When Religious Pandering Goes Too Far?

I’m used to politicians pandering to religious Americans.

There’s more of them, so there are more votes to be gained by speaking their “language.” That coupled with the fact that President Obama is a Christian just meant we could expect a lot of religious references in his speech in Tucson, Arizona yesterday.

I wasn’t disappointed:

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

As Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.

I’m sure a lot of you feel it’s too much. He shouldn’t have made any religious references at all and this was overkill.

But somehow, none of those passages fazed me. They went in one ear and out the other. I’m so used to hearing them by now, I feel almost immune to them.

Until I heard the President talk about Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl who died in the shooting. Obama spoke about her in some detail early in his speech, and then at the end of it, he said this:

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.


No. There are no rain puddles in heaven. Christina is not jumping in them. Hell, there’s not even a heaven in the first place.

I hate this idea that we have to create imaginary memories for people who die young, as if we couldn’t find anything happier to remember them by during their lifetimes. For all the joy Christina surely provided her family with during her life, Obama chose instead to invoke this fake scenario that I feel cheapens her memory.

I realize I’m probably overreacting. This was one line in a very long (and honestly beautiful) speech.

It just rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know if I’m alone in this.


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