(Tim, w/thanks to David L.; and if you want to understand the title, watch the cartoon on the second page) Half the professors at the PCA's Covenant College believe our President-elect, Barack Obama, is a Christian.
Yes, he's a Christian in the same way Rob Bell and Brian McLaren are Christians. Or maybe I should say he's a pastor in the same way Rob Bell and Brian McLaren are pastors.
Don't tune me out, here...
Take, for instance, the question of doubt. The entire Emergent apparatus is fully committed to doubt. Doubt is a religious conviction to them. Like President-elect Obama, they are most uncomfortable with those who express certainty--every certainty, that is, other than the certainty that nothing is certain. Are you getting the irony of this? Dogmatically committed to doubt and uncertainty? This theme runs through the Emergent Church and its hero, Barack Obama. It appears again and again in this interview.
Watch Obama, Bell, or McLaren and the themes repeat themselves. False shepherd Bell suggests to those listening to his celluloid sneer at Bullhorn Guy that the problem with Bullhorn Guy is his certainty. Especially about judgment and Hell.
Bell lets us in on the secret that Bullhorn Guy isn't helping.
Batting cleanup, along comes Brian McLaren to tell us that Senator Obama will lead us into the promised land of shared values and tolerance.
What does Barack Obama himself have to say? What sort of faith does this man that Bell and McLaren have shilled for claim for himself?
Shortly after winning the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator several years ago, Obama was interviewed by Tribune religion reporter Cathleen Falsani at a coffee shop on North Michigan Avenue. The subject was Obama's religion and what emerged was...
A fully Emergent faith. Glib, suave, narcissistic, Ciceronian, facile, arrogant, and hopelessly monocultured.
My grandmother was Methodist. My grandfather was Baptist. ...And by the time I was born, they were, I think, my grandparents had joined a Universalist church.
So, my mother, who I think had as much influence on my values as
anybody, was not someone who wore her religion on her sleeve. We'd go
to church for Easter. She wasn't a church lady.
[TB: She was a Christian, but not a church Christian.]
(M)y mother was deeply spiritual person, and would spend a lot of time talking about values and give me books about the world's religions, and talk to me about them. And I think always, her view always was that underlying these religions were a common set of beliefs...
[TB: The great Tao.]
I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.
I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding...
[TB: Regal in his Ciceronian commitments.]
I think that, particularly as somebody who's now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.
[TB: You mean like the 1.2 billion souls murdered in the name of atheism and secularism this past century--1 billion by baby-slaughter alone? Is that the "enormous damage" you're speaking of? Is it the certainty that human life doesn't begin in the womb that you see as being so destructive?]
...When I'm talking to a group and I'm saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I'm just being glib or clever.
[TB: A reassuring glimpse of self-awareness that's hard to imagine coming from the lips of Bell or McLaren.]
* * *
FALSANI: Who's Jesus to you?
(He laughs nervously)
OBAMA: Right. Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.
[TB: He almost touches on the Substitutionary Atonement, but then he goes and spoils it all with that inanity "in the Christian faith."]
And he's also a wonderful teacher. I think it's important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.
* * *
Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure. I mean, I'm a law professor at the University of Chicago teaching constitutional law. I am a great admirer of our founding charter, and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming, and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root in this country.
[TB: Forgive me for being blunt, but this guy wouldn't know our "founding charter" if it bit him in the rear. But how refreshing to see him label this radical relativism "our civic religion." Spot on.]
* * *
This is something that I'm sure I'd have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.
[TB: Rob Bell's rising out of his seat to give Citizen Obama a standing ovation, here.]
FALSANI: You don't believe that?
OBAMA: I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.
[TB: "You go, guy!" says false shepherd Bell.]
I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.
That's just not part of my religious makeup.
Part of the reason I think it's always difficult for public figures to talk about this is that the nature of politics is that you want to have everybody like you and project the best possible traits onto you. Oftentimes that's by being as vague as possible, or appealing to the lowest common denominators. The more specific and detailed you are on issues as personal and fundamental as your faith, the more potentially dangerous it is.
[TB: "As vague as possible." That's the reason Emergent types and progressive profs at Christian colleges love him so. He presents no obstacle to their attributing to him each of their precious conceits.]
* * *
FALSANI: Do you ever have people who know you're a Christian question a particular stance you take on an issue, how can you be a Christian and ...
OBAMA: Like the right to choose.
[TB: Bad conscience here?]
I haven't been challenged in those direct ways. And to that extent, I give the public a lot of credit. I'm always stuck by how much common sense the American people have. They get confused sometimes, watch FoxNews or listen to talk radio. That's dangerous sometimes. But generally, Americans are tolerant and I think recognize that faith is a personal thing, and they may feel very strongly about an issue like abortion or gay marriage, but if they discuss it with me as an elected official they will discuss it with me in those terms and not, say, as 'you call yourself a Christian.' I cannot recall that ever happening.
[TB: This is tragic. He may have forgotten, he may be lying, but I'm guessing it's the truth. Dave Helm, walk down the street and take this excuse away from him, OK?]
* * *
Obviously as an African American politician rooted in the African American community, I spend a lot of time in the black church. I have no qualms in those settings in participating fully in those services and celebrating my God in that wonderful community that is the black church. (he pauses)
[TB: When someone says "My God," it's never a harbinger of orthodox Christian faith.]
But I also try to be . . . Rarely in those settings do people come up to me and say, what are your beliefs. They are going to presume, and rightly so. Although they may presume a set of doctrines that I subscribe to that I don't necessarily subscribe to.
[TB: "Don't necessarily subscribe to." Don't necessarily not subscribe to, either. Ain't gonna say, and every last evangelical church will accept him into their membership, in a heartbeat.]
But I don't think that's unique to me. I think that each of us when we walk into our church or mosque or synagogue are interpreting that experience in different ways, are reading scriptures in different ways and are arriving at our own understanding at different ways and in different phases.
[TB: Everyone is different. No two people are not on fire.]
I don't know a healthy congregation or an effective minister who doesn't recognize that.
If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn't have to keep coming to church, would they.
* * *
FALSANI: Do you believe in heaven?
OBAMA: Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?
FALSANI: A place spiritually you go to after you die?
OBAMA: What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.
When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I've been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they're kind people and that they're honest people, and they're curious people, that's a little piece of heaven.
[TB: Yes, it is a little piece of Heaven, but has it led you to the God Who is there? And telling, that he tacks curiousity to the end of his list of morals.]
* * *
FALSANI: Do you believe in sin?
FALSANI: What is sin?
OBAMA: Being out of alignment with my values.
* * *
FALSANI: What are you doing when you feel the most centered, the most aligned spiritually?
OBAMA: I think I already described it. It's when I'm being true to myself.
[TB: Priceless. So when he promotes baby-slaughter, he's in alignment with his values, he's being true to himself.]
* * *
I think Gandhi is a great example of a profoundly spiritual man who acted and risked everything on behalf of those values but never slipped into intolerance or dogma. He seemed to always maintain an air of doubt about him.
[TB: Not doubt in its hard reality, but only an "air of doubt." Ever notice how these Emergent types can't even be direct in stating their deepest religious convictions? "I think." "He seemed." "An air of doubt."]