Responding to Rufus and Silverback

A conversation of sorts has followed the posting of the “Sanctuary” video, which is what I was hoping for. Vanity demands that I post my latest response as it’s own post, having spent too much time on it to leave in the comments (and perhaps beyond the reach of web browsers Anonymous searchers everywhere).

Anyway, here’s the last of those comments:

Rufus McCain said: OK, well … a word or two of commentary might have helped in this case. I wasn’t familiar with the hymn, so it didn’t cause idolatry bells to go off for me. Now I get why you and CNB would react to it that way.

On the other hand, I think some of the giddiness among Obama supporters — and maybe this is an example — is not so much idolatry but a merging of the political and religious that goes back to the civil rights movement along the lines of Martin Luther King Jr. and what it means to have a black president with regard to our nation’s race problem. I think there are sincere Christian folks who see Obama’s presidency as the turning of the page in complex variety of ways from a bad chapter in our nation’s history to something they can feel hopeful about — in terms of their faith. I’m not sure that the makers of this video aren’t in fact Christians or at least working in a Christian tradition. Even if they are bastard liberal new age atheists, I’m not sure that it’s all that bad to borrow a hymn to evoke a sense of hope. I still think it is naive, but I don’t think it’s necessarily idolatrous or cultic or creepy in the sense that a lot of commenters (now that I’ve gone and looked at references in the rightwing blogosphere) on this video want to make it out to be.

Silverback said: I voted early– against I-1000. I took one look at the I-1000 piece– didn’t read it completely, and assumed it was “tongue in cheek”. That’s “satire” in old cowboy language I suppose. When you read the economic data either from the Hightower website or when Rufus emails it to you, I’ll be interested in your comments. Are you saying Obama’s campaign is rabidly anti-Christian? Surely you aren’t being so presumptuous as to question whether or not Obama is a Christian. Now that would be messianic.


Your moderate view might well be the right one, and I’ll say again that maybe I’m the one missing something here. I didn’t know that the song was originally Christian either, but the words “pure and holy”, interspersed with “President Barack Obama” really bugged me. It was a visceral reaction, really.

I take your point about MLK and the possibility that Christians made the video – I’d thought of it myself, but as a way of second guessing the visceral reaction I had. Second guessing isn’t always bad. Indeed, I hope President Obama takes the MLK tradition seriously. One thing I will dare to hope for is a plurality of opinion within the black community, such that the voices of Sowell, Ward Connerly, and other black conservatives are heard more. It’s disgraceful that Clarence Thomas has had to endure public humiliation and insult since his nomination – initially from Joe Biden himself – just for the fact that he holds different opinions than Jesse Jackson or Farrakhan or Obama.


Had a look at the data; thanks for sending it along. Some of it is certainly damning, I’ll admit – National Debt in particular. Some of the numbers I take issue with – Pharmaceutical profits in particular. I’m not uncritical of “Big Pharma” in some ways (although those adds for Restless Leg Syndrome are always good for a laugh), but the fact is that a lot of people are alive because of the medical advances made under capitalism. And think of all the success we’ve had against the E.D. pandemic that has swept the country over the last 10 years.

On a serious note, “profit” just isn’t the dirty word that it’s being turned into these days. And the speciousness of the term “non-profit” is something to keep an eye on. A friend of mine suggested the other week that I get into non-profit “because there’s a lot of money in those businesses”. Struck me as odd.

Lastly, No, I am absolutely not suggesting that Obama is running a “rabidly anti-Christian” campaign – far from it. Biden and Pelosi have thankfully stopped blowing their Catholic kazoos, but I think the Dems are looking for all the Christian votes they can get. Nor am I saying that he isn’t a Christian (although I don’t understand your use of the word “messianic”); he’s said he is a Christian, and I take his word on that.

But a couple of items worth noting: (1) As a politician, it would idiotic and even insane for Obama or anyone else to run a rabidly anti-Christian campaign. There’s just too many Christian voters. But this hardly needs mentioning, since, as I’ve said, Obama identifies as a Christian.

(2) Whether or not Obama identifies himself as a Christian or not is less important than whether the policies he wishes to enact reflect Christian values. They do not, and Christians need to remind him of that – insofar as he identifies as a Christian.

The more germane point here, I think, is that many of the policies he wishes to enact are unreasonable on purely rational grounds and will do our body politic great harm. This is true whether he or you or anybody else is a Christian. While I don’t believe the soundness or unsoundness of any particular political policy lies outside the provenance of Christian revelation, neither do I believe it requires Christian revelation to see political policy as sound or unsound.

At least I hope it doesn’t.

But I may be wrong on that, too.

Glad and frankly relieved that you voted against I-1000. And thanks for saying “tongue in cheek” – I appreciate the cowboy talk; it beats academic speak hands down.


  1. Quinn,
    A couple of things. When you say, “ I might find it a lot less creepy if it didn’t come from that part of the political spectrum which is so rabidly anti-Christian”. I’m puzzled—does that mean because anyone supporting Obama or is a liberal, is part of the that “political spectrum”? I submit to you that “liberals” I know are generally more concerned about those who Jesus references in Matt. 25:35 than “conservatives” I know. Further, I know some atheists who in my view do more of what Jesus asks of us than some really hard-ass fundamentalists I know. As to your comment about pharm companies—for what it’s worth, I’m a capitalist/entrepreneur and haven’t signed the back of a paycheck for more than 30 years, but have signed the front side of many paychecks, so I understand about that part of our economy. I’ve also paid more income tax than I thought I would ever make— I may get a tax increase under Obama; then again, I may not—that’s how being an independent business person works. I’m fine with it either way. And, yes, this economic meltdown may create some real problems for me. Profit is not only an expectation, it’s a necessity. The difference is that the pharms were doing fine prior to Bush. Now, simply stated, the drug companies are ripping us off. One might compare it to utilities. The reason utilities are regulated is that utilitiy companies sell us products we can’t do without, so in a pure capitalist mode where adequate competition is lacking, greed would overcome good sense and guess what—we would end up with the disaster we have in pharms. They have had Bush in their pocket for eight years, and that has excentuated the rip-off. In the most wealthy country in the world, it is terrible that anyone has to choose between meds and food.
    I don’t know the background music in that piece—but making a “sick” deal out of that is grasping for straws in finding something gripe about. Obama himself has no control over what aappears on Utube.

  2. Even old cowboys should know how to spell “accentuated”
    excentuated = accentuated.
    Wow! My proofreader should have caught that!

  3. Quin Finnegan says


    I’m already on record for saying that Obama isn’t running a rabidly anti-Christian campaign. I did generalize about a part of the political spectrum that is anti-Christian, and while I’m fairly certain I can back that up, I know it’d be a lot easier to support that claim than whether liberals or conservatives are more concerned about those who Jesus references in Matt. 25:35.

    I know a lot of liberals who are concerned about those who Jesus references in Matt. 25:35, but who are still rabidly anti-Christian. So what?

    I also know some atheists who do more of what Jesus asks of us than “some really hard-ass fundamentalists”. So what?

    I point out a campaign video that weirdly appropriates a Christian hymn for a Obama, and you ask whether I’m the one being presumptiously messianic.

    I try to point out what I think is true “whether he or you or anybody else is a Christian”, and you point out that liberals you know are better Christians than the conservatives you know.

    Okay then; I guess that settles that.

  4. almostgotit says

    … And a lot of non-Christians I know are better Christians than a lot of Christians I know, liberal or conservative otherwise and heretofore not-with-standing…

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