I need to reassure all my readers. I know you’ve been worried sick about Barack Obama’s religious beliefs. Does he practice mysterious rites under the full moon? Do his howls frighten away the wolves? Does he steal chickens in Waukegan and sip their blood while reciting incantations?
Just as I was about to close the newsroom last night, a story from the leased wires of the Associated Press landed in my in-box. According to AP reporter Jennifer Loven, Obama told the good folk of Zanesville, Ohio, that the recent primary elections had somehow created the misapprehension that he was “on the left,” but that he’s really quite religious.
The clear implication of this statement is that “the left” is incompatible with religion. For example, Fernando Lugo, the leftist Catholic priest who was recently elected President of Paraguay, obviously isn’t religious at all. He says he wants to use the office of the president to help the poor. That makes him a leftist. So he can’t really be religious.
As a general rule, Catholic priests aren’t supposed to become presidents. Lugo understands this and submitted his resignation, but the Vatican refused to accept it. I don’t know how Obama plans to handle all this when he becomes president. Maybe he’ll label the College of Cardinals a terrorist organization.
In any event, now we know what Obama was talking about when he preached his daily sermon on “hope” and “change.” You thought he was talking about peace in Iraq, health care for everyone, and other leftist nonsense. In reality, Brother Obama hopes to change all of you into evangelicals. He and George Bush are old pals. God told George to invade Iraq. What will God tell Brother Obama?
Our founding fathers (we had no founding mothers) got it all wrong. They believed in the separation of church and state. Evangelicals want to separate the state from your tax money by turning Sunday’s collection over to certain religious groups that will use it for “faith-based initiatives.”
Which religious groups? I wouldn’t want to predict exactly which groups will end up with the money, but if you’re a Muslim who wants to start a childcare center for the members of the local mosque, I wouldn’t spend much time standing by the mailbox, waiting for the check to arrive. Brother Obama is sending you a signal, and the message it carries is that we’re talking about born-again childcare.
I also think that Father President Lugo might as well forget about U.S. aid to help the poor people of Paraguay. Do-gooder priest-presidents will have to use their imaginations. He could say that FARC is gathering in the mountains. That would fetch a pile of aid from the U.S., most of which would arrive in the form of firepower. This works for President Uribe, the current mob boss of Colombia. Of course, Lugo would have to lie about all this, which raises additional moral and ethical problems.
Returning from Paraguay to Zanesville, Brother Obama told the assembled throng how he had arrived at the faith-based initiative stage of his political life. “While I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I went out and did the Lord’s work,” he said.
At this point, we need to back away from the voting booth and ponder for a moment. I wonder if Brother Obama has forgotten a theological issue that led Protestants and Catholics to slaughter each other with astonishing efficiency during Europe’s religious wars, which occurred a relatively short time ago. Are we saved by our faith or by our faith and works? The opposing answers to that question provided a convenient excuse for carnage. The underlying motives for the carnage were, of course, what they always are—wealth and power. Today, a new Thirty Years’ War, or maybe longer, seems well underway in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brother Obama, we’ve had enough presidential theology. Feed the hungry. End the war.
PATRICK IRELAN is a retired high-school teacher. He is the author of A Firefly in the Night (Ice Cube Press) and Central Standard: A Time, a Place, a Family (University of Iowa Press). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.