Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish at Atlantic.com (March 23, 2008)
I certainly don't believe anyone should vote for or against Obama - or anyone - on the basis of religious faith. But I have long felt the quiet power of Obama's doubt-filled, socially engaged, moderate Christianity. It is a great cultural salve against Christianism and fundamentalism.
We will not discuss Barry Obama here primarily. Instead, I want to comment on this thing which the author feels “the quiet power of.” If Obama has this, then he is in as bad shape as Andrew Sullivan. Let’s examine what passes for powerful, as Christianity goes, in the twenty-first century. What must this ‘Christianity’ be?
It must be “doubt-filled.” While I will probably be branded as a “fundamentalist” for this, the Bible has some interesting language for doubters. They are said to be “double-minded” - and that isn’t a compliment. The doubting person, according to James 1:8, is an unstable person. Those who find religious “power” in instability are often people who don’t really like religion at all. Real Christianity begins with a God who has spoken. Such speaking settles many things and leaves room for little legitimate doubt.
But doubting has somehow become a virtue in the postmodern world. That is one of many reasons why Christianity cannot, as some of its proponents contend, be adapted to postmodernism. Postmodernism revels in instability, and that fact alone points to an inherent bit of insanity.
It must be “socially engaged.” While Christianity has always been about truly helping others (not enabling bad behavior, as has sometimes been the case) we must not mistake “socially engaged” for helping others. Social engagement, as it is usually defined by its proponents, typically involves trying to change society by force. Since the agent of force is the state, this usually means lobbying the state to get your idea of the perfect world imposed upon everyone else by force.
Again, this concept is foreign to the faith founded by Someone who said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” This shouldn’t imply that Christianity is not interested in helping people. But it does mean that you cannot rightly help people by force! It is amazing how the same people who are so willing to be double-minded about the content of the Christian faith can at the same time be cocksure that their ideas of how to remake society should be imposed by force - and immediately if not sooner!
It must be “moderate.” In a time when many bad things are labeled “extreme” (think “Islamic extremists”) anything moderate is thought to be good. For those who like things moderate, the feature which makes ‘moderate Christianity’ moderate is an unflinching conviction that good faith leads to no unflinching convictions. For moderates, moderate Christianity challenges nothing except those horrid fundamentalists and their ilk
But because of the content of the true Christian faith, it is difficult to think of it as moderate. What is ‘moderate’ about Jesus’ claim that no one can come to the Father except through Him? That’s about as immoderate as one can ever hope to be.
So what we find is that this “great cultural salve” that so enamors this writer at Atlantic.com is not really Christianity at all. It is, rather, some postmodern idol painted to look something like Christianity. Under that paint, it is nothing like the real thing.
If this is in fact the faith of Obama, so much the worse for Obama. But if recent revelations about Obama’s church reflect his faith, it is not moderate at all. It is, rather, a version of liberation theology - that attempt to make a hybrid of Marxism and Christianity. While it is not Christianity, there is nothing moderate about that.