Politics

Born Again Obama or Machiavelli’s Disciple?

I really want to believe President Obama, but his recent claim that he’s not a secret Muslim, but “a Christian by choice,” is rather hard to digest. Listen to this testimony:

“I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

Sin, grace, humility—if he truly believes in all this, there is some hope for this most radical of regimes. I don’t mean that Obama is a closet evangelical just waiting to be outed.

The important thing about this testimonial (if true), is that I’d finally be able to peg Obama’s real motivations. He’d be a rather typical example, straight from the 19th Century, of a Christian liberal who stopped believing in the essential dogmas of Christianity but still clung to a heavily modified form of its social doctrines.

In this new liberal faith, Jesus was demoted to being a great moral exemplar, a kind of revolutionary put to death for preaching a radical social doctrine Roman and Jewish leaders found too politically unsettling. The liberalized form of Christianity had, and still has, its own evangelical goal that defined its decidedly political bent: heaven must be brought to Earth, and governments must take on the task of wiping every tear away.

If that is what Obama really is—not a Muslim, but severely liberalized Christian—then there’s at least a little hope. There is no doubt that Obama is a liberal, but liberalism is, in great part, the passionate embrace of Christianity, except without the embarrassing God part.

To be more exact, it’s a secularized form of Christianity, taking all the evangelical zeal originally directed to the kingdom of God, and pointing it toward constructing a this-worldly secular utopia.

But if Christianity still has some faint hold on his heart, Obama might yet see that government cannot take the place of God, that sins are very real and spread evenly among the population, both rich and poor, and that creating a kingdom of heaven is best left in divine (rather than bureaucratic) hands.

Yet, I confess, I’m having trouble. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time reading Machiavelli. In his inestimably influential how-to book for princes without principles, Machiavelli offered the following advice on how leaders should dupe the masses. The prince must “appear all mercy, all faith, all honesty, all humanity, all religion. And nothing is more necessary to appear to have than this last quality.”

Appear. Machiavelli, the unscrupulous teacher of realpolitik, knew that in politics, appearances were often deceiving, and that the most effective politicians were those who mastered the art of appearing to be pious, even while, behind the scenes, they engaged in behavior that would make a mafia don blush. For Machiavelli, religion wasn’t true—he was our first great modern atheist—but it was certainly quite useful.

I am not suggesting that Obama is a ruthless Machiavellian, slitting throats behind the scene. But whatever he intends, his sudden use of the language of evangelical Christianity—very sudden, i.e., as in “never happened before”—cannot help but seem to be a poorly orchestrated attempt to salvage whatever he can of the Left’s hold on the political helm by appearing to be a Christian.

There’s too much smoke from other fires—the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but even more, the direct and powerful influence of the atheist social radical Saul Alinsky, who certainly seems to be much nearer the heart of Obama’s adult conversion (and, we add, there’s more than a whiff of communism among his current cronies). Moreover, how can we take Obama’s declaration of belief in Christianity seriously, when he’s had no qualms about plowing under Christian moral imperatives by his unwavering support for abortion and the homosexual agenda?

So, what does Obama really believe? Let us hope that it is something deeper than whatever might momentarily boost his ratings.

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