Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

October 2nd, 2014

In whose name? ISIS, Islam, and social media

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Commentators routinely remark on the sophisticated use of media by the organization that calls itself the Islamic State, but in the past few weeks many Muslims have been using the Twitter hashtag #NotInMyName to offer a counter-narrative about Islam. The campaign began earlier this month with a video released by the London-based Active Change Foundation, featuring British Muslims speaking out against the organization (variously known as ISIS and ISIL), which, they say, does “not represent Islam or any Muslim.” A recent tweet using the hashtag stated that, “ISIS is not a representation of Islam. My religion is based upon principles of respect, love and harmony.”

January 22nd, 2014

Politics and the “People’s Pope”

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Last Friday, Politico Magazine published an article on Pope Francis, his approval ratings, and ways that our President could learn from His Holiness’ example. Pope Francis was elected to the Papacy on March 13, 2013. Ten months later, we’ve begun to get a more detailed understanding of the man who is now, in some circles, being referred […]

November 13th, 2012

Religion and the election

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Several months ago, it seemed religion might be a notable factor in the 2012 presidential election.

November 5th, 2012

After Sandy: Presidential rhetoric and visions of solidarity

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On Monday afternoon as Hurricane Sandy threatened landfall, President Obama warned reporters gathered at the White House that the storm would be a difficult one, and urged a collective, unifying response. In the wake of the storm, Obama has often shifted away from the polarized rhetoric of the campaign trail to a message reminiscent of the candidate circa 2008, employing hopeful metaphors of American unity and healed fracture.

Many scholars who initially saw in Obama the possibility of a reinvigorated prophetic civil religion have since been disappointed. Now, on the eve of the election and as the waters recede across New Jersey and New York City, we have a moment to reflect on the rhetoric and symbolism that Obama has employed during this disaster.

What, if anything, is new about the rhetoric and symbolism he is employing, and how should we understand the relationship between this rhetoric and his governing style? What does it suggest about the arc of American civil religion, about shifting and multiple visions of national solidarity, and about the election and the political climate to follow?

November 3rd, 2012

Peter Manseau on religion as America’s “first freedom”

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New Directions in the Study of Prayer grantee Peter Manseau observes that both the Obama and Romney campaigns describe religious liberty as America’s “first freedom,” a characterization that has “become so commonplace that it seems churlish to question it.” But Manseau finds that what constitutes the first freedom has historically been far from clear-cut, and […]

September 14th, 2012

Death in the Middle East: What happens next?

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On the 11th anniversary of the September 11, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt and U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya were attacked amidst protests over a trailer for a purported film entitled Innocence of Muslims.

August 8th, 2012

Mormon appointed to White House faith-based advisory council

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Recently, Religion News Service reported that President Obama had appointed the first Mormon member to his faith-based advisory council.

June 28th, 2012

American civil religion in the age of Obama: An interview with Philip S. Gorski

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Philip S. Gorski is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies and Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Research at Yale University. His work as a comparative historical sociologist has been influential in recovering Max Weber and asserting the strong influence of Calvinism on state formation in early modern Europe. In his recent book, The Protestant Ethic Revisited (Temple, 2011), he challenges Charles Tilly’s thesis that the technologies of war drove the creation of stable nation-states and argues that post-Reformation religious conflicts were the primary impetus of European state formation. In addition to co-editing The Post-Secular in Question earlier this year as part the SSRC’s series with NYU Press, Gorski is editor of another volume coming out early next year entitled Bourdieu and Historical Analysis (Duke, 2012). He and I sat down in Theodore Roosevelt Park in New York City, where we discussed the book he’s writing on civil religion, joked about Obama’s messianic burden, and considered what present-day America might learn from Émile Durkheim.

June 15th, 2012

President Obama’s waning religious support

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In 2008, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was able to make crucial gains among religious moderates on his way to winning the presidential election.

May 16th, 2012

The bishops, the sisters, and religious freedom

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At its March 2012 meeting, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty,” a document drafted by the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

May 8th, 2012

West’s witness

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For New York Magazine, Lisa Miller profiles Cornel West, surveying the course of his academic career, personal life, and variety of public spats with figures like Larry Summers and Barack Obama.

May 1st, 2012

Evangelicals support Romney

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At The New Republic, Eg Kilgore explains why the Christian Right will overcome its apprehensions about Mitt Romney’s religion.

April 25th, 2012

Problems with new Gallup poll?

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Gallup’s latest poll, released today, breaks down presidential candidate support by voter religiosity and religious identity.

April 19th, 2012

Catholic bishops on religious liberty

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Last week the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and its Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty released a lengthy statement entitled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” the latest manifestation of the tensions between the USCCB and President Barack Obama’s administration.

April 10th, 2012

Democracy, diplomacy, and religious freedom

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Over at Foreign Affairs, Andrew Preston has written an article exploring the paradox of religion in U.S. foreign policy.

