Obama, Idolatry, and Politically Liberal Christians


I don’t actually have the time to spare for this, but I cannot NOT comment on President Obama’s invocation of Jesus and his personal Christianity in support of forced redistribution of wealth by the government in the same week his administration was deploying the coercive power of the Executive Branch to force Catholic Charities to pay for birth control and abortions.

First, the President’s statement:

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

This largely theological argument was put forth in support of raising taxes on the rich. It’s a familiar one. I’ve seen similar arguments from the prominent politically liberal Christians such as Jim Wallis, Brian McClaren and Tony Campolo and the whole Sojourners crowd.

It invariably sounds holy at first blush. But there is a common fallacy in these arguments–one that is essentially heretical and idolatrous at the root. Allow me to explain.

As many have observed, President Obama’s statement above takes the God who requires much from those to whom He has given much and substitutes the government in His place.

In the view of the Christian Socialist, it is the government that bestows the privilege of earning wealth and it is the government’s right and responsibility to determine how much of those earnings any individual deserves to keep, AND who deserves to be the beneficiary of that confiscated wealth.

As John Hindraker at Powerline succinctly put it:

In drawing this equivalence, Obama implicitly substituted the government for God; in Jesus’s teaching it is God, not any earthly ruler, who gives us much and expects much from us in return.

My Sojourner-y friends make frequent appeals to Jesus’ calls for charity and compassion for the poor. And those calls are real, legitimate and vitally important. But as I tried to explain to a earnest left-leaning young brother a while back:

“The teachings of Jesus and the rest of the Bible absolutely compel me to reach into my wallet and help the poor, widows, orphans and the oppressed. But those same teachings forbid me to reach into my neighbor’s wallet and force him to do the same against his will. Or to vote to use the coercive power of the government to achieve the same end.”

Why? Because true Christian charity is voluntary–an act of the will that comes from the heart. If it is forced or coerced, it does not please God nor comport with the Bible’s manifold encouragements to share, give and help.

There is, however, a Bible word for resenting the fact that someone has more stuff than I do.

The Bible calls it covetousness. And the ugly truth is, the spirit of covetousness is at the heart of virtually all “soak the rich” political policies. Ironically, President Obama’s “to whom much is given” quote was drawn from the 12th chapter of Luke–a chapter in which Jesus warns His followers to “beware of covetousness.”

But the most egregious sin of  this line of political thought isn’t envy and resentful coveting. It’s pure, old-fashioned idolatry. The arguments of politically liberal Christians consistently put government in the role of God or Messiah.

As Hindraker’s colleague at Powerline, Scott Johnson, wrote in a post titled “Render Unto Barry:”

Reverend Obama not only offers up the endorsement of Jesus for his economic policies, he also presents himself as standing in the shoes of Jesus, requiring much from those to whom much is given . . . As for Obama’s invocation of Jesus, when Obama demands that “the rich” pay their “fair share” — the text implicitly underlying yesterday’s sermon — Obama is closer to Caesar than to God.

Biblically speaking, the role of the Messiah is to bring deliverance and relief from poverty, sickness, lack and oppression. This is the role Jesus–the one true Messiah–claimed for Himself in a synagogue one day as he chose to read from the 61st chapter of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)


Today there are many who claim the name of “Christian” who view Messiah to be the legitimate role of government. Our president is one of them.

It is no accident that four years ago candidate Obama encouraged and stoked the frenzy of messianic fervor that surrounded his campaign. (For a great overview of this phenomenon in images, go to the blog “Is Barack Obama The Messiah)  Obama was and is the perfect embodiment of this idolatrous liberal Christian exaltation of Government-as-Messiah. (By the way, George W. Bush was infected with a mild strain of this flu, too.)

This is not new. For much of the last half of the last century there were European political parties that called themselves, Christian Democrat, Christian Democratic Socialist, etc. (Check out this 1953 Time Magazine article about the movement.)

These were the principle force behind the construction of the anti-capitalist welfare state that is currently bankrupting Europe and making it impossible to enact the reforms necessary to save it.

When you make government a false messiah, it becomes a jealous god. Which is why this week we saw the government claiming the right to override and supersede the conscience of the Catholic Church in the name of “women’s’ health.”

If you really want to understand the roots of this phenomenon, and you’re up for a very meaty, very philosophical read, I enthusiastically recommend Prof. Herbert Schlossbergs’ masterpience book. It’s appropriately titled:

Idols for Destruction

Destruction is where idolatry invariably leads.