribute back to society. And also because some of the down and outs have had better times in which they themselves have paid into the system.

If we find out that some people take advantage of social programs, as is certainly the case, we need to go after them and/or reform the system, not replace it with faith-based programs. Faith-based programs can do meaningful, wonderful work for the needy, but they should never put themselves in competition with government programs. Both should be able to coexist in a civil society, and I suspect that both have natural audiences/recipients.