March 7th, 2012

Decoding religious freedom claims

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Molly Worthen, in the New York Times‘ Campaign Stops blog, considers the undertones of recent conservative claims regarding the Obama administration’s purported disregard of religious freedom.

March 2nd, 2012

College, religion, and Santorum

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A 2007 SSRC study on religion and higher education contradicts Rick Santorum’s claims about loss of faith and college attendance.

February 24th, 2012

The contraception mandate

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In what is latest in a series of conflicts between the Obama administration and the Roman Catholic Church, a recent regulation announced by the Department of Health and Human Services mandating that all employers—including religiously affiliated institutions such as Catholic universities and hospitals—provide health care that covers the cost of contraception has provoked widespread outcry from religious leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, as well as from many politicians, both Republican and Democrat. President Obama has outlined a compromise whereby employees at religious organizations would be given access to free contraception directly from health insurers themselves, yet this has done little to quell criticism and ongoing debate.

We’ve invited a small handful of scholars to comment on how the debate highlights enduring and nascent issues involving claims to multiple rights made in the context of American public life.

February 24th, 2012

Responses to Qur’an burning in Afghanistan

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Reports that NATO personnel had burned copies of the Qur’an first appeared in the New York Times on Tuesday, February 21.

February 21st, 2012

Do candidates need the Catholic vote anymore?

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Ed Kilgore argues that American Catholics no longer represent a voting constituency that is significantly different from non-Catholics.

November 16th, 2011

Catholic bishops take aim at White House

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On Monday, November 14th, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) met in Baltimore to begin day 1 of its national meeting in the wake of increasing tensions between the USCCB and the White House over a range of issues.

July 11th, 2011

The geopolitical imperative?

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Ritualistic evocations of “America” . . . and the deep-seated sense that somehow the United States is sacrosanct space—war, by definition, taking place elsewhere—are ways of being toward the world that mask an overwhelming desire, sometimes ferocious, to avoid all sacrifices: professionalized (class-based) military, ridiculously low taxes (especially for high earners), lax popular engagement, minimal obligations, a dislike for central authority bordering on hatred. The “exception” was extended into the 1950s by means of the Cold War (which was in fact the intention), but the last time the sacrifice was generally accepted was indeed the last: Vietnam. From then on, the geopolitical imperative has looked different. Accepting the globalism of the U.S. in one form or another is one thing; sacrificing for it is an altogether different one. Sovereignty, the right to decide on the exception, has thus typically resided in the geopolitical imperative, and it has been experienced on the outside. Few foreigners make any mistake about the importance of U.S. geopolitics and the “right” that it seems to embody.

March 10th, 2011

Will Oprah Winfrey save us all?

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Oprah Winfrey is the single most powerful woman in media. She presides over a multi-billion dollar empire as both mogul and star. As a model of American womanhood, she is distinctly contemporary: never before has the predominantly white, middle-class public accepted such an anomalous spokesperson. She is single, childless, and co-habiting with the distinctively named Stedman Graham, who guards the few slivers of privacy she has left; her soul mate is her best friend, Gayle King. These factors alone would seem to mark her populist origins as more of an iconoclast than an icon; a free-thinker, cultural feminist, and a liberal.

October 26th, 2010

Ceding ground to propagandists

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As I noted in August, one in five Americans mistakenly believes that President Obama is secretly a Muslim.  Yet more disconcerting than the fact that this propaganda has been so widely disseminated, is that one of Obama’s most recent strategies for combating the problem is simply giving in.

September 30th, 2010

Holy ground zero?

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More than nine years (and a few weeks) have now passed since the events of 9/11, and as Religion in America blogger Paul Matzko noted on the attacks’ ninth anniversary earlier this month, the religious overtones of how Americans remember that day are palpable.

September 9th, 2010

Jacoby: fixation on Obama’s religion is unprecedented and un-American

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In her Washington Post opinion column, The Spirited Atheist, Susan Jacoby reflects upon the “billions of words” published in newspapers, blogs, and articles about Obama’s religion, arguing that “there is nothing ordinary, or traditional in American politics, about subjecting a president’s private faith to this kind of scrutiny.”

September 2nd, 2010

Black crescent, white cross

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By now, everyone has seen the Newsweek poll indicating that a majority of Republicans believes President Barack Obama sympathizes with radical Islamists who would like to impose Shari‘a on the United States.  Certainly, political debates in America generally get fairly nasty whenever the defense of “the American way of life” is at issue.  And in America, such threats have had a long history of steering the popular imagination back to the question of race.  But this time around, the mixture is especially volatile, I think, because race is once again being stirred into a mixture with religion.

August 20th, 2010

Perceiving the President

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A recent Pew Research poll indicates that an increasing percentage of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.

