Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

Obama, the Left & the Ten Commandments

posted by David Klinghoffer


Isn’t it funny how according to the stereotype, it’s us on the Right side of the political spectrum who are supposed to be the Bible-thumping pourers of fire and brimstone down upon the heads of our political opposites — yet somehow whenever you hear a politician or political activist accusing critics of violating the Ten Commandments, the accuser is almost invariably someone on the Left? Thus President Obama denounced doubters of his plans for health-care reform by invoking the ninth commandment, “There are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness.”
In my book on the Ten Commandments, Shattered Tablets, I talked about this peculiar phenomenon:

Extreme religious language, the hysterically belligerent calling down of God’s wrath on opponents, has become the exclusive domain of the American Left. Calling the fellow who opposes the candidate or bill you support a “blasphemer” or “idolater” is something conservatives in reality — as distinct from the daydreams of those who dislike them — could never get away with.

I give examples ranging from Pastor Rich Lang here in Seattle calling President Bush the “Antichrist,” to Rev. Jim Wallis charging Bush with sin “border[ing] on idoltary of blasphemy” to President Clinton reaching for, yes, the same commandment to which Obama resorted:

It’s wrong to demonize and cartoonize one another, and to ignore evidence, and to make false charges and to bear false witness. Sometimes I think our friends on the other side [i.e., Republicans] have become the people of the Nine Commandments.

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posted August 25, 2009 at 4:49 pm

In Obama’s defense, and whether one agrees with him or not, there are plenty of people out there who are bearing false witness about his healthcare plan.

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posted August 25, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Typically the Left is portrayed by the Right as godless secularists who are hostile to people of faith. David has implied as much himself in the past. Yet he says, “[T]he hysterically belligerent calling down of God’s wrath on opponents, has become the exclusive domain of the American Left.” Thus the Left is simultaneously guilty of opposite sins, it seems, damned if they do, damned if they don’t. In any case, let me point out the following:
Sarah Palin’s pastor in Walsilla implied that anyone voting Democratic is going to Hell.
Some websites about the idea floating around that Obama is or may literally be the Antichrist are here, here, and here.
A site about “Obama’s Ten Commanments” (not the ones God gave, understand) is over here.
Our family dentitst several years ago said she voted for Bush becasue he is a “good Christian”–thereby implying that neither Gore nor Kerry were “good Christians”.
All this from cursory searches and personal anecdote. So it’s all the Left, huh? Of course, that’s a tu quoque (“you too”) argument, but the point is not that this exhonerates the likes of Rich Lang–both sides need to play by the same rules–it’s just to show that as usual David is cherry-picking his evidence.
Regarding what you said about Jim wallis: here are some quotes from the Wallis article in question: “The reality is that the idolatries that rule in the U.S. include nationalism, materialism, racism – ideologies that compete with the rule of God and for the loyalties of people of faith.” Do you disagree with this, David, or are these beliefs OK? Or do we just think they exist? And aren’t many, politician and ordinary citizen, right and left, in thrall to these idolatries?
Wallis again: “On Bush’s ‘idolatries.’ I recount in God’s Politics how often George W. Bush has confused the American nation with the people and the purposes of God in his use of Scripture, hymns, and his calls to arms in his war against terrorism.” It seems to me that this applies to Bush and to many other politicians, Democratic and Republican. I’m sure Wallis would agree that it is not Bush nor the Republicans alone who have been guilty of this.
I might also point out that in the blog-a-logue from which this comes, you, David, said both of the following: “I can find nowhere in the Scripture where the state is commanded to extend generosity to the impoverished,” and “It is debatable whether the Bible’s many admonitions to care for the poor really apply today, in the United States, other than to a relatively small group of people.” You’re certainly entitled to your views, but even many on your side of the political spectrum might take issue with this interpretation.
BTW, Wallis met with George W. Bush soon after his election and was very positive about him at first, before events moved in a different way.
Finally, to get back to Obama’s quotes, the Right has been bearing false witness against Obama and his programs from the Obama-is-a-Muslim canard to the Birthers to Glen Beck’s “Obama-hates-white-people” trope to deliberate misstatements about the healthcare initiative. Does the President not have a right to point this out? Or are liberals not allowed to defend themselves?
I’d end by saying that the type of polarizing rhetoric you use here, even writing a book (How Would God Vote) that explicitly argues that God supports the conservative agenda (thus implying that liberals are fighting against God’s will!), is easily as bad as anything you’re pointing out on the other side. To use a quote that, though not from the Jewish Bible, I’m sure you know, you should get the beam out of your own eye before worrying about the motes in others’ eyes.

