Glenn Beck keeps attacking the president's faith. The Washington Post reports:
During an interview on "Fox News Sunday," which was filmed after Saturday's rally, Beck claimed that Obama "is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor-and-victim."
"People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity," Beck added...
Beck, on his Fox News show last Tuesday, said that liberation theology is at the core of Obama's "belief structure." "You see, it's all about victims and victimhood; oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation. I don't know what that is, other than it's not Muslim, it's not Christian. It's a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it," Beck said.
What his remarks show are that 1) he doesn't understand Liberation Theology 2) that Beck has no understanding of the president's faith and just makes up stuff as he goes along.
My UCC colleague The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite writes today:
President Obama is a Christian, and a fairly typical United Church of Christ sort of Christian at that. On June 23, 2007, then candidate Obama spoke to the United Church of Christ General Synod in Hartford, CT. I was there at that church event, and his speech on a "Politics of Conscience" has resonated with me ever since. Obama's is uniquely a UCC kind of faith, where we say "to believe is care, to care is to do." It's also a somewhat intellectual faith, also typical of the UCC. Obama admits that he didn't "fall out" (i.e. topple over because one is moved by the Holy Spirit) when he walked down the church aisle to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. "I didn't fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn't magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn't suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works. But my journey is part of a larger journey - one shared by all who've ever sought to apply the values of their faith to our society."
Faith and works together. This is Obama's Christian faith. President Obama's beliefs seem in the mainstream for a United Church of Christ member, though more in the Reformed tradition of the UCC than the Congregational. That's why he likes Reinhold Niebuhr so much.
David Brooks' column in the New York Times is still the best text for capturing why Obama likes Niebuhr so much, and indeed, why Obama is a Christian Realist like Niebuhr and not a follower of Liberation Theology. It's all about the approach to evil.Brooks writes that "out of the blue I asked [Obama], 'Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr?'" The tired candidate disappeared and Obama became animated. "I love him."
Brooks wants to know why. What does Obama take away from Niebhur's writing? "'I take away,' Obama answered in a rush of words, 'the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can elimiate those things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away...the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism."
Liberation theology, as I have written, begins with critical consciousness, the insight into the way in which the exploitation of the vulnerable is hidden in pious and nationalistic rhetoric. It then moves to a compelling and indeed quite idealistic (though not naïve) vision of human justice that is not postponed until the next world, but realized, if only partially, in this world.Obama is just more of a realist than the liberation theologians. He has a more critical view of human nature and its possibilities, both for good and for ill. He is, in a startling way, very much a Niebuhrian Christian realist. It matters that we know that about Barack Obama.
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