Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Jonathan Chait is scornful and livid - not, in itself, a news bulletin - because Sen. Mitch McConnell has not made it his highest priority to inform every American that Barack Obama is not a Muslim.  Instead, McConnell said today that the president says he's a Christian and, "I take him at his word."

If the odiousness of that response is not apparent to you, then your antennae are not as sensitive as Chait's, who believes McConnell's formulation is: "dirty pool," "absurd," and "a sneaky little game" designed to "get more chatter about Obama . . . possibly being a Muslim into the news."  

Chait's position would be stronger if McConnell were the first person to say such a thing, or if Obama considered those who had said such things in the past to be so contemptible that he wanted nothing more to do with them.  That not being the case, it may be that McConnell's formulation is not "a dog-whistle message to the far right," but an insult that only Chait can hear.

Discussions - 6 Comments

And yet the result is more chatter about Obama possibly being a muslim?

Actually I think the mainstream media has tried to fill slow news days with polls that show the american people doubt Obama is a muslim, and also ones that show they doubt he is a christian.

I mean technically if you think he is christian you doubt he is a muslim, and if you think him a muslim you doubt he is a christian. If you think he is both you have rather Ecuminical views.

Obama on Beliefnet: "You know, I was raised basically by my mother, who came from a Christian background - small- town, white, Midwesterner. But, she was not particularly religious. My father, who I did not know - I spent a month of my life in his presence, otherwise he was a stranger to me - was raised in a household where his father had converted to Islam. But my father, for all practical purposes, was agnostic."

So if his mother is not particularly religious, and his father was agnostic, odds seem at least decent that he is neither christian nor muslim.

I mean politically almost all politicians claim to be christian, and politically almost all politicians accept the reciprocal compromise and take the "I take him at his word" line.

Technically in terms of my suspicions and just for the sake of clarity I am pretty sure Obama eats pork, and doesn't pray facing mecca. It just seems ridiculous to think he is muslim, but technically it also seems ridiculous to think he is christian.

A lot of folks would make being pro-life as integral to christianity as not eating pork is to islam. Actually I am also throughly convinced that Islam and Shariah law forbids abortion. So I don't think you can be muslim or christian and be pro-choice.

I mean technically there are Bishops, priests and religious leaders in a variety of christian denominations who have held that abortion is acceptable. But while there is no real debateing the legal answer that such leaders have a claim to being considered christian, a good chunk of people who look to the bible or the Koran for information on what being a christian or muslim really entails could be forgiven for excluding them from the classification.

The political truth or fact is that Obama is christian, that he claims to be christian and politicians in general respect that.

I think Jonathan Chait is right to "hear" something in McConnells claim "I take him at his word." "I take him at his word" describes the mode of cognition. McConnell is not saying Obama's actions demonstrate his christian faith, which would be something McConnell would be more likely to say or believe about George Bush.

Technically everyone knows that the political answer is that Obama is christian, and the political way of knowing this is the effort Obama has made at beliefnet and during the campaign.

And again on this issue I hear the general refrain that the american people are idiots, that they don't know that we declared independence from great britain, that some portion think we fought with germany against al. There is that...

But fundamentally I think doubts about Obama's christianity simply reflects a sense that his policy views on abortion are contrary and incompatible with christianity. I would point out that they are also incompatible with Sharia.

The fundamental answer as opposed to the political one that heavily weights indicia like Obama saying he is christian(mode of cognition: "I take him at his word")...the fundamental answer, or the smart money if you really cared would be that Obama like his mother and father is more or less agnostic, since there is nothing fundamentally in agnosticism which would get in the way of a pro-choice policy conclusion.

That said I might be jumping to conclusions, I think you could be agnostic and pro-life or pro-choice. In fact I think you could be deist and pro-life or pro-choice and you could be aitheist and pro-life or pro-choice.

So I think from not-christian and not-muslim one cannot really get to the conclusion that he is not deist, and since deism, agnosticism and aitheism are exclusionary, if he prays one has to favor deism (albeit you can be deist without believing that God intervenes in the world). It is also the case that a lot of folks pray without believing in its efficacy. I am sure Obama is praying that the economy picks up, but he is also probably depending on Bernake.

