Barack Obama: “Committed Christian — Called to Bring Change”

Are there differences between Mike Huckabee's and Barack Obama's overt political appeals as Christians?

Topics: Washington, D.C.,

(updated below – Update II)

Mike Huckabee has been widely criticized for his overt religious appeals to win votes. One of the most criticized aspects of his campaign was a television ad he ran in Iowa and South Carolina pointedly describing himself as a “Christian leader”:

Today, Greg Sargent posted a brochure which the Obama campaign is distributing in South Carolina which seem to include religious appeals at least as overt and explicit as anything Huckabee has done. The center page of the brochure proclaims — in the largest letters on the page — that Obama is a “COMMITTED CHRISTIAN,” and includes three pictures of Obama, all of which show him praying or preaching in a Church, and also includes a fourth picture: of the interior of a Church with a large cross lurking in the background. The page also says that Obama is “guided by his Christian faith” and quotes Obama saying: “We do what we do because God is with us.”

That same page prints Obama’s views “on the power of prayer,” and — using the same language George Bush has frequently used as a signifier to evangelical voters — says that Obama is “Called to Christ,” “Called to Bring Change” and “Called to Serve”:



Similarly, the front page of the brochure shows Obama in a chin-on-hand contemplative posture and underneath, it reads: “Answering the Call.” The last page shows two more pictures of Obama in Church, proclaims him again in large letters to be a “COMMITTED CHRISTIAN,” and describes how he “felt a beckoning and accepted Jesus Christ into [his] life”:

Sargent speculates that the brochure is an attempt to counter the false whispering campaign increasingly being circulated in South Carolina (by whom, we should find out) that Obama is a Muslim. That very well may be, but the brochure seems designed with a far broader purpose: namely, 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.

Leave aside whether what Huckabee and/or Obama are doing is inappropriate or not. Given how much religion has been infused into our politics, especially our Republican politics, I didn’t really think that anything Huckabee was doing was particularly unusual. It seems more like a mild, natural extension of the direction in which we’ve been headed for some time. That, for the moment, is not the issue.

Clearly, there are major differences between Huckabee’s views on the role of religion in government and Obama’s, as evidenced most recently by Huckabee’s call for the Constitution to be amended to comport with God’s will on abortion and homosexuality. Obama has no such positions (and I agree with both Pam Spaulding and Andrew Sullivan that Obama’s speech yesterday at Ebenezer Baptist Church was courageous and, in several important respects, admirable in the extreme).

But in terms of the propriety of their religious appeals for votes, is there really any meaningful difference between the two campaigns? Is it possible to criticize Huckabee for inappropriately exploiting his status in Iowa as a “Christian leader” — as many, many people did — while believing that Obama’s hailing of himself in South Carolina as a “Committed Christian” is perfectly fine? What’s the difference?

UPDATE: For all those angrily objecting to the notion that Huckabee and Obama are the same: nobody is arguing that they are. At least I’m not arguing that, as I think I made quite clear.

Instead, I’m focusing solely on Huckabee’s explicit religious appeal for votes, which conveys this message: “Like you, I’m a Christian; my Christianity is central to who I am and how I will lead; and therefore, as a devout Christian, you should vote for me for President.” Huckabee was criticized extensively for that appeal. Does anyone doubt that this same message is at least part of the brochure which the Obama campaign is circulating in South Carolina? Regardless of the numerous, significant differences between them, how can one be criticized while the other be defended for employing what seems to be the same tactic?

UPDATE II: Hordes of Obama supporters are claiming in comments and elsewhere that this brochure was nothing more than a perfectly innocent attempt to counter the whispering campaign that Obama is a Muslim. As I indicated, I think that probably is one of the purposes, although there would seem to be lots of other ways to do that other than by creating something this overt. If Obama supporters are really intent on denying that part of the purpose here is to appeal to Christain voters by emphasizing Obama’s “COMMITTED CHRISTIANITY,” I suppose there is no way to persuade anyone otherwise.

But I do think this question should be answered: the “Obama-is-a-Muslim” whispering campaign has been around for a long, long time — more than a year ago, it made national headlines. If the primary purpose of this flier — as Obama supporters insist — was simply to rebut that false claim, why didn’t Obama distribute this Christian brochure to Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada? Why is it only the heavily Christian South Carolina Democrats who received it? Didn’t he want to rebut the Muslim claims in other states besides South Carolina?

Finally, just to underscore the point (again), I’m not arguing that Obama has done anything wrong here. As I said, I thought much of the criticism of Huckabee for making overt religious appeals was overblown because that’s become the norm for our political culture. My point is simply that, with regard to this specific tactic of appealing to voters based on shared religious beliefs, Huckabee and Obama seem to be engaged in more or less the same exercise, and therefore, it’s irrational to criticize one while defending the other. Atrios makes the same point in a slightly different way.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>