Michelle Obama gives green light to politicization of religion

"We see that in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't limit his ministry to the four walls of the church," Michell Obama said. "He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day."

Michelle Obama called on fellow black American Christians to become active in politics. In a speech on June 28 to the oldest black American church, Mrs. Obama said “To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better.”  She was speaking at a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. “Because ultimately, these are not just political issues,” she said. “They are moral issues.”

The Obama campaign frequently asks Americans, ‘Are you in?’ – referring to their support for President Obama. At the conference, Mrs. Obama denounced what she suggested is apathy among black Americans. “How many of us have asked someone whether they’re going to vote, and (they) tell us, ‘No, I voted last time,’ or ‘Is there really an election going on?’” Stirring up the crowd, the First Lady said, “After so many folks sacrificed so much so that we could make our voices heard, so many of us just can’t be bothered.”  She said that while some voters were “tuning out” and “staying home,” her husband’s opponents are busy raising money for their campaign against him.  “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal,” she said.

Neither she nor President Obama are regular church-goers, but that did not stop the Princeton grad from giving a lesson in theology. Said Mrs. Obama, ""We see that in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't limit his ministry to the four walls of the church," she said. "He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day. He was out there spreading a message of grace and redemption to the least, the last, and the lost. And our charge is to find Him everywhere, every day by how we live our lives."

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama took 96% of the black Americans’ vote in 2008. He must inspire a strong turnout among African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities will be crucial in his re-election bid. Surveys show that African-Americans attend church in higher numbers than white Americans do, and Democratic politicians have long made a habit of speaking from black pulpits in the lead-up to Election Day. The AME Church has a general convention every four years. Critics have often decried the appearance of political candidates at other Christian denominations.

Michelle Obama said that a photograph of her husband meeting a 5-year-old black boy at the White House three years ago still hangs on the wall in the West Wing of the White House. Other such photos are changed out every two weeks, except that one. “If you ever wonder whether change is possible in this country, I want you to think about that little black boy in the Oval Office of the White House touching the head of the first black president.”

Speaking to the contributions of black Americans to their country’s history, Mrs. Obama said “Today, the connection between our laws and our lives isn’t always as clear as it was 50 years or 150 years ago,” she said. “And as a result, it’s sometimes easy to assume that the battles in our courts and legislatures have all been won.” While speaking to the AME, Obama also promoted causes like investing in roads and schools, veterans, and job creation.

William Donohue, who leads the Catholic League, observe “Michelle Obama followed in the footsteps of her husband yesterday when she called for the politicization of religion. President Obama has explicitly called for “congregation captains” to organize for his reelection. George W. Bush was constantly branded a ‘theocrat’ for simply discussing Christianity, and for naming Jesus as his favorite philosopher. But no such pernicious labeling awaits the Obamas, not even from militant secularists and civil libertarians."
 
Donohue continued, "Since the Obamas have taken the gloves off—in effect calling for Americans not to be restrained by separation of church and state legalisms—others should follow suit. I hope that the bishops, priests, evangelical ministers, and the orthodox members of all religions are taking note. We don’t have two constitutions: if the Obamas are giving the green light to those in their faith community to merge politics and religion, there are no more red lights left for anyone to obey."
 



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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