Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where do I begin?

[At my Facebook account, I recently posted a link from the Phantom Blogger:
Is Obama trying to omit God from American History? Again. The closing lines of Lifson's editorial, as cited by the Phantom Blogger, are: "Once could be a mistake, but twice is a pattern. Acknowledging that our rights come from a power higher than government or himself seems to rankle this man who claims the power to halt the rise of the seas."

It generated the following responses (so far!)…]

A: One nation under Obama. In Obama we trust. They are endowed by their Obama. I don't see any word missing.

B: I'd like to see a quote from Obama in which he declares he can halt the rise of the seas, yadda yadda.

Me: I believe the text on which Lifson was riffing is this:

"I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…."

A writer, Lifson is ending his piece with a rhetorical flourish. If the complaint is that Lifson is misstating what Obama actually said, well, that's a sweet irony, since the entire point of Lifson's article (rather than the tiny rhetorical coda) is that Obama has publicly misstated on at least two occasions what the US Constitution says about the created endowment of our equality. Forest, trees. Like I say, I find this an interesting specimen of political behavior.

B: Obama did not directly quote the Declaration but was rather, paraphrasing. He said "each of us," as well which is not part of the original text. Politicians paraphrase that and the preamble all the time. I get frustrated by Christians consistently implying that Obama is anti-Christian. He is our brother in Christ. He says he's a Christian. He walks a Christian path. Who are we to consistently call that into question?

[I ran this by the Phantom Blogger and he said:

"Yeah, I believe that Obama is a Christian, but at the same time he is a liberal. And because of this he feels the need to show his alliance to liberal ideals over any religious ones, in some way he must see religion as being divisive, as so many on the left do. His Christianity is of the detached sort, not so much based on the teachings or truth of the religion, but more to do with the real world effects of said relgion [sic], he says the thing that lead him to want to become a Christian was seeing its importance within the black community when working as a community organizer, so in some way its seems that this brand of Christianity just happened to fit in with his politics and compliment his already existing liberal beliefs, if it hadn't he more than likely would not be a Christian. In the end I feel he is a liberal first and a Christian second.

"This can be quite a common thing on the left, especially in Europe, take Christian Socialists as an example, they adapt there Christianity around there socialism, rather than letting the Bible or Christian teachings inform there economic views. They only believe in Christianity as long as it fits in with there [sic] politics. …

"In this case he changes it slightly, he doesn't leave out an important part of the text, but it still comes down to the the same point. Why did he leave out this specific part? My guess, because as a liberal he see's religion as being divisive and to mention God in this context, to him is to enforce your beliefs upon others. So he's willing to re-write the Founding texts and American history, through the lens of modern liberalism.]

Me: I get your point. I just like to keep an eye on rhetorical patterns and apparently there are maybe half a dozen occasions (in speech or in print) in which Obama omits "by their/our Creator," so that caught my eye. Cf. and

A: If Obama is "walking a Christian path", then it's probably not the narrow one. And if it is, he is walking in the wrong direction.

B: What makes you say that, A?

A: What makes me say that? Obama's record on abortion and sexual morality, his egregious lying and his worship of the Leviathan state in total opposition to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, for one. As for his allegedly "Christian" beliefs, they are totally vague and generic. He may claim to be a Christian, but in one interview, he also spoke of his "Muslim faith." He is just a radical leftist relativist and pusher of the sexual revolution. His latest word of wisdom is that "Each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own versions of happiness". If that's not enough for you, I don't know what to say.

C: It's pretty easy to quote people out of context; I'm not sure about the context of the "Muslim faith" quote you attribute to President Obama. Of course, his father WAS a Muslim (gasp!), and he did grow up in the Muslim faith insofar as he attended a Muslim elementary school (gasp!) but he has apparently converted to the Christian faith enough to attend a Christian church for all these years, AND publicly confess his Christianity. Isn't that what Jesus asks us to do for him: to confess our faith in him, especially when we have the world's biggest microphone? Plus, aren't Catholics always happy when someone is converted and their soul saved? And speaking of conversions, wasn't the Catholic pope a member of the Hitler Youth? Either the Nazis were a Catholic organization, or he must have converted... or maybe not. Maybe he is still a racist Nazi bent on subverting anyone with brown skin. After all, more than 2/3 of your church resides south of the equator, but how many of your cardinals are from the southern hemisphere? (Answer: 7) When was the last African pope? (Answer: 1,600 years ago, and he was probably a white guy) And before your hackles rise at me calling the pope a racist Nazi, it's just as ridiculous as you calling the duly elected president of the US, who is committed to the traditional American values of freedom, equality, justice, and the pursuit of happiness, a "radical leftist relativist."

Also, @Mee [sic], when we're talking about inalienable rights endowed by our creator, that's in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. A small difference perhaps, but the fact is that God appears nowhere in the Constitution, and the Declaration while inspiring is not binding.

Me: I will let A reply as he sees fit.

1. C, you get a yellow card for an instance of Godwin's Law. ;) Your canard about the Pope is actually not logically exhaustive, since either i) the Nazi party was a Catholic organization (this is an absurd premise), or ii) the young Ratzinger disavowed his Nazism to become a "real Catholic," or iii) he never had more than a formal attachment to the party and thus underwent no 'conversion' from Nazism. You only mention premises i) and ii), but the evidence strongly supports the third premise: Ratzinger joined the Hitlerjugend by force of law (ca. 1941), avoided meetings whenever he could, and was raised by a father strongly opposed to the Nazis. Your points about the racial “qualifications” of the Pope are merely emotive and ad hominem. When was the last time we had a black Messiah? Or a female Christ? Christianity is a fundamentally historical reality and so admitting the historical exigencies of the election of the Bishop of Rome (!) is hardly a grounds for scandal. The fact is, the Catholic Church is the most culturally and ethnically diverse institution in the world. It's reverse racism to say a black person would be a better Pope and bad theology to say the Church's authority rests on genetic phenotype.

