Obama's Double-Edged Sword

October 07, 2011

Barack Obama continues to represent the double-edged nature of confessional politics. At times, he is a victim of this system as critics question his lack of church attendance and suggest he is a secret Muslim (see post here). The problem with these charges is that they imply that Obama should not be president if he is not a good Christian. At other times, however, Obama is a primary instigator of confessional politics. For instance, he delivered a highly confessional address earlier this year at a prayer breakfast for Easter. Similarly, Obama frequently made highly confessional remarks as he tried to overcome claims he was a Muslim. Although such remarks helped him put aside those concerns during the last presidential campaign, they also served to justify the mindset behind the criticisms. By trying to overcome the de facto religious test, Obama ironically affirmed that such a test should exist by arguing that he passed it. This double-edge sword for Obama reemerged recently when a heckler interrupted one of his speeches. The individual claimed Obama was the antichrist and urged him to follow Jesus (as it turns out, worries about the antichrist is not uncommon in U.S. politics). Obama responded to the heckler by stating, "First of all I agree Jesus Christ is the Lord." Obama's response actually affirms the challenge of the heckler. By denying the charge by confessing his faith, he actually helps add to the expectation that presidents make such religious declarations.