Our Ecumenical Brother-in-Chief?

My Friend in the White House by Steven  HSVA, on Flickr

I was going to post this on facebook, but my commentary got a bit out of hand. As a side note, I’m trying to find ways to come out and be more open about my own perspectives on current events, religion, and anthropology. We’ll see.

First off, you have to love any article called “Obama’s Easter Christology.” What? Jacques Berlinerblau critique’s Obama’s speech at the Easter Prayer Breakfast for how it rankles non-religious people, and for how it reinforces the American political/religious context, citing Obama’s statements:

During this season we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else in perspective . . . we are reminded that in that moment he [Jesus Christ] took on the sins of the world, past, present, and future and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection — Barack Obama.

Berlinerblau goes on to comment that:

It rankles because it excludes: Obama gets the whole “ecumenical” thing—except of course when he doesn’t and starts speaking in specifically Christian terms (like when he inexplicably referred to Republican Senator Tom Coburn as a “brother in Christ” at the National Prayer Breakfast). — Berlinerblau

Hmm.

Is He Ecumenical?

I find this interesting, because to me, ecumenical has a very specific meaning in the Christian sense, which Obama is meeting.

If you type “define: ecumenical” into google, you’ll come up with definitions that reference inter-Christian relations specifically. From what I’ve seen, Ecumenical is a term used both within Christianity and, among liberal churches, in connections with other religions. But I’d argue that it’s entirely appropriate that Obama does this at multiple levels – he speaks as a black christian to blacks (but not as a white christian to whites — oh, identity politics!), as an american christian to american christians (at least those who will listen), as someone with muslim heritage or training to muslims, and as a human being with spirituality to others. Most people speak to others on multiple levels of commonality, so I really fail to see the problem with him reaching out to his religious constituents in multiple ways.

Our Brother in Christ?

Berlinerblau’s other critique is of Obama’s usage of “brother in Christ” to refer to a U.S. senator. It seems to me that if, say, Obama actually is Christian in any personal or social sense, calling someone a brother in Christ would be entirely appropriate. He doesn’t have to give up his race/s or his gender when he takes up office; why his religion?

A more interesting discussion might be whether people can reasonably be more than one religion, as they can with race (although see my comment above — why, socially, can’t Obama speak to me as a fellow educated white american christian?).

Could we envision a world in which Obama could claim to be representing Christians, Muslims, and secular academics in some meaningful sense? I’d welcome your comments on this. Is that possible philosophically/ theologically? Would it ever be possible socially?

Quoting Berlinerblau again,

As it says in Scripture: If you got it, flaunt it.

I have no idea where he pulled that from.

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