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posted August 25, 2009 at 7:37 pm

David, my last post was link-heavy. If you could get it up here, I’d greatly appreciate it.

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posted August 25, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Speaking of false witness and the President’s healthcare plan, this interesting article from David’s Beliefnet colleague Rod Dreher is very instructive.

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posted August 25, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Here is Obama himself bearing false — eh, lying:

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Geir (Gerhardt) Smith

posted August 26, 2009 at 9:13 am

Hi, I’m not speaking in political terms like you here. I’m just speaking in solely Biblical prophecy.
First, I want to say I’m not Christian so you’ll not recognize my way of talking, and you’ll be shocked that I speak only of the Bible and not worldly matters such as all your article here.
But shock this as it may, I’ll not dally on the least of other matters and go straight to what brings me.
Obama is the Antichrist, there is absolutely no doubt and for this I bear as proof the Marks of the Beast which were drawn on his election day.
These may be obscure or strange to many so I’ve written a lengthy two-page explanation of the Marks’ meaning, and which adresses several aspects: 1. such as that of the example of Jesus throwing the merchants out of the temple which these Marks bring to mind very strikingly 2. and what the Marks represent truely as well.
See both the Marks themselves and the explanation in this link:

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Alan Stillman

posted August 26, 2009 at 9:16 am

President Obama ‘is at war with the American people”, “has a deep seated hatred for white people”, is a facsist, a nazi, a socialist (can one be all of those at the same time?), and is planning to wipe out American’s liberties.
is that rhetoric coming from the left? is it false witness?
no, and yes, respectively.

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posted August 26, 2009 at 10:00 am

Mergatroid, all politicians switch sides, break promises, change positions, etc.–in short, to some extent, they’re all liars: Obama and every other President, legislator, etc. that I can think of. Is that a surprise?
The point is that David is stating that “hysterically belligerent calling down of God’s wrath on opponents” is the “exclusive domain of the American Left” (emphasis added), when this is demonstrably false. Also, the rhetoric from the Right about “death panels”, the Birthers, “Obama is a Muslim”, etc. etc. etc. are not the usual political lies of changing views, waffling, promise-breaking, obfuscation, etc.–they are outright defamation, blatant lies, and scurrilous attempts to defeat a program by propaganda rather than by discussing the pros and cons. Some of us would say that this is very much a different kettle of fish, and that its practitioners need to be called to account.

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posted August 26, 2009 at 11:14 am

Alan, you might be interested in this link:
It’s the “Bush is a Nazi” page.
Since you asked “is that (kind of) rhetoric coming from the left,” I just wanted to give some examples. This is NOT to negate what you wrote, however, as is evidenced by the next sentence:
Turmarion, yes, using the word “exclusive” was way too hasty.

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posted August 26, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Just one more addition I ran across over here. Money quote from the pastor the article is about: “Nope. I’m not gonna pray for his good. I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to hell. When I go to bed tonight, that’s what I’m going to pray. And you say, ‘Are you just saying that?’ No. When I go to bed tonight, Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.”
Mark, the Bush-as-Hitler meme has been around awhile, and no one would deny that. I think that the extremist anti-Obama rhetoric is getting much more traction in the mainstream of the Right than its analogue ever did in the Left, and certainly there weren’t Democrats and liberals taking guns to town halls or Presidential apperances under Bush. Arguing “which side is worse” is hopeless, since everyone has partisan biases of interpretation which he’s not even aware of; but you are right to acknowledge that David’s use of “exclusive” was “way too hasty”; and David is very wrong to blame it all on the Left.

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posted August 26, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Wow, that money quote is horrible, as bad as Bill Maher’s over here: (Actually, in a way Bill’s is worse because he’s making specific suggestions, not just leaving things up to God.)
And this thing about “getting much more traction in the mainstream” might be what the generally left-wing news media wants you to think.
Oops, I’m guilty. “Arguing “which side is worse” is hopeless,” is something I agree with. It’s hard to stop doing that, isn’t it?

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