Wednesday, September 26, 2012
The Unwavering Faith of Barack Obama
A-ways on back in 2008, Candidate Obama was, quite frankly, impressive. One of the most significant ways he came across as impressive was to those of us who still dwell in the realm of the oldline. I mean, you asked the man about his faith, and the next thing you know, you're getting an informed, measured, and thoughtful conversation about Reinhold Niebuhr.
He knows and can appropriately cite Reinhold Niebuhr, we gasped, and went a little light at the knees.
Then there was Obama's church, and his pastor. Yes, I know, he said "God-Damn America," for which Fox News will never forgive him. And yes, all the attention did kind of go to Jeremiah Wright's head. But if you listened to that sermon, really listened to it, it kicked behind. It challenged the idol of nationalism, it was dead on scripturally, and it rocked out hard against our boundaries in the way that the very best prophetic African American preaching always has.
And so the man had some serious faith bona-fides, and we were all talking about it.
Now, we're four years later, and a month out from a likely re-election, if the current meta-polling trend holds. And the funny thing is, outside of the whackjobs who are convinced that Obama is a Muslim and very possibly a Red Lectroid fifth columnist, his faith is pretty much immaterial. It gets no press. There is no buzz. It's a non-issue.
The campaign knows this, and so they're putting in the level of effort on that front one might expect. If you go to the "Faith" portion of the current Obama election campaign...well...it feels a teensy bit familiar. Generic. Perhaps even, dare I say it, stale. Faith, we hear, was very important as he was getting elected. It was vital, or so the pitch still goes, on the journey from Chi-town to Chocolate City.
But he's been president for four years. What has his faith meant during those four years?
Because honestly? He's not the same guy now that he was four years ago. He can't possibly be.
It's not just that this campaign is different, though it is. It's far more muscular, stronger, more in touch with its grasp on power. He is the president, the POTUS, and he knows it and shows it. He wears it well, as well as he does the grey flecks that now speckle his hair.
So saying the same things about the role of faith in governance both before and after you've been there just seems inadequate.
Here you've been CiC for four years. You've sent men to their deaths. You've ordered the deaths of others, and had your orders carried out. Presumably, this doesn't happen so much when you are the junior Senator from Illinois, although given Chicago politics, one never knows.
There are other things. The idealistic struggle for civil discourse with the Other Side of the Aisle, which did not work out so well. The ongoing systemic crisis in the economy, which ain't over yet. This has not been easy.
And yet the faith-schpiel of the campaign is the same. Utterly unchanged. It's untouched by crisis, unmoved by the reality of what must have been experienced over the last four years. It does not waver. It is, truth be told, perhaps the only part of the campaign that hasn't shifted to reflect the experience of governing. It stands like a tree whose leaves are still and calm, unfluttered by the wind that roars around you.
This feels off, somehow.
Anyone who has leaned heavily on their faith in a time of profound existential challenge knows that faith does not remain unchanged. If faith is irrelevant, it falls away. If faith is weak, it crumbles. If faith is strong, it deepens.
But it does not remain the same. Faith is a living and dynamic thing.
A faith journey is not static, and finding yourself the most powerful human being on the planet is presumably a nontrivial part of said journey. It's a pity this campaign won't be showing us that. It might actually be kind of interesting.
Ah well. So it goes.