Rushing to challenge Obama theology results in less than excellent broadcasting
No one has been more eager than a certain Southern Baptist rooster to discredit the confession of Jeremiah Wright's Hate America Church whose pews parked Obama butts for twenty years. Rush Limbaugh has been invaluable in this regard since we first witnessed Trinity United's proud display tapes of the President's former congregation rising in unison to affirm the hate. America's greatest conservative has also, rightly, often reminded EIB listeners of Barack Obama's own confessions in his two autobiographies, one of which was named for a Reverend Wright sermon on the "Audacity of Hope". Moreover, Rush was right to point out that Obama's response to a question this past week concerning why he is a Christian, failed to mention his mentor of two decades and his own musings on the same question from his books.
But Rush was wrong in his theology on what constitutes "Christian precepts" and wrong in some of his attempts to draw conclusions about what Obama meant with respect to political applications. With regard to the former, consider the following exchange:
Anyway, one of the audience members said to Obama, "Why are you a Christian?"
OBAMA: I'm a Christian, uh, by choice. Um, you know, my family didn't -- frankly, they weren't, uh, folks who went to church every -- every week. Um, my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't, uh, raise me in the church. Uh, so I came to, to, uh, my Christian faith later in life, uh, and it was because the, the, the, precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead -- being my brother's and sister's keeper, treating others as they would treat me. - (Full quote recited and discussed further below with the selective editing also not flattering to Rush)
RUSH: Now, ladies and gentlemen, you have to forgive me here, but -- and not disputing -- President Obama says he's a Christian, that's good enough for me. And there's a lot of people who do not know details of their own religious belief. But the Golden Rule is not a precept of Christianity. (subscription may be required)
That last sentence would be news to Jesus, the 12, every Baptist since John the-, and every Christian since A.D. 33, given Christ's directly-on-point-"Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you" declarations in the Gospels of Matthew (7:12) and Luke (6:31), as well as his Greatest Commandment, "love thy neighbor", Deuteronomic (6:5) recitation in Luke 10.
The whole Bible defines Christian precepts
Rush seeks to justify his renunciations of Obama's supposed theological musings by limiting Christian precepts to those that had not previously appeared in the Code of Hammurabi, and possibly, by implication, to those that had not previously been uttered in the Old Testament.
Rush was wrong.
That someone had previously advocated love of others, whether in Babylon or elsewhere, does not prevent same from being a precept of another. Moreover, Jesus Christ came to fulfill all Scripture and accepted the Old Testament writings as authoritative.
Later on, in his zeal to discredit Obama's confession, Rush continues his "Thomas Jefferson Bible-like" editing of Scripture with more Hammurabi-centric musing of his father and brother on the Golden Rule, also adding the liberal concept of proportionate "eye for an eye" punishment and the story of Cain and Abel, into the mix:
The code of Hammurabi is from ancient Babylon. Many people's first experience to the Golden Rule is actually... like my brother, David, told me that he first heard of the Golden Rule when he opened up a fortune cookie at the Purple Crackle Club in East Cape Girardeau, Illinois, and the fortune cookie had the Golden Rule in there as a fortune. How many of you have you seen the Golden Rule as a fortune in the fortune cookie? Now, the code of Hammurabi is from ancient Babylon, which is modern Iraq. Ancient Babylon is modern Iraq. You could even find the story of Cain and Abel in the Koran -- sorry -- the Holy Koran, as Mrs. Clinton points out. And so was the Golden Rule.
Rush and David Limbaugh were raised Methodist in Missouri and I'm doubtful that fortune cookie theology preceded Sunday School teachings of the Golden Rule. This was not Rush's finest hour, and a hint of the possible reason for same is found in a dismissive aside after coming back from commercial:
I'm getting a lot of e-mails that the Golden Rule is in the Old Testament, that it's in the New Testament, but it's the Code of Hammurabi, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, do unto others. But the point is, I am my brother's keeper. There is an effort -- the reason why this is important, there's an effort by the left to say that Jesus was a socialist, and they are using this to turn many evangelical people into global warming people. We are the stewards of the planet and so forth.
Not a complete sentence from the broadcasting master in that segment, so eager is he to dismiss reminders of his inaccuracy. Rush has a great point to make about how many liberal Christians misuse Scripture to justify Big Government. The problem is that the occasion of the President's backyard utterances this past week do not provide the ammunition.
Moreover, no matter what "the point" is for Rush, it does not justify misstatements regarding what is or is not a Christian precept, nor does it justify leaps of logic from statements related to one's personal confession as if the statements were being used at the time to justify policy or make theological points.
Brothers' Keepers and selective editing
Consider Obama's more complete answer to the "why he became a Christian" question, with those portions edited out by Rush in bold:
“I’m a Christian by choice,” the president said. “My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”
Mr. Obama went on: “But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do, that’s what I pray to do every day.’’
Rush would have been wise to have left criticism of that beautiful testimony alone, and instead shouted Hallelujah! All of the valid political and other significant "points" made with reference to the above were better made with quotes from Obama's books, Rev. Wright, and Obama's actual failed record. Instead, Rush edits out the portions that any regular ole' conservative Christian makes in describing their conversion (see bold above), and goes off on a tangent with regard to one's "brother's keeper" that is not justified by Obama's actual words.
Obama does not cite Cain's post-murder delay tactic line to God when asked about his slain brother's whereabouts. Moreover, numerous precepts of Jesus do admonish his followers to keep one's brother in many ways, some level of which informs Reagan's endorsement of an American federal government safety net for the truly needy.
Yes, the Founders, Buckley, Reagan and modern American conservatism finds much in the precepts of Christianity to justify smaller government and an aggressive national defense. And yes, liberals and Christians like Obama do often selectively misapply the teachings of Jesus, but the fact is that the philosophy behind Judeo-Christian principles of tolerance and compassion are part of what has made America the Shining City and some of those principles are liberal.
Modern day liberals have taken them too far (and have since at least the late 60s and arguably much sooner), but the better conservative argument against the political policies of the Left and Democrats is that their policies FAIL to better keep brothers because they squelch wealth creation thru denials of Liberty.
Conservatives should also point out to those on the left that argue for pacifism based on Jesus's teachings on turning the other cheek, that Christ also endorsed the nation-state via rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's.
What Rush got right
Rush was right to make clear he was not questioning Obama's faith and heart. Good thing, because we have no soul meter and eternity is not reserved for correct theologians. Rush was right to point out Obama's earlier answers to the faith question with reference to his own statements in his books and to the heretical and cultish, Marxist, Black Liberation Theology sermons of Rev. Wright and his church that honored Louis Farrakhan.
I suspect Rush just got lazy. He just got married too.
P.S. His brother David needs to explain his AWOL status during Methodist Sunday School teachings on The Golden Rule.
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson