First Theology

President Obama’s remarks at the Fort Hood memorial contained an unexpected pronouncement:

“No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice — in this world, and the next.”

It’s not the pluralism that’s unexpected, nor the condemnation of the killer. The surprise came in his belief in a judgment in the afterlife. In a 2008 interview for The Stranger, Obama’s tone on the afterlife was decidedly more agnostic. Recounting a conversation with one of his daughters, he said,

“I wondered whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn’t sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang.”

I don’t presume to know all the ins and outs of Obama’s personal beliefs, though I think it’s pretty clear that he holds to a more liberal brand of Christianity. What is clear, however, is that his recent remarks are a significant departure from the ones in 2008.

9 Responses to First Theology

  1. RK Brumbelow November 11, 2009 at 11:42 pm #

    Given that Obama does not write his own speeches and that he does not speak well in public without a speech, why do you presume that this speech reflects with any accuracy the President’s personal beliefs?

  2. Denny Burk November 12, 2009 at 12:30 am #

    I read a report that said he had spent a lot of time working on the speech himself.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/11/10/national/w000437S22.DTL&feed=rss.news

  3. RK Brumbelow November 12, 2009 at 3:13 am #

    Ah, thank you for the clarification (last ~1/3 of the article 9 paragraphs from the end for anyone else who is looking for that specifically).

    I do have to admit I have strong doubts about our President and I am want to look upon him negatively, that is my problem though and not his. Your correction reminds me of that and so I thank you Denny.

  4. Darius T November 12, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    He’s a politician who will say whatever his audience wants to hear… like most politicians. Remember that first thing he would do? Sign the Freedom of Choice Act? That’s a non-starter and he knows it, so while he may have said one thing to Planned Murderhood, he knew he could never back that up. The key to determining his agenda is not looking at his teleprompter-guided speeches or his rhetoric, but at his policies and what he actually fights for in legislation. For instance, his campaign rhetoric said he was against redefining marriage, but ever since he got in office, he has worked to undermine it.

  5. Greg Gorman November 12, 2009 at 11:14 am #

    I think it is much more likely that he is culturally Muslim and that any seeming nods to Christian beliefs are no more sincere nor authentic than would be those of a person who is culturally Jewish. He is, essentially, a-religious. But culturally, based on the most impactful times of his life, he’s probably culturally Muslim.

  6. Tim Merki November 12, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    The problem is that Obama just says what ever he thinks the people want to hear at any given point in time. So tomorrow if he is addressing muslim extremist he will say that the attack on Fort Hood was a step in the right direction for starting a dialogue with muslims around the world. As far as his theology goes it is whatever will please the most amount of people he is addressing in that particular setting.

  7. Stephen November 12, 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    Is it just entirely outside the realm of possibility that someone isn’t as sure about the details of the afterlife as some of you are?

    The Bible speaks of the eschaton in a plethora of different ways. If you take Obama at his word there isn’t any inconsistency here.

    Move along.

  8. Tim Merki November 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    The problem is I do not take Obama at his word because he has proven that he can not be taken at his word. There is this thing called accountability and people who double speak should be called on it.

    And by the way to claim that the Bible speaks of the eschaton in a variety of different ways is to call into consistency of the bible or at the very least it’s clarity on the subject.

  9. Mrs. Webfoot November 12, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Maybe God is answering prayer, and maybe Mr. Obama is seeking God in a more personal way.

    I don’t know how to pray for the man, since I find his politics reprehensible. That is not a statement about him as a person.

    He seems like a nice guy and a good family man. So, I pray that he will learn to pray, at the very least. I pray that God will give him wisdom, and that he will ask God for wisdom.

    Maybe this is a sign that he is thinking more deeply about spiritual issues. I hope so.

    Very interesting observation.

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