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Obama Eloquence Descends Into Babble

Sometimes, Barack Obama can give a really great speech. Other times, however, President Obama merely ends up giving a speech that sounds as if it were written in front of a mirror, with Obama imagining himself giving a great speech. At these times, what at first sounds like eloquence reveals itself as little more than puffed up babble, the political equivalent of a Hallmark greeting card.

This was the case with Barack Obama’s address to the nation this week, given as always on Saturday. This week, Obama focused on the meaning of Easter, and so he brought out his inner preacher, and gave a sermon about all the wonderful lessons that all the world’s religions teach us, simultaneously, somehow.

Twisting theological metaphors into great swooping knots of rhetoric, Obama started by conflating Passover and Easter, and then threw these holidays them into a great global religious mishmash. Obama declared,

“These are two very different holidays, with their two very different traditions, but it seems fitting that we mark them both during the same week, for in a larger sense, they are both moments of reflection and renewal. They’re both occasions to think more deeply about the obligations we have to ourselves, and the obligations we have to one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice. This idea, that we’re all bound up, as Martin Luther King once said, in a single garment of destiny, is a lesson of all the world’s great religions, and it has never been more important for us to reaffirm that lesson than it is today, at a time when we face tests and trials unlike any that we’ve seen in our time: An economic crisis that recognizes no borders, violent extremism that has claimed the lives of innocent men, women and children from Manhattan to Mumbai, an unsustainable dependence on foreign oil and other sources of energy that pollute our air and water and threaten our planet, the proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapons, the persistence of deadly disease, and the recurrence of age old conflicts.”

Let’s start with the start. Yes, Easter and Passover are very different holidays, but they both come from the same tradition. If it “seems fitting” to Barack Obama that the two holidays come at the same time every year, perhaps he ought to reflect that Easter is an historical outgrowth of the celebration of Passover. In most languages, Christians call Easter “Passover”. So, is it really a great surprise that Christian Passover and Jewish Passover are at about the same time? They coincide, but this timing is not mere coincidence that reveals some kind of deeper universal truth – it’s an artifact of the history of a very small group of people.

How can President Obama jump from the particularities of Passover and Easter to the general lesson that these two holidays join in with “all the world’s great religions” to show that we have obligations to ourselves and other people “no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice”? The Easter story has been used for centuries as a justification for anti-semitism by Christians who love to rant that the Jews killed Jesus, and preach that salvation can only come to those who accept Jesus as their lord, with everyone else damned to eternal torture. Those Christians who would preach that it doesn’t matter “what faith we practice” are in a shrinking minority within their religion.

The Passover story is no more inclusive. It’s the celebration of divine biological warfare, a deadly plague inflicted by God against little babies of the Egyptians, but not the Jews. In the story of Passover, it matters very very much who you are, where you come from and what faith you practice. In what “larger sense” does Barack Obama think that story teaches us all a lesson about obligation to each other in spite of our differences?

If Barack Obama is going to use the Presidency to engage in religious sermons, then I’d really like to hear him expound upon the idea of what our destiny is. What destiny are we “bound” to, Mr. Obama, and how do you know what this destiny is? Have you been reading Nostradamus?

Then comes my favorite phrase of the sermon, the one that tells us that this is “a time when we face tests and trials unlike any that we’ve seen in our time”. This time when we’re seeing things we’ve never seen in our time, Obama says, is characterized by the persistence of deadly disease, and the recurrence of age old conflicts. How is it possible to have persistent diseases and age old conflicts that we’ve never seen in our time?

What’s President Obama going to tell us next? That the future has already begun? It seems that Obama has a little difficulty distinguishing between now and then, forever and never before.

Spare me, President Platitude. you can take your garment of destiny and shove it.

I would have a more charitable reaction to Barack Obama’s slippery incoherence if this sermon of his had not come just one day after Obama sent his lawyers out to declare that he has the power to imprison people without the most basic of legal rights, habeas corpus. How, I wonder, does depriving people of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution fit into the idea that we all have obligations to one another, no matter where we come from?