Generally then I think you can say that Obama is a deist, which is a necessary but not sufficient foundation for being christian or muslim.

I think you need a general poll asking: Is it possible to be christian and pro-choice? Is it possible to be muslim and pro-choice?

I think Obama being christian is just as complicated as McCain being conservative. When folks identify conservatism or christianity as incompatible with a host of policy positions then identifying as one and depending upon the political answer/mode of cognition "I take him at his word" is no longer sufficient.

That said I can't account for folks believing Obama is muslim appart from the sort of Limbaughesque Manicheism that in loving to seperate into two categories loves to jump from the plausible not-christian=muslim, not-conservative=proggressive.

While Limbaugh is right that Obama doesn't really talk christianity like Bush and even Clinton, and the proof that is the Rev Wright certainly does not on substance count as Christianity in the minds of many(It is worthless indicia like the R in front of McCain's name on the ballot). It in no way follows that Obama is Muslim, but if you focus on the arab sounding name you can give uneducated folks impressions(this is where historical ignorance comes in, polls showing what americans don't know).

So none of this is unexpected:
1) there is an ignorance of theology and philosophy
2)a certain difficulty still in saying what Obama is, coupled with a much stronger sense of certainty in terms of what he is not.
3) greater familiarity with christianity coupled with indifference and hostility to Islam (leads to not-christian=muslim)

To a lesser extent you see 3) repeated among folks who know what conservatism is with indifference and hostility to progressivism(leads to not conservative=proggressive)

Chait hears McConnell say that the president says he is christian and that "I take him at his word."

I think if folks were watching the RNC convention and heard McCain introduced: "he says he is a conservative" and "I take him at his word." That some of these pro-McCain folk would be sensitive to that slight in terms of its lack of conviction on substance.

On the other hand why does McConnell want to speak to the substance of Obama's christianity or owe him this?

He says he's a Christian, and I don't take him at his word.

This entire affair is just beyond absurdity, and the way the national dialogue has sunk to such meathead levels - almost strictly by planned provocation from the right - is sad and embarrassing.

"He says he's a Christian, and I don't take him at his word."

Why not? Do/did you take George W. Bush at his word that HE's a Christian?? My sister (a pretty devout Christian) does not really believe that, but not based on any conspiracy theory garbage, but because of his deeds. She never did, however, make a public show or display of her doubt of his faith, and certainly never accused him of being a faith (or lack thereof) different from that which he claims.

Obama was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ. Why would a Muslim do that? How do you think his "fellow" Muslims would feel about that? Why would a Muslim want to get baptized at a Christian church? Is it a really elaborate conspiracy, wherein the church is really a SECRET mosque? How many Christians do you know who make the pilgrimage to Mecca because they feel it's required by their faith?

When it comes to ANYONE's personal religious beliefs we really have no choice to take them at their word, unless we're capable of reading their minds. Given the nature of religious belief, though, it would seem pretty ludicrous for someone to be of one faith but fake being of another. Or did you read something on Breitbart or Glenn Beck's magic blackboard that convinced you that Obama's being deceptive on this?

The entire "debate" is ludicrous and then some, and it's obvious to anyone with good circulation above the neck that conservatives - including those who hope to reap some benefits while they sit very quietly on their shameful sidelines - are exploiting it as much as possible. But encouraging the unhinged in this way could lead to some unintended consequences for conservatives and the country - none of them good.

If the president can't convince the American people that he's a Christian, I don't see that it's the responsibility of the opposition party to do the job for him.

"My sister (a pretty devout Christian) does not really believe that [Bush is a Christian], but not based on any conspiracy theory garbage, but because of his deeds."

You don't think the same could be said of Obama?

"You don't think the same could be said of Obama?"

Yes, of course (and actually, that's a distinct possibility) - although that's an entirely different thing from suggesting or claiming or accusing (which is what the suggestions are tantamount to in the places where they arise) him of being Muslim.

My sister's aware of Obama's many failings - although she only cares about the failings to progressives - including those where he has followed or even expanded upon bad Bush II policies.

(My sister's not a Sarah Palin kind of Christian)

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