TEXAS FAITH: Does President Obama need to “own God?”
Source: Dallas Morning News
By Bill McKenzie / Editorial Columnist
Published October 8, 2012
Sally Quinn minced no words after the presidential debate Wednesday. She wrote on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog that Barack Obama handed Mitt Romney “the God vote.”
“When Mitt Romney mentioned the ‘Creator’ in the debate Wednesday, he owned it. ‘We’re all children of the same God,’ he said. That’s about 85 percent of the country he was talking to. That should have been President Obama’s constituency but he let Romney have it as he let Romney have the debate.”
In the rest of her commentary, she gets into how Republicans have tried to “own God” like they once tried to own the flag. You can read it at this link.
The most provocative part, I thought, was her conclusion:
” There was Obama– grim faced, nervous, fumbling his words and wearing his American flag pin — letting Romney, confident and aggressive and in control, roll right over him at every turn. But the God thing clinched it. If Obama wants to win the next debate, he needs to wear God, as much as it offends him to do so, the same way he captured the flag for this one.”
What do you think? Does the president need to “wear God?”
CYNTHIA RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Yes, President Obama needs to “wear God.”
There is a reason why those of us who are politically and/or theological liberal avoid doing this. It is because we do not want to be identified with those myopic know-it-alls who wield faith in God as a badge of honor. We know better than to follow “in God we trust” with “therefore, we are in the right.”
We “liberals” have become so fearful of being misunderstood or misidentified with the “closed-minded” that we have banned “God” from our public discourse. This is problematic on at least three levels: First, it buys into the idea that to espouse any kind of belief in God is inevitably to fuel hegemonic mindsets instead of determining to explain and model how belief in God can actually promote greater humility, openness, plurality, and commitment to justice.
Second, banning talk of “God” out of fear of being associated with religious know-it-alls is inauthentic insofar as it hides from the people and public we serve the ways in which our beliefs – however “liberal” – actually impact the decisions we make, and the leadership we offer. I might fear the labels that will be pinned to me when I talk of God, but those who are putting their trust in me have a right to know what convictions order my priorities and shape the thrust of my work.
Third, to resist talking about “God” for fear of being branded closed-minded is problematic because to do so is simultaneously to withhold from those who rely on us something all of us want, need, and seek. I am informed by Annie Dillard on this point. Dillard notes (in “Living By Fiction”) that we are great at talking about particulars and contexts (“artifacts,” she calls them), but lousy at talking about “what matters most.” And what matters most – what we all want to hear something about – is not everything about something, but something about everything.
The minute we speak of “God” – whether we are conservative, liberal, or something else or in-between – the minute we speak of “God” we have deigned to say something about everything. We have put a word to our conviction that there is, in some way, ultimate value. We have put forward our hope that our story will end well, despite the ambiguities that surround us.
We need our president to say something about everything. We need him to speak of God. We need him to “wear God” – not in a know-it-all, or Polly-annish, sort of way. We need him to wear God in a way that tells us he is committed to more than deciphering artifacts, to more than managing political conundrums. We need him to re-invite us into our shared hope; we need him to remind us of our common future.
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