In what has become something of an American tradition, President Barack Obama asked us to rediscover a “spirit of service” in his Inaugural Address. “At this moment,” Obama intoned, “it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.” We must even be prepared to “brave…icy currents” and “endure what storms may come.” Where might such a noble spirit come from? Obama does not say, and for good reason. Any serious reflection on what might sustain such courage and solidarity would compel Obama to rethink the role of religion in American politics. President Obama has a complicated relationship to orthodox Christianity. On the one hand, his political career has been inspired by the civil rights movement. But, on the other hand, Obama has been a harsh critic of the very religious passions and dogmas that inspired the civil rights campaign, not to mention abolitionism and campaigns for democracy abroad. [...]Read the rest of Obama’s service problem.
Jon A. Shields
Jon A. Shields is assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and author of The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right (Princeton University Press, 2009).
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Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009