Obama's pulpit: Should elected officials be preaching theology?

I have been googling around for atheist opinions on the president's eulogy June 26th at the AME church in Charleston and haven't found anything. Was wondering if anyone else has reacted as strongly to Obama's performance as I have. Negatively, I mean.

I find it deeply offensive that a person in the highest elected position in the land took the opportunity to become a preacher  --  not just someone speaking for the spiritual side of human nature, but a real Christian preacher.  

Obama's use of the statement “We’ve been blind / but now we see" was appalling. First of all, who's the "We"? I hope he's not including any of the millions of Americans who have never been blind to the evils of slavery or to the white South's continued use of the Confederate flag to help haters bond.

And when he says:  “We don’t earn grace. We're all sinners. We don't deserve it. But God gives it to us anyway," should non-theists believe that he is speaking for us as well?  One could argue that he is speaking about grace in the broadest spiritual sense, a human goodness we are somehow born with but somehow don't always recognize.   But you can't do that in the context of this very Christian eulogy about the grace of a very Christian god who can deliver a Christian concept of grace to a Christian concept of sinners.

To ascribe this new ability to "see" as something related to the grace inherent in a monotheistic (Christian) god is downright insulting. It not only doesn't speak to those of us who don't believe in such things, but it puts Christian believers into the stupid category, implying that they can't recognize immoral, and in this case, racist behavior and attitudes on their own. They can, and they do, including so many of the so-called "saved" ones. Some just prefer to carry hate in their hearts and codify hate in their laws.  

James Fallows (www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/grace/397064/, June 27th) has written that Obama's eulogy illustrates the president's "bridging potential," saying that at "different points in the speech he uses it to mean: we Christians; we African-Americans; we members of the black church; we parents; we people of all faiths and any faith; we Americans." 

But not We non-theists.

The underlying message to people who don't buy into Christian ideology is that elected officials have the right to proselytize on a national pulpit, and those of us who don't ascribe to these same ideas should just turn the TV off for a day or two.

In fact, that shouldn't be happening under our Constitution. Obama has misused the office to deliver such a speech in a public forum. If he wants to preach to like-minded people, turn the cameras off, leave the body-guards at the door, and make sure the event stays private. 

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Bill Maher is pretty sure Obama is a closet atheist and only acts Christian because if he didn't...

If this was an address to the nation I would agree with you, but it was a eulogy for a pastor in the pastor's church to the pastor's congregation. You just happened to be listening in.

I'd be surprised if Obama had never used the old "thoughts and prayers" platitude in response to some tragedy or other during his term. It's used so often I don't even think about it or respond to it. I don't need the Prez to tell me how to respond to shyte.

I disagree with you.  As I said, if the cameras had been off and the press not allowed in, maybe. 

Pinckney was not a personal friend of the president and this was not a personal eulogy. As the Times reported, Obama met the senator during his first presidential campaign.  He performed this eulogy "before nearly 6,000 mourners and a worldwide television audience," reiterating "his plea to restrict the availability of firearms and called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the State House in Columbia." This was a formal state address to the nation. He spoke from both a religious pulpit and a bully pulpit.

We have to be very, very vigilant about God encroachment and take any stepping over the line very seriously.  Since the 50s when that "under God" went into the pledge, and even before that, just look how many practices we accept without question:  a religious motto, prayer breakfasts, prayers before public and/or governmental events, oath swearing on a Bible (almost every single president has been sworn in on a Bible, why is that?), an Air Force that has Christianized itself beyond recognition.  

Religion is a political tool.  It always has been, might always be in the future, but America had a real good shot at calling a halt to that when the Constitution was written.  

I agree with Willson Stoner.  I felt the President was expressing genuine emotion in a way which was appropriate for where he was at the time...A FUNERAL.

He wanted to help the families and congregation of that church and he shared his own grief in a very empathetic way.

He wasn't telling all of US how to respond....but he did express his own thoughts and emotions.

I was glad to see our black President being a black man. I didn't even cringe when he sang Amazing Grace.

Keep in mind that this was a EULOGY, delivered in a Christian church.  If it had been delivered in a unitarian church, I'm sure the content would have been mostly, if not entirely secular.  If one is going to accept the invitation to comfort Christians, then he must acquiesce to using their own imagery.  To do otherwise would have been disrespectful.  There may be a time and a place to be disrespectful to Christians, but this wasn't it.  

I admit to feeling some discomfort with Obama's appellations to religious nonsense, but I am inclined to give him a pass.  Why?  Because it accomplished everything I hoped it would, politically.  And without the religious iconography, it would have not had the power it delivered, in spades.  Singing "Amazing Grace" was as brilliant a move as I've ever seen a politician make.  

I believe this was Obama's greatest speech, and one of the greatest ever delivered by an American, in terms of its political, rhetorical, and emotional impact.  I do wish he could have accomplished the same effect without the preacher flourishes, but the man knew what he was doing.

As an incidental (perhaps) benefit, it effectively silenced his "Fox News" critics who never tire of implying that he is anti-Christian, anti-Christmas, and a Muslim sympathizer.  NOBODY who watched that speech believes those "Fox News" lies.

My fantasy is that, someday, we could have an atheist president who could accomplish what Obama did, but until then, I'll take what I can get.

Again, I have to disagree.  

You say it yourself:  He was comforting Christians (in the first person -- their god was his god as well), he was appeasing Fox News, and he accomplished everything you said you hoped it would politically.  That makes my point right there.  It was as much a political speech as a religious one, and he should have never made it in a public forum as an elected official.

We as non-theists do not have to "take what [we] can get."  When non-religionists are forced into accepting this because electeds step over the line, it means they have to tolerate catechism and agendas they categorically reject -- deist philosophies as well as separation of church and state. Our Constitution is supposed to be protecting us from that.

As I said from the start:  I do not oppose his doing a Christian eulogy, had it been a private ceremony. That's his business. But when he attempted to SPEAK FOR THE COUNTRY, or HEAL the country, with doctrine, hymns and gospel songs, he was using a Christian pulpit for Christian preaching. From a Constitutional point of view, that's a no-no.

I agree with many of your points, Julie, but my slight discomfort is not with having a President who is a Christian, giving a Christian eulogy, in a Christian Church for a deceased Christian, but the fact that he chose to mix politics with it.  As for constitutionality, I think it depends upon whether the speech was presented under the imprimatur of the government, and it's not clear to me that it was.

I am a total antitheist, but I don't think the fact that Obama is the head of a secular government requires him to never express his religious feelings, even in a church.  Now if he had given that same speech in a non-religious venue it would have carried a stronger implication that he was proselytizing, which definitely WOULD have been unconstitutional.

If you listen carefully, though, all of his religious allusions, especially to "grace" could just as easily be relevant to non-Christians as Christians, and I think he was very careful to not cross that line between comforting the believers and preaching Christianity to the nation.   

How far are atheists willing to take their antitheism? If I as an atheist cut my finger am I going to decline a bandage if it comes out of a package with a First Aid red cross on it? After all, it's a Christian symbol. If my child is hit by a car, am I going to object if I discover he's being taken to St. Vincent's Hospital? What if the ER doctor is a Baptist?

I can't expect my President to be a religion-free robot any more than I can expect anyone else to be. 

I'm afraid that this harping about stuff that really doesn't matter much has become the face of atheism for many people.

If it doesn't stand a ghost of a chance of ending up in the Supreme Court—and this is a great example of something that wouldn't—shut the fuck up. Atheists are not being oppressed by a religious President expressing his religiosity.

When in Rome, do like all Politicians do.


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