Monthly Archives: April 2010

On President Obama, Moral Source of America’s Authority, and Sacred Trust

I start my long public absence from cyberspace with with two quotes from President Obama:

We must draw on the strength of our values — for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That’s why we must promote our values by living them at home — which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples.  That is who we are.  That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-address-nation-way-forward-afghanistan-and-pakistan

The U.S. “is ready and eager to assume that sacred trust…I urge you to choose Chicago. And if you do — if we walk this path together — then I promise you this: The city of Chicago and the United States of America will make the world proud.”

http://www.shallownation.com/2009/10/02/obama-olympics-2016-video-photos-10-2-09-chicago-2016-bid-in-copenhagen/

Interesting, these two quotes, from President Barack Obama.

First, let’s discuss the first of these two.  (Remember that this first speech is to drum up support, of which there was and is plenty on both sides of the aisle before this speech, for an increased military presence in Afghanistan.)  What is the moral source of America’s authority?  Some sort of Lockean social contract?  Some sort of transcendent goodness or truth?  God-given inalienable rights?  It’s not really clear to me what exactly he’s referring to, but in context, it seems at its root, to be a more flowery yet similar argument to what President Bush said, that you are either with us or with the terrorists (see here) in that to oppose this plan is to oppose morality itself, or perhaps the moral source of America’s authority, as if America is necessarily propelled to its current and currently increasing levels of hyperinterventionism because of its moral authority.  (One would wonder, then, was the Founder’s noninterventionism somehow less moral?)

It is also clear that God is not mentioned, even obliquely, as a moral source of America’s authority (lest there be any confusion, let me be clear: this is not limited to Democrats; Republicans are guilty of the same omission; others hypocritically invoke His name while their actions betray Him).

Actions and ideology indicate that this kind of opportunity and justice is more closely related to a notion of positive rights.  In addition, volumes could be spoken of how hypocritical this statement seems on its face, in that to hundreds of millions, if not billions, the very policies America is pursuing domestically and internationally promote the opposition of freedom, justice, opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.

Now, for quote number two.

Notice the use of “sacred.”  For me, as an active Mormon, and along with many other religionists of all creeds, I reserve this word for my relationship with Deity.  That, alone, is sacred.  Yes, as a Latter-day Saint, since I believe associations may continue into the next world, those also are sacred, but mostly in a theological contrast.  If God is removed from these, the sacred goes away, too.

So what does the use of this word tell us about President Obama, and the ideology which he (and many other Americans) subscribes to?  What, for him, holds the highest importance?  What is sacred to him?

No question that it is important to certainly respect one another, and to value one another’s trust.  But the use of that word “sacred” seems a little over-the-top, at minimum.  Perhaps, you might say, it is just trivial political pandering, begging to get a global economic stimulus into his beloved Chi-town.  But maybe it means something else….

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Filed under Christianity, foreign policy, politics, role of government, War