Sunday, May 27, 2007

Barack Obama: Religion and Mental Health

I did a search on Technorati.com for 'political blogs', as I am using my small amount of extra summer free time to become more politically savvy and to think about Important Issues like What I Really Think about politics, religion, culture, etc., especially since already there has been a frenzy of campaign activity for the 2008 presidental election. I found a political web site called American Polity, which gave a link to an article on Barack Obama's advocation of improved mental health care for U.S. troops. When Obama first came on the presidental scene, I was very supportive of him. I liked the excerpts from his book reproduced in Time magazine, where he talked about his liberal Christianity and respect for people of different faiths. I respect his stand on abortion, which is similar to Hillary Rodham Clinton's, that they should be safe and rare. I respected how he interacted with Evangelical America, and thought he would have a better chance of beating a Republican candidate than Rodham Clinton, since so many Republicans dislike her so much. I like the idea of having a non-White male person as president. Generally, I just felt that he seemed to have the best chance of beating a Republican (even if he is less experienced), and I really think America could stand to have a non-Republican running it for a change. However, I became concerned when I read the reports about his pastor's strong liberation theology tendencies (there is a New York Times article), including his motto as 'Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian'. As the New York Times author writes,

'Mr. Wright's assertions of widespread white racism and his scorching remarks about American government have drawn criticism, and prompted the senator to cancel his delivery of the invocation when he formally announced his candidacy in February. Mr. Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate who says he was only shielding his pastor from the spotlight, said he respected Mr. Wright's work for the poor and his fight against injustice. ... It is hard to imagine, though, how Mr. Obama can truly distance himself from Mr. Wright. The Christianity that Mr. Obama adopted at Trinity has infused not only his life, but also his campaign. He began his presidential announcement with the phrase "Giving all praise and honor to God", a salutation common in the black church. He titled his second book, "The Audacity of Hope," after one of Mr. Wright's sermons, and often talks about biblical underdogs, the mutual interests of religious and secular America, and the centrality of faith in public life.'

This paragraph made me cringe. The last thing I want for my country is to have another person blinded by religious convinction as the president. G.W. Bush has had various Evangelical leaders whispering into his ear for the last eight years, and the thought of a close-minded, anti-white, reactionist liberation theologian whispering in the new president's ear is almost enough to make me want to change my vote. What American needs is someone who can remain as objective and uninfluenced by any one religious ideology as possible.

And yet ... there are so many things I like about Barack Obama (even moreso than Rodham Clinton, and let me tell you, I would love a female president in the White House!). I like his progressive stances on abortion, gay marriage, global warming and universal health care. Where Rodham Clinton seems more resistant (she has not been as progressive as Obama about health care or environmental concerns), Obama is not afraid to push it to the next progressive level. I really like that he seems very progressive about mental health care and advocates making mental health care more available for U.S. troops. My father served in Vietnam and I know he would have very much benefited from free therapy (that is, if he would have agreed to it). But is all of this enough if he is going to be so intimiately tied to a reactionary form of Christianity? I'm unsure.

x-posted to Livejournal

4 comments:

thecrazydreamer said...

It is very interesting to think of endorsing a political candidate who holds sincere irrational beliefs that could determine his course of actions. I think the question that needs to be asked is, when push comes to shove and his pastor and his holy book are suggesting one course of action, and his advisors and his reason are suggesting another, which wins out?

I'd love to see the details of the beliefs of Obama's church/pastor to the actions of Obama. I do think, though, that if there is fire, there would be a lot more smoke. I haven't really heard much criticism of Obama from his political opponents on this point, which suggests to me that it may not be an issue.

On the other hand, I'm terrified of Mitt Romney being elected, because we wouldn't truly be electing Mitt Romney, we'd be electing Gordon B. Hinckley.

whatyoudream said...

At first, when I was reading your post, my reaction was, Don't thinking churchgoers take what their pastors say with a grain of salt? While I think that could be true, your comment about such an extremist "whispering into the ear of" our president really resonated with me. I often think of who I would have as advisors if I were president, and have been appalled at those who have advised our current leader. I hope that someone who seems so level-headed would choose his ear-whisperers more carefully.

Sammee said...

Yes, I agree, Lauren. And Steve... I am totally with you about Mitt Romney. The last thing I want is to elect Gordon B. Hinkley to president. I don't think I'd be able to sleep for eight years. Think of all that's happened with G.W. in power, now multiple that by about, oh, 100 BILLION TIMES, and you'd have the mess that America would be with Romney. Luckily, many conservatives won't vote for him because a) they view Mormons as heretics or as a cult, and b) they are suspicious of anyone who was elected to office in Mass., since it is usually a more liberal state and most conservatives look at New England with disdain.

Steven Baird said...

Obama and Clinton? Are there no libertarian candidates that strike your fancy?

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