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Barack Obama: Christian Worldview?

            Barrack Obama claims to be a Christian, but only seems to half-heartedly embrace the Christian worldview. The best insight on Obama’s worldview comes from his own words, his memoirs, which in vivid and articulate detail describe his worldview. Obama gives in his memoirs a picture of a mixed Christian with experiences in various faiths as well as cultures. He is currently the Democratic Senator for Illinois and is running to become president as a Democrat. He is currently the only African-American in the Senate and if elected would become the first black president. 

Obama’s faith seems to be like so many other parts of his identity to his mother’s worldview. Inspired by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barrack Obama wrote his recent bestseller, The Audacity of Hope (which comes from Jeremiah’s sermon on the Biblical story of Hannah). He writes that he “was not raised in a religious household.”[1] He goes on to say that his mother was detached from religion yet “in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known.”[2] His Kenyan father was a confirmed atheist by the time his parents met and his Indonesian stepfather was “a man who saw religion as not particularly useful.” His inherited values do not seem to indicate a specifically Christian worldview, but more of a spiritual worldview.

While working with local churches, Obama says in the book he realized “the power of the African American religious tradition to spur social change.”[3] He goes on to write that “It was because of these newfound understandings—that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved—that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ and be baptized. It came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”[4] Obama’s salvation experience and baptism definitely show his commitment to the fundamental aspects of the Christian worldview, but his focus on the church’s importance in the present, rather than the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, is inconsistent with Christ’s teachings. As Jesus made clear in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”[5] This verse makes it clear that the Kingdom of God is much more important in the Christian worldview than the temporary. Obama’s caring for the outcasts of society is, however, a crucial part of the Christian worldview as Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”.[6] His priorities are simply misarranged; first comes God, then other people, and then everything else.

Dreams from My Father, his bestselling book, was first published in the 1990’s but was not a bestseller until it was reprinted after his successful Senatorial election. In it, Barrack states the value that his mother instilled in him: honesty, fairness, straight talk, and independent judgment.[7] He goes on to say that “My mother’s confidence in needlepoint virtues depended on a faith I didn’t possess, a faith that she would refuse to describe as religious, that in fact, her experience told her was sacrilegious: a faith that rational, thoughtful people could shape their own destiny. In a land where fatalism remained a necessary tool for enduring hardship, where ultimate truths were kept separate from day-to-day realities, she was a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism.”[8] Given Obama’s respect for his mother worldview, Obama seems to be reluctant to embrace the Christian worldview despite calling himself a Christian.

Barrack Obama used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine as a teenager because of his confusion with his identity.[9] This is inconsistent with the biblical teaching that your body is the temple of God and that we are not our own. He is however trying to quit using Nicorette, which is consistent with the Christian worldview of God desiring us to pursue perfection despite us not being able to reach it.

            Obama has tried to make the Democratic Party into a more faith-based party by saying, “if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at—to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own—we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.”[10] In December 2006, he with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) took part in the “Global Submit on AIDS and the Church” organized by church leaders Kay and Rick Warren.[11] Obama with Warren and Brownback, took an HIV test and encouraged “others in public life to do the same” to show “there is no shame in going for an HIV test.”[12] Before the conference, 18 pro-life groups published an open letter stating, in reference to his pro-choice stance on abortion, “In the strongest possible terms, we oppose Rick Warren’s decision to ignore Senator Obama’s clear pro-death stance and invite him to Saddleback Church anyway.”[13] Obama said “so-called leaders of the Christian Right” were “all too eager to exploit what divides us”.[14] In Proverbs 6:16-17 God says “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him…Hands that shed innocent blood”.[15] The Bible makes it clear that God hates abortion, and by accepting the practice of abortion, Obama rejects a very important part of the Christian worldview. Obama as a pragmatist wishes to prevent “street abortions” rather than take a strong view against abortion.[16]

After looking at all the evidence, Barrack seems to have a mix of worldviews. He seems to have taken an almost 50/50 approach with the Bible; embracing the parts consistent with his previous goals rather than embrace the whole of Christianity. As a compromiser on issues of abortion, Obama needs to be considered carefully going into the election. As the President, he would most likely advance parts of the Christian worldview while retreating on other parts. It is encouraging to see that he is open to spirituality and new ideas, so it is within the realm of possibility more so than many other entrenched candidates that his worldview can change. We may be able to say next year that not only was the first black man elected President, but a true Christian as well.

 

©2007 Jorge Eduardo Fernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Obama, Barack. "Book Excerpt: Barack Obama." Time 15 OCT 2006 02 OCT 2007 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1546298,00.html>.

[2] Book Excerpt: Barack Obama

 

[3] Book Excerpt: Barack Obama

[4] Book Excerpt: Barack Obama

[5] New King James Version

[6] New King James Version

[7] Obama, Barack. The Audacity of Hope . New York: Three River Press, 2004. P. 49

[8] P. 50

[9] P. 93–94

[10] http://www.tikkun.org/rabbi_lerner/news_item.2006-07-02.3949597607

[11] http://www.purposedriven.com/en-US/HIVAIDSCommunity/StartingAMinistry/churches_challenged_to_take_the_lead.htm

[12] http://obama.senate.gov/speech/061201-race_against_time_-_world_aids_day_speech/index.html

[13] http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/791771591.html

[14] http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/06/24/politics/main2971556.shtml

[15] New King James Version

[16] Book Excerpt: Barack Obama