President Barack Obama needs some outside help pushing health care reform, and he’s turning to rabbis to get it.
In a morning conference call with about 1000 rabbis from across the nation, Obama asked for aid: “I am going to need your help in accomplishing necessary reform,” the President told the group, according to Rabbi Jack Moline, who tweeted his way through the phoner.
“We are God’s partners in matters of life and death,” Obama went on to say, according to Moline’s real-time stream.
This statement evinces a deep confusion. It’s the confusion of a utopian man, who went to a political hothouse of a church to get “street cred” as a community organizer, who has never really grappled with the meaning of God and how His Existence defines the place of man in the universe.
The whole concept of medicine is that we are God’s partners in LIFE. The physician endeavors to end suffering and prolong life. He recognizes that he cannot permanently stop death–it is inevitable–but outside of certain special circumstance like self-defense or war, we as a people cannot remain human and hasten it, nor authorize anyone else to do so. This would be a Pagan mentality, where deformed children were left on mountainsides to die and old men wandered off into the woods lest they be a burden on the community. This was the world where the state and the Gods were one. In the Christian Society, the general public is in some ways more and in some ways less the individual; but because we have a soul given by God that lasts forever, it is not the place of any man or collection of men to decide when it should be gotten rid of “for the good of the community.”
Politicians sometimes use Biblical rhetoric for effect. Bill Clinton frequently did this. It’s usually corny and harmless. Sometimes, it can underscore an important limit on the moral authority of the state. Yet it can also cross a line, as here, and reveal someone that has no sense of man’s limits. Even the phrase “partner with God” is tin-eared. No Christian talks like this. We can be on God’s side, no doubt, not least when we as individuals or a society seek to help the less fortunate. But we are not his equals, “partners” with an equal say so in how and when and what can be rightfully done.
The meaning of God manifested in every mainstream religious tradition is that we are limited by the natural law, and that human dignity deserves respect because of our supernatural destinty. That we are moral beings subject to a moral order that the Author of the Universe implanted in each of us this insight in the form of the conscience.
Obama’s long tenure at Trinity Church has confused him deeply. Such a church is the flipside of a Joel Osteen Megachurch. Both are too concerned with the world, with power, with politics, with money, and with the myth that we can have a Utopia here on Earth. Jeremiah Wright seeks it through agitation for government handouts; Osteen, magical thinking about investments. But both say that if we will it, God will do it, and thereby we can “be like Gods,” living comfortably, if not permanently, here on Earth. This is the very opposite of true spirituality, which can be summed up with the prayer, “Thy will be done.”
Barack Obama is a very dangerous man.