Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama's Heterodoxy

Steven Waldman:

The most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama's faith came in a 2004 interview he gave Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani when he was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois. The column she wrote about the interview has been quoted and misquoted many times over, but she'd never before published the full transcript in a major publication.

Because of how controversial that interview became, Falsani has graciously allowed us to print the full conversation here.

Read the whole thing.

Some reactions (click their names to read more of their thoughts):

Joe Carter:

. . . from a political point of view, whether the President is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, whatever, should make no difference. But I believe it is useful to have an idea of what theological commitments we might have in common. And after reading this interview, I would say that Obama and I share very few beliefs. . . . In fact, nowhere in the interview did I ever get the impression that Obama subscribes to even the most basic beliefs that are typically associated with being a Christian.
Rod Dreher:
Unless Obama was being incredibly and uncharacteristically inarticulate, this is heterodox. You cannot be a Christian in any meaningful sense and deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. You just can't. . . . People think you can make this stuff up as you go along, and that nobody has the right to define authoritatively what any of it means. It's the Church of Christianity without Christ. It's Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, so let's call it what it is -- but not what it is not, which is Christianity.
Daniel Larison:
Ultimately, the inquiry into Obama’s faith does not tell us much that we didn’t already know, which is that he is a liberal Protestant with an accordingly poor grounding in theological orthodoxy. I have to wonder how much power this critique has unless it is made as part of a general argument for theological conservatism in public life. Would cultural conservatives be open to this kind of critique when it is one of theirs being criticized, or would they repeat the arguments marshalled in defense of Romney?
Ross Douthat:
Given the muddled way in which most Americans approach religion, and the pervasiveness of heterodoxy, I suppose I'm basically with Alan Jacobs: I think that figuring out exactly what sort of things Obama believes about God and Christ and everything else, and how those beliefs may affect his Presidency, is ultimately a more profitable pursuit than arguing about whether he should be allowed to call himself a Christian. Or put another way: I expect my Presidents to be heretics, but I think it matters a great deal what kind of heretics they are.