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No Church for Obama

Call it my dark and seedy Straussian neoconservatism at work, but in my downtime I like to collect instances of atheism or agnosticism, especially in those credited for the supposed strength of their religious fervor. The worst aspect of Barack … Read More

By / December 9, 2008

Call it my dark and seedy Straussian neoconservatism at work, but in my downtime I like to collect instances of atheism or agnosticism, especially in those credited for the supposed strength of their religious fervor. The worst aspect of Barack Obama’s former troubles with Jeremiah Wright was how they arose from his desire to amass "street cred" with black Chicagoans rather than from some burning sense of piety and Christian brotherhood.  He may put stock in God and the Gospels (though my suspicion is otherwise), but a regular churchgoer he is not.

John Judis and Isaac Chotiner at the New Republic are weighing the merits of various reports on Obama’s consistently secular Sundays since Nov. 4, and I tend to agree with Chotiner: it’s not about the Godlessness, it’s about the hypocrisy:

If Obama had only talked about his faith when he appeared on CBN, or visited churches in Iowa, that would be one thing. But it was an issue he chose to highlight. In fact, his only joint, public appearance with McCain–after the nomination fight and prior to the first debate–was with Rick Warren, if I remember correctly. And Obama’s religious life also takes up (the weakest) sections of his excellent first book. If politicians want their religious lives to remain private, then they can do the rest of us the favor of not talking so much about them.

Too busy building a cabinet to attend services? He’s had no problems making time for the gym, holding press conferences, and shopping for a puppy. What else you got?

Perhaps the greatest missed opportunity in an election celebrated for its risk and originality is that we might have actually been spared the purple overtures to the faith-based. Instead, even before announcing his candidacy, Obama spoke repeatedly of the importance of liberals’ embracing religion in the public sphere, and he did so in in language barely distinguishable from that of George W. Bush. Now why do I suspect that these disclosures of his own apostate-like behavior will do nothing to change the minds of those who defended him reflexively during the Wright controversy, citing his commitment to an eccentric, racialist church as a recommendation of his character and his sense of "community"?

If and when it becomes noticeable enough to warrant redress, we should expect plenty of beamish photographs of the new president installed in the pews next to Pat Robertson, Jesse Jackson and the rest of old, familiar national clerisy. Also expect to hear rationalizations that the change agent is, and always has been, steadfast in his loyalty to the divine. Except when his abs need working on.

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