2. If you can't see that Obama is a leftist relativist, then… well, you just can't see it. First of all, his leftism was a major selling point in the campaign and his presidential “drift to the center” is a source of consternation for his leftist supporters. (You support him: would you call yourself a rightist?) Further, as you may know, when asked what sin is, Obama answered that it is “being out of alignment with [his] values.” (Check your Shorter Catechism for a different, and less relativist, answer.) In addition, Obama has at least inadvertently referred to his “Muslim faith,” has spoken of Islam being “revealed” in Persia, has quoted numerous times (with finger didactically raised like an imam) from what he calls “the Holy Qur'an,” and has admitted that his faith draws as much from Judaism as from Islam as from Eastern influences. I'm sure more could be said, but the point is that A is not pulling a quotation out of thin air; A is far from being such a shallow thinker. Nor is the point that the POTUS must be Christian. Rather, the point is that, in many eyes, and for many reasons, Obama seems very disingenuous about being a Christian––or at least deeply confused about what being a Christian means. This is a great irony, since I am willing to grant that Obama is as much a Christian as Hitler was. Which is to say….

3. Give me the Constitution without the Declaration and I will give you (after a little amendment-tweaking and political extemporizing) the British Colonies 2.0. If the Declaration is not binding, better get on the horn with Her Majesty and make amends. What's more, to speak frankly, I am shocked that you are apparently willing so blithely to jettison the “inalienable rights” of humans and Americans. Why, it's as American as apple pie and life, liberty, and happiness! Further, have you read the Articles of Confederation, especially the closing parapgraphs? They were the charter of the USA (ca. 1781–1788) and clearly harmonize with the theistic bearing of the Declaration. Hence, an argument from silence à la “'God' is not 'in' the Constitution” is just that––an argument from silence, and thus hardly a demonstration that the Constitution reneges on the openly religious bearing of the Declaration and the Articles of Confederation. By analogy, I assume you know that “homoousios,” “sola Scriptura,” and “sola fide” are not verbally 'in' the Bible––yet your own confession binds you to those same tenets.

A: I didn't say Obama *was* a Muslim, nor, a fortiori, did I say he was one because he was raised a Muslim. But he did speak about his "Muslim faith", and does refer to the Qur'an as holy. There's a nice compilation of his statements on the subject on YouTube:

@B: I didn't know you were a Protestant, though I had guessed you were either that or a nominal Catholic. Catholics are not "always happy when someone is converted and their soul saved" because unlike some Protestant denominations, we do not believe that when someone converts, his or her soul is saved, even if it helps. In fact, it might be argued that conversion makes salvation harder, since you are held to a higher standard than the invincibly ignorant atheist or pagan. We believe, for instance, that a single unconfessed, unrepented mortal sin will damn you forever. And if I had done half of what Obama has done, I would consider living the rest of my life in a monastery, fasting and whipping my back. "Confessing Jesus", or saying "God bless you", even publicly, is not enough. "Not everyone who keeps saying to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will get into the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven." (Mt 7:21) And we all know what not getting into the kingdom of heaven means.

Journalists have documented Obama's radical leftism and he has consistently been the most leftist president since FDR. As for his relativism, isn't his latest statement ("Each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own versions of happiness") sufficient to establish that? (Does he mean "each of us" including us satanists, drug addicts and child rapists?)

My support for Obama's faith being completely bland and generic can be found here, in his own words:

B: Consider this. Obama was not elected to be our religious leader. America, as much as you deny it, remains a secular nation (a fact that has allowed American Catholics and others to withstand the rolling tides of populist religious fervor). As a devout Christian, I would not change this about my country. Obama is our President. He is a pragmatic leader charged with navigating our state's foreign relations, domestic economy and affairs. There is no scripture to guide him directly through trade policy or market leverage. We want him to be smart, just, and guided by principles that are (whether or not in practice, at least in doctrine) central to Christianity and Islam (5 pillars) alike. You can throw arrows at the man and hold him to the same standards you would hold a fellow Catholic, but that is not his faith. We Protestant believe in grace. We believe, or are called to believe (listen up, Pat Robertson) in non-violence, charity, love, and service to the least among us. It is in this spirit, the spirit of Christ's own words, that I say Obama walks a Christian path. If you want to call him a radical Leftist Relativist, go ahead. But if his predecessors walked a narrower Christian path, it is not a path I am familiar with.

A: America was not founded as "a secular nation", though this is the first time I am saying that and it was unfair of you to say I had denied it "remained" one. At the time of its founding, every single state had some sort of establishment of religion, which the Constitution forbad the National Government to disestablish (this was the whole point of the establishment clause, which freemasons and secularists have completely distorted.) This, by the way, enabled most of them to disenfranchise Catholics, who were not treated as well as you imply for much of your history.

I don't know of many principles that are "central to Christianity and Islam alike", because Islam and Christianity don't have the same center. Christianity has Christ at its center, and Islam doesn't.

As for Obama being "non-violent" and serving "the least among us", that obviously does not include the unborn. But your hippy Christ probably doesn't care about them, and that's just me being Catholic.

I don't think we need discuss these issues much further. We neither have the same premises nor the same standards of reasoning, so this exchange is proving to be absolutely futile, as you probably recognise yourself. I have supported my claim that Obama is a radical leftist relativist, but you say I "want" to call him that. I really don't want to. But words have meanings and one must use them accordingly.

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