January 21, 2008

Christian =/= theocrat

I got home from school today to see numerous complaints on liberal and progressive blogs about a flyer the Obama campaign is putting out, featuring the phrase COMMITTED CHRISTIAN and quotations from Obama involving faith. There are also lots of comparisons to an ad the Huckabee campaign used a while back. I don't feel like copying and pasting all the various links, so I'll just point to Glenn Greenwald, who seems to have the clearest statement of the criticism.

the brochure seems designed ... to signify to South Carolina's many Christian voters that Obama is one of them and therefore should have their vote for President, much the way that Huckabee sought to court the evangelical vote that was so critical to the GOP Iowa caucus.

Right. Except for not-the-fuck-at-all.

Huckabee's ad, like the rest of his campaign, is meant to appeal to the theocratic sort of evangelical -- that kind of person that thinks the American legal system needs to be torn down and rebuilt according to his interpretation of the Bible. Aiming to destroy the secular and tolerant principles on which our system is based, the theocratic evangelical's political philosophy is profoundly illiberal. To put it a bit crudely, Huckabee is trying to attract the support of the Christian, capitalist-friendly version of the Taliban.

By contrast, the copy of the Obama ad sounds to me like a man who has grounded his desire to fight for social justice in Christianity. Which really shouldn't be objectionable, as such, especially on Martin Luther King Day.

The big difference between Huckabee's base and Obama's base is that the Christian theocrat wants to subvert liberal democracy, replacing it with an illiberal Christianist regime, while the Christian progressive's embrace of liberal democracy is based on her faith. Yes, they're both `Christians', but one's metaphysical beliefs are not the same as one's political philosophy.

Now, maybe you think that Obama really isn't as progressive as, say, MLK, much less Hillary Clinton, and that therefore the progressive Christian should vote for Clinton instead of Obama. But that argument has nothing at all to do with (a) whether Obama is a committed Christian, (b) whether Obama should be campaigning on that committment, or (c) whether doing so makes him somehow `like Huckabee'. Unless Obama's pamphlet is somehow supposed to suggest to voters that he's going to establish the Christian States of America, he's not at all like Huckabee.

And just because I can't get over the irony: We're having this dispute on Martin Luther King Day? Seriously?

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