12 comments to Obama Eloquence Descends Into Babble

  • Jacob

    My favorite part of the speech is, “They’re both occasions to think more deeply about the obligations we have to ourselves, and the obligations we have to one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice”. I am pretty sure that anyone outside the Christian faith takes a lot of offense to this statement and any Christian would be angered by the fact that he takes our biggest event of the year and waters it down to all faiths. Easter is a very very exclusive holiday. You cannot celebrate the risen Savior if you are not Christian. Thats like saying Kawanzaa is a time for white racists to celebrate unity

    • Now, Jacob, not everyone outside the Christian faith takes offense at Obama’s statement. Some people, surely, are too dense to gather the underlying meaning of a phrase that sounds so Kumbaya huggy.

  • Kevin

    “Easter is a very very exclusive holiday. You cannot celebrate the colored egg pooping rabbit unless you wear a funny hat.”

    • Well, there’s Easter, and there’s Easter. Do you believe, Kevin, that easter eggs promote reflection on the responsibility we have to other human beings, no matter where they come from, and no matter what their faith?

      I’d love to hear that argument.

  • Jacob

    Kevin,
    This is the one part of Christianity that I have never understood. I can see a small amount of logic in Santa. We teach vhildren about selfless love, sacrafice and giving. Those are traits of Christ (they have been lost in the whole Christmas thing) and I can see why Santa was made as a means to teach them. The Easter Bunny on the other hand makes no sense at all whatsoever. What the heck does he have to do with the reserection of Jesus Christ? I see no link or nothing that can be taught. I know that spring stands for new life and bunnys make A LOT of new life, is that the connection?

    • Jacob, the connection is that the Church has a long history of absorbing local beliefs into its teachings, as a way to spread Christianity. Santa Claus has more in common historically with Mongolian/Siberian shamanism than with Christianity. As for the Easter Bunny, well, it isn’t for nothing that estrus and Easter sound very similar. Think pre-Christian fertility worship. This happens around a lot of other supposedly Christian holidays. Of course, many people point out certain calendrical aspects of Christian worship that the story of Jesus is just an allegory of the rhythms of nature itself.

  • Tom

    Religious gobble-di-gook. i wish Obama would start practicing what he preaches: he’ll hold PIRATES accountable for their crimes UNLESS THEY’RE WALL STREET PIRATES or FORMER PRESIDENTS. He’s turning into the biggest bull-shit artist on the planet.

  • Kevin

    It is for good reason that Baptists and True Christians ™ call Catholicks pagan idolators and satan’s representatives on Earth.

    look up dagon the fish head god….

    http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/2bab029.htm

  • Jacob

    Being a Baptist myself I have to disagree with you Kevin. I know a lot of Baptists who God will say I never knew you when thet stand before Him in judgment, and I know some Cathloics (few) who truely understand the gospel and what faith in Christ is. I think the wording you used is appropriate to some but you best be able to back up with scripture what you say. I think the letter to Corinth makes it clear that real Christians can screw this up and make a church look real bad and still be saved by Gods grace. I agree that the Catholic church teaches a flase gospel where works and sacraments are part of salvation, but I also have seen real Christians come out of it. remember, they use the same Bible which is the powerful word of God. Most are lead astray, but a few see truth. Bring scripture for proof, not websites…

  • Kevin

    How can I bring scripture for proof when the point is that the catolicks are acting OUTSIDE of scripture?

    Its clear that men wearing dresses is NOT acceptable to God, and that placing false idols on altars the way the catolicks love to do is a grave sin.

    Why all the Mary-worshipping, boy buggering and pagan trappings of the liturgy? None of that is in the Bible.

    and the whole baby-baptising scam. these people should be driven out of their churchs for mocking the Christian God.

    • God

      I agree. Men should not wear dresses. They look better in mini skirts.

      Oh, and Kevin, you should know that whenever you use the term “catolicks”, somewhere an angel calls you a “Pootytant”.

  • Kevin

    I, my friend, am a “Babytist”

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