Newsflash: Obama invokes religion

Obama in churchIt seems strange, two years later, to reflect on the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina across North America, but most memorably in New Orleans. As the years go by, it will be interesting to see how much coverage the continuing aftermath receives. Some believe that the coverage helps the city and the region, while others believe that the continued focus on the problems keeps the city and the region from returning to normalcy.

Of course politics will play a part in determining the story line. Democratic presidential candidates are naturally going to invoke the problems Katrina revealed and make promises to fix them. Barack Obama spoke to a congregation on Sunday and used religious language and doctrine to outline what he believes are the problems that, if elected, he intends to fix.

Here’s CNN’s Mark Norman:

“Getting ready to talk to you today, I recall what Jesus said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount,” Obama said at New Orleans’ First Emmanuel Baptist Church. “He said, whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock.”

“The rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house. But it did not fall, because it was founded on the rock,” he continued.

That rock, he said, was a principal of brotherhood exemplified by the church during Hurricane Katrina — but not the federal government.

“Something was wrong in America. Our foundation wasn’t built on the rock,” he said.

Obama blasted local, state and federal response to the storm, and touched upon ingredients necessary for the city’s rebuilding, namely more employment opportunities for residents to rebuild, community-based law enforcement to tackle the city’s crime epidemic, and improved health care.

The story could have easily been written another way, putting less emphasis on religion. Norman could have simply said that Obama blasted government officials for failing to respond to the storm in a way that exemplified the principle of brotherhood found in the Bible.

Politicians’ invoking biblical principles and stories is nothing new, especially when they are in a church on Sunday. Is it newsworthy that Obama is doing it in this case? Obama is known for using religious imagery in his speeches.

I’m not saying this story should not have been reported. What I would like to see is a better nut graph on why this speech is significant.

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  • Margaret

    “Something was wrong in America. Our foundation wasn’t built on the rock,” he said.

    Could Obama possibly be suggesting that our gradual loss of God, our ever more prevalent and stringent secularism, is somehow…. BAD for the country? Nah. Folks might think he was some kinda crazy Christian talking like that!

  • caveat bettor

    Obama could exercise some exegetical integrity here. The rock refers to the teachings of Christ, not the federal government. Although for a nanny-state advocate, drawing the moral equivalence may further a certain agenda. Not to mention what this implies about separation of church and state.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Any Republican candidates giving campaign speeches disguised as sermons in churches without getting beaten up or grilled by our middle-of-the-road mainstream media? No double standard at play here. No sir.

    Daniel is right that this isn’t newsworthy. Something that happens with this regularity really can’t be classified as news.

  • Terrence Berres

    “… I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 (KJV).

    Might be a lesson here on where to build, or rebuild, a city.

  • Clare Krishan

    “Does anyone know Where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”

    (c) 1976, Gordon Lightfoot
    from the ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

    WE the people failed, since we govern ourselves “of the people, for the people, by the people” – ask yourself why no one’s penned a ballad “The Sinking of the Crescent City” to lament that tragedy by popular acclaim (the former pop tune almost made it to #1 slot)?

    Whoever gets elected better take their faith seriously if they want voters to vote for them, platitudes undone (hat tip G.K. Chesterton) aren’t enough to keep our democracy secure anymore, starting at school district polls on up. Subsidiarity a la Nanny State is NOT the justice our Maker would have us enjoy, the Rock upon whom we anchor our hope is Christ, not the promises of putative presidential potentates…

  • Clare Krishan

    See alternate clip (at 3.15 mins) for direct visual comparison of Katrina’s onslaught to the events on that more northerly November night …