Saturday, May 03, 2008

Obama and elitism

I have been amused by the debate about whether Barack Obama is an elitist. The debate usually goes something like this: "He said that people cling to religion and guns and provincialism because they're bitter." "Obama had the most humble origins of any of the three major candidates; it's ludicrous to call him elitist."

Where I fall in this debate is, actually, closer to those call him an elitist. But Barack's is not the elitism of a character flaw or the elitism of the upper class. No, it is the elitism of the university. And properly speaking, it is not elitism at all (any more than Catholic doctrine on the nature and purpose of sex is "homophobic"). It would be more accurate do describe Obama as a faithful adherent to doctrines prescribed and having a powerful hold over western university culture.

Such doctrines, which echo through the halls of sociology faculties and across the fields of student newspapers and demonstrations, are bound to view the human race as a curious creature more often governed by simple impulse than by reason or scientific truth--that is, after all, why Bush was elected for two terms. And religion itself, in any traditional sense, is more likely to be praised (if at all) for the sociological benefits it provides "simple people" than for opening the door to eternal life.

Now, Barack Obama is a Christian, and I believe, a sincere one. In fact I might regard him the most Christian of the three major candidates. But this doesn't change the fact that he already belonged to another religion before his sincere conversion--the religion of the university. And so, I suspect, his perspective will always draw a line between his Christianity, governed by the "pure reason" of his academic background, and the Christianity of the "bitter people".

Obama talks a great deal about religion. For once I would like to hear him talk theology. That's different. Mr. Obama, why do you believe that the execution of a Jewish man by Roman authorities in ancient Palestine means that you have access to eternal life because you were dunked in water and have a few opinions you call "faith"? That's the question I would like to hear Obama answer.

No comments: