March 16, 2008
A President Obama's Neoliberal TheocracyBy Lee Cary
Barack Obama's first vocational choice was to help people in a poor African-American community. Later, he joined a church founded on black liberation theology. This combination could result in an Obama presidency that embodies something new in American history -- a Neoliberal Theocracy.
When we in the West hear the word theocracy, we think of mullahs, fatwas, and human pronouncements issued with the presumptuous authority of divine edicts. But not all theocracies are so dictatorially dogmatic. They range from the theocratic-lite nature of the United Kingdom's monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, to the industrial-strength theocracy of Iran where the two top offices, Supreme Leader and head of the Guardian Council, are reserved for Shiite clergy. A new, softer-and-gentler American theocracy may be in our future.
What does "Neoliberal Theocracy" mean?
In a Neoliberal Theocracy the principles of political liberalism that guide decisions of statecraft are aligned with beliefs thought to constitute a moral theology. In other words, the federal government, particularly the Executive Branch, acts in accordance with a defined, theological belief system.
Neoliberal is to liberal as neoconservative is to conservative. It represents the evolution of thinking that occurs when a stable ideological platform (contemporary political liberalism) is applied to new circumstances (Barack Obama's deeply held theological belief system).
The social gospel of an Obama presidency could be traced back to the race-based class dialectic of the black liberation theology movement. That movement emerged as the theological wing of the broader Black Power movement of the late 1960's - early 1970's. Among a constellation of groups and personalities representing Black Power were: the 1968 Olympic Black Power salute; the Black Panthers; Malcolm X; Bobby Seale; the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ("snick"), etc.
Black liberation theology forms the core identity of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ (UCC) - Obama's home church for two decades. Today, that congregation espouses a Black Value System. It reflects the movement's class dialectic that remains unabashedly race-based. The black values concept was first introduced by one of the founders of the black liberation theology movement, Dr. James H. Cone, in Black Theology & Black Power (© 1969, Harper & Row, 1969, p.127).
While the media didn't hesitate to probe the religious beliefs of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, reporters have been reluctant, until recently, to inquire into Obama's religious principles. Perhaps political correctness has made them hyper-sensitive to giving the appearance of delving into racial issues. Their hesitancy persists, even though Obama has used biblical literary devices in his speeches. He juxtaposes his interpretation of Christianity to those of the religious right who, he claims, have "hijacked" the faith. It's as though he has invited religion questions from a media too timid to ask.
When addressing a faith-based audience, Obama, quoting largely from his book The Audacity of Hope (p.202), lent an existential spiritual tone to his campaign.
Message: Obama, the helper, cares for those who hurt.
In that same speech, quoting again from of his book (p. 207), Obama said,
Message: The black church truly understands the social gospel.
The channel of Christianity that Obama entered at Trinity UCC gave a theological motive to his preexistent passion to be a helper. There he found a social gospel that, today, undergirds his advocacy for an activist federal government more aggressively involved in social programs, both foreign and domestic.
How would this represent a theocracy of any kind?
In this way: His presidential social activism would be based on an economic-based class dialectic that is theologically grounded. In language conveying near messianic overtones, the authors of his primary campaign document, The Blueprint For Change, wrote,
How might a Neoliberal Theocracy influence U.S. foreign relations?
Tyrants test adversaries they perceive as weak. Khrushchev interpreted Kennedy's failure to provide American air assets at the Bay of Pigs as weakness, and tested him with missiles in Cuba. The November 26, 1979 cover of TIME magazine displayed a small photo of an unsmiling Jimmy Carter against the full page backdrop of a scowling Ayatollah Khomeini. The caption read: THE TEST OF WILLS. Khomeini and Ronald Reagan won that test.
Our adversaries would test a President Obama if they perceived him as weak. How? Imagine these ways:
If you discount these as fanciful and impossible, remember: The last president to flirt with conducting foreign policy from a theological perspective was Jimmy Carter.
Here's the hub of matter. In his speech to the Democrat convention in 2004, then Candidate for the U.S. Senate Barack Obama said,
That's not so. While that may express Obama's theological worldview, and is an ageless, altruistic principle behind countless good works, it is not what makes this country work.
What makes this country work is the fundamental belief that we are born with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The two beliefs - keepers of each other and inalienable rights - live independent lives. And that's why we should be very wary of a Neoliberal Theocracy, or any theocracy for that matter.