Obama and Identity Religion

Terry Mattingly has some fascinating analysis of why many liberal, secular Jews have a problem with Barack Obama. See Obama and the Jewish votes » GetReligion, which analyzes this quotation from a news article about Florida Jews:”Many here suspect Mr. Obama of being too cozy with Palestinians, while others accuse him of having Muslim ties, even though they know that his father was born Muslim and became an atheist, and that Mr. Obama embraced Christianity as a young man. In Judaism, religion is a fixed identity across generations.”

In other words, if religious identity is primarily a matter of ethnicity and culture and one cannot change that through, well, mere religious conversion, then that means that Obama is still in some way — Muslim. So the purely cultural approach to Judaism, which is normally identified with secular Judaism and more liberal cultural views that are far, far from doctrinal, Orthodox Judaism, may not be something that helps Obama in some settings, especially among the elderly.

And the Orthodox? They are not going to be happy at all with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., no matter what happens. They are also not going to be happy with Obama’s very liberal stands on crucial moral and cultural issues. And then there is the issue — Wright or wrong — about Obama’s enthusiastic support for his mainline Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ. There is a history there, as in many mainline flocks, of fierce debate about the status of Israel.

The UCC, like some other mainline liberal denominations, has been pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel for years. Notice, though, how a good many, if not most, world religions are primarily about cultural identity. Christianity is about BELIEF. That distinction is not always recognized, so that many people see Christianity as a cultural religion also. Obama is not a Muslim, but many people in the world are going to treat him as one.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • WebMonk

    One of the things that REALLY torques me off is when some friends of mine talk about how everyone ought to advertise Barak Obama’s middle name, Hussein, to keep him from getting elected. I dislike Obama’s stances on just about everything, and hope that he is not elected, but rejecting someone because of his name and father’s one-time belief is about as far from how Christians are to deal with others as possible.

    With the groups I run in (more heavily Christian than the country on average) I hear this from Christians too. Somehow Obama’s name outweighs anything else about him. Of all people, Christians ought to be aware that the outer trappings of a person (name, looks, etc) are not who the person truly is.

    But when it comes to politics (at least this time), people who have rightly welcomed and defended ex-cons with drug problems into church because they are brothers in Christ, are declaring that everyone needs to use ‘Hussein’ when referring to Obama because he has “Muslim ties”.

  • WebMonk

    One of the things that REALLY torques me off is when some friends of mine talk about how everyone ought to advertise Barak Obama’s middle name, Hussein, to keep him from getting elected. I dislike Obama’s stances on just about everything, and hope that he is not elected, but rejecting someone because of his name and father’s one-time belief is about as far from how Christians are to deal with others as possible.

    With the groups I run in (more heavily Christian than the country on average) I hear this from Christians too. Somehow Obama’s name outweighs anything else about him. Of all people, Christians ought to be aware that the outer trappings of a person (name, looks, etc) are not who the person truly is.

    But when it comes to politics (at least this time), people who have rightly welcomed and defended ex-cons with drug problems into church because they are brothers in Christ, are declaring that everyone needs to use ‘Hussein’ when referring to Obama because he has “Muslim ties”.

  • Joe

    I could not agree more. I think the Hussein references are simply stupid. There is a enough meat to chew on without this ridiculous tactic.

  • Joe

    I could not agree more. I think the Hussein references are simply stupid. There is a enough meat to chew on without this ridiculous tactic.

  • B.Wink

    And I agree as well. There are many Christian folks that I know who still firmly believe that Obama is Muslim. And will slander him personally whenever possible. Too bad.

  • B.Wink

    And I agree as well. There are many Christian folks that I know who still firmly believe that Obama is Muslim. And will slander him personally whenever possible. Too bad.

  • http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld tom heneghan

    If you’re interested in the issue of Obama, Islam and whether he might be a Muslim apostate, you might want to check out “Muslim scholar responds to ‘Sharia smear’ against Obama” — http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2008/05/30/muslim-scholar-responds-to-sharia-smear-against-obama/ — on the Reuters FaithWorld blog.

  • http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld tom heneghan

    If you’re interested in the issue of Obama, Islam and whether he might be a Muslim apostate, you might want to check out “Muslim scholar responds to ‘Sharia smear’ against Obama” — http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2008/05/30/muslim-scholar-responds-to-sharia-smear-against-obama/ — on the Reuters FaithWorld blog.


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