August 20th, 2010

Religious freedom, wisdom, and Park51

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As the mid-term electoral season enters its final months, the growing controversy over the construction of Park51, the now well-known Muslim community center proposed to be built near the former site of the World Trade Center, has rocketed from an issue of local concern to one of apparently national import.

August 12th, 2010

Obama bears witness (to the past of a tricky phrase)

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To “bear witness:” Obama’s phrase was widely quoted but not seriously analyzed. Some attacked (and some still attack) the President for leaving the protesters in the lurch; to these commentators, “witness” meant passive spectatorship when a robust intervention was needed. Others found the Administration’s aloofness a shrewd tactic that gave the good guys breathing room while respecting Iranian sovereignty. Few, as far as I know, took note of the Christian roots of the phrase. That’s too bad, because they help to shed light on Obama as a politician, a diplomat with “realist” predilections, and a national phenomenon—and how he manages to be all three at once.

July 22nd, 2010

Separating public space

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Concluding a class trip to the Supreme Court, Maureen Rigo and her class from Wickenburg Christian Academy, Wickenburg, AZ, stopped to pray on the Oval Plaza in front of the Court steps. The Supreme Court police ushered the teacher and her class from the steps, having deemed their behavior unlawful—actions that bring to the fore questions of the religious neutrality of public space and the application of the First Amendment.

July 20th, 2010

Au contraire, Mr. Beck

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On July 13, 2010, Glenn Beck made liberation theology—and especially Black Theology—the subject of his televised program. The real subject of his complaint was twofold: liberation theology is “a perversion of God” that mistakes Marxism for the plain meaning of the Gospels, which, for Beck, are self-evidently about individual salvation, and liberation theology does away with the language of merit, convincing the down-and-out that they are victims deserving of a handout instead of hard work. The inconsistencies of this message, along with Beck’s misreading and simplification of the various complex traditions of Christian liberation theology have not gone unnoticed in rebuttals and reprisals.

July 12th, 2010

A rhetorical challenge

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Criticism from counterterror experts targeting President Obama’s recent attempt to curtail the demonization of Islam and Muslims by way of limiting the number of rhetorical references to Islamic radicalism makes the headlines.

June 25th, 2010

Obama’s religion ambassador

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President Barack Obama has filled the post for ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.  On June 16, the White House sent Suzan D. Johnson Cook’s nomination to the Senate for confirmation.  William Wan and Michelle Boorstein, posting on The Washington Post‘s religion blog, “On Faith,” commented on her nomination.

June 23rd, 2010

Christian voices oppose educational reform

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President Obama’s recent initiative, Race to the Top, has received growing opposition from the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the US. Maintaining that competition is detrimental to education, this organization exceeding 45 million members wrote to the White House, “outlin[ing] its reasons for opposition, which include democratic governance of public schools over marketplace pressures, each child’s right to educational opportunity, the use of business-style jargon and evaluations in the discussion of education reform, and the disrespect shown by the reform movement toward public school teachers and principals.”

June 2nd, 2010

Engagement for whose good?

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It is coincidental but telling that Emile Nakhleh’s post supporting U.S. “engagement” with Muslim communities appeared the same week as the disclosure of a new directive authorizing clandestine military operations in both friendly and unfriendly countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa. The Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order, signed September 30, 2009, by General David Petraeus, aims primarily to disrupt terrorist groups and to “prepare the environment” for armed assaults. Of particular relevance to the Chicago Council Report, the Execute Order reportedly calls for using, not only special forces, but also “foreign businesspeople, academics, or others,” to “identify militants and provide ‘persistent situational awareness,’ while forging ties to local indigenous groups.”

Alongside this and numerous other recent U.S. policies, the Chicago Council Report looks increasingly futile and, in key places, wrong-headed—even if, doubtless, well-intentioned.

May 6th, 2010

Happy National Day of Prayer

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Today marks the 59th annual National Day of Prayer.  The day was enacted by Congress in 1952 (36 U.S.C. § 119) after being initiated by Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels (Paris Hilton’s great grandfather, if you appreciate irony) and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas. A flashpoint for debates over the separation of church and state, the National Day of Prayer was recently ruled unconstitutional by a United States District Court in Madison, Wisconsin.

April 23rd, 2010

Obama’s rapprochement with U.S. Muslim groups

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Max Fisher at the Atlantic Wire has compiled a set of articles and blog posts around the Web dealing with the rather complex relationship that the Obama administration currently has with U.S. Muslim groups. These range in opinion from those who believe the President is not doing enough to those who believe that Obama is somehow a friend to Islamic extremists.

April 8th, 2010

Religious freedom and U.S. foreign policy

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Over the past few weeks, The Immanent Frame has been the site of a high-profile discussion on religious freedom. Earlier this week, Foreign Policy ran an article asking, “Why hasn’t Obama nominated a religious-freedom ambassador yet?”

