Thursday, November 8, 2012

We are Each Other’s Keepers: The Political Theology of Barack Obama


There has been much speculation about the political theology of President Barack Obama. Some of this speculation emerged out of his words and actions, and some has been invented out of ignorance or lies (such as the belief that he is a rabid postcolonial Islamist). For example, he famously named Christian social ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr as his favorite political philosopher, and was baptized by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a pastor deeply influenced by Black Liberation Theology. The former admission inspired numerous editorials (overwhelmingly positive) about “Obama the realist” and the latter revelation spurred much denunciation from conservatives. Obama’s subsequent denunciation of the most controversial of Rev. Wright’s sermons birthed even more speculation about what Obama’s actual political theological beliefs are.
However, very little attention has been paid to the actual theological arguments Pres. Obama has used in speeches and interviews. A survey of his public statements regarding the motivation for his policy pursuits quickly reveals an abiding commitment humans should be their “brother’s keepers,” a phrase that comes from the biblical book of Genesis. Indeed, the phrase “brother’s keeper” has become a go-to phrase for Pres. Obama when defending his approach to policy-making from health care reform to international affairs.
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