March 30th, 2010

Commentary: Obama distorts meaning of Passover

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Jennifer Rubin accuses Barack Obama of diluting and distorting the message of Passover.

March 12th, 2010

Government, civil society, and religious freedom

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Should the U.S. government employ American civil society to engage religious communities overseas in promotion of a “religious freedom agenda”? Scott Appleby, the Chicago Council’s Task Force Report (TFR), and the Obama administration think so. But there are serious problems with NGOs playing this role, either as an express supplement to, or possibly a covert screen for, U.S. foreign policy. First, it is worth emphasizing a point that might be lost in proposing such a “new” approach: civil society has autonomously done this for centuries. Beyond missionary groups’ traditional activities, both religious and secular NGOs have long engaged with overseas communities on political issues related to religion. Witness generations-old activism over foot-binding in China, female genital cutting in Kenya, and freedom of belief around the world.

March 11th, 2010

Thomas Farr on Obama’s religious freedom agenda

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At Georgetown/On Faith, Thomas Farr questions the commitment of the Obama administration, and particularly the State Department, to the promotion of religious freedom abroad.

February 26th, 2010

Taking exception to American exceptionalism

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The United States is an empire in decline, as well as a nation under enormous economic duress, and civil religion remains the language by which people here struggle to engage and make sense of those circumstances. The very decline of American power will intensify attachment to the language and symbols typically associated with civil religion, and politicians will feel incredible pressure to invoke it, because they strategically seek electoral legitimacy, and because they themselves are deeply invested in, gripped by, an “American” political identification. The only alternative is that Americans mourn their investment in empire—i.e., in being god’s chosen nation and the “world’s greatest superpower”—to confront and accept the loss of a beloved identity and worldly power.

February 23rd, 2010

“Religious freedom” and its critics

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During his landmark address to the world, delivered in Cairo last June, President Obama proposed to open a new era of engagement with “Muslim communities”—engagement, that is, not just with Muslim states or regimes, but also with other economically and politically influential social sectors, including religious groups, educational institutions, civic organizations, health care institutions, and youth affiliations. In the hopes of accelerating the process of rethinking America’s attitude toward the Muslim word, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has issued a Task Force Report (TFR), entitled “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy.” Our hope is to build on the president’s ideas and explain why they apply not only to Islamic communities, but to religious communities more generally.

February 22nd, 2010

From Bush to Obama, the faith-based initiative is still all politics

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Late last week, the Brookings Institute convened a day-long conference marking the tenth anniversary of the faith-based initiative. Josh DuBois, current head of the new White House Faith and Neighborhood Council, kicked off the conference by discussing the latest White House efforts and arguing that these would mark a new kind of faith-based initiative. However, while he stressed the differences between the Bush and Obama White House efforts, there has been little actual evidence of these differences.

February 19th, 2010

Fantasies of sovereignty

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Montreal [site of the 2009 AAR meetings] was a particularly appropriate site for a return to civil religion. A civic polity not part of the United States, shaped by both the political traditions of Rousseau and the Roman Catholic Church, its very foreignness forced the US-based panelists to catch themselves when using what David Kyuman Kim called the “register of the collective ‘we’.” At the same time, Quebec’s own conflicted history of “civil religion,” rooted in profound contests over sovereignty, was a reminder of how civic identity is premised, at least in part, on the violence of imperial conquest—in this case, the French subjugation of the Mohawk, Cree, and other First Nations, and in turn that of the French by the English. These legacies of conquest still haunt any possibility of civic covenant in North America, and probably always will.

February 12th, 2010

Echoes of American civil religion

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It is interesting to revisit civil religion discourse in the context of a new time and its discontents, and the consequent rethinking of the theme.  Three of the four posts in this discussion (Gorski, Moosa, Morgan) address the civic-religious complex in terms of Robert Bellah’s well-known concept of civil religion.  The fourth (Kim) does not, but invokes Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson in ways that echo some of the dialog of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Bellah thesis was fresh and new.  Given this general ambience, I would like to situate these rich and evocative posts by reviewing what, in that time, was called the civil religion debate.

February 5th, 2010

All used up

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There is a question that has been haunting me about our times and our collective condition, specifically in regard to American imperial decline: namely, how do we effectively mourn the exhaustion of the myth of American exceptionalism? My short answer is that our age of catastrophes—the catastrophic being one of the primary markers of the exhaustion of the myth of American exceptionalism—is in need of poetic responses and, in particular, what William James might call a poetic temperament.

February 4th, 2010

Year one in White House faith-based office

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Despite critiques that the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships has been relatively quiet recently, Joshua DuBois, the Office’s Director, takes to the White House blog to reflect on what they have achieved during the past year.

February 2nd, 2010

Obama urged to skip National Prayer Breakfast

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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has urged the President to not attend the National Prayer Breakfast, reports the Huffington Post.