Re: Yes, we can.

I want to share and respond to some of the comments I’ve received about the “Yes We Can” video of Obama’s speech that I posted earlier this week. First, I’d like to restate – perhaps more clearly this time – that by sharing the video I was in no way endorsing a specific candidate or political party. Notice that the first things I wrote in Monday’s entry were that I am not into politics, never have been and am not even sure who I am going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. I’d also like to tell anyone reading this that I don’t want anewdoxology to become a political blog. I can see why it may have appeared that I was trying to venture into the topic of politics by posting that video, but really, the only reason I shared the video for “Yes We Can” is because of the many connections it has with the world of popular culture (since it featured several musicians, actors and other recognizable “famous people”). The fact that Barack’s speech is incredibly inspiring and gave me goosebumps probably played a role in why I decided to share it, but it was really more about what the creator of the song/video ( wrote in his explanation,

it inspired me…
it inspired me to look inside myself and outwards towards the world…
it inspired me to want to change myself to better the world…
and take a “leap” towards change…
and hope that others become inspired to do the same…
change themselves..
change their greed…
change their fears…
I produced [shared] this song to share my new found inspiration and how I’ve been moved…
I hope this song will make you feel…
and think…
and be inspired just like the speech inspired me…
that’s all…

With that being said, I want to pass along a few comments and links that some of you have shared with me in response to Obama, the “Yes We Can” video and how it all connects with the ideas of hope, love and change (that I personally happen to associate with God and my faith).

From an article by Michael Chabon in the Washington Post, but borrowed here by one of my seminary professors (Mary Hess) from her blog, this quote is about the fear involved in supporting and voting for Obama.

“But the most pitiable fear of all is the fear of disappointment, of having our hearts broken and our hopes dashed by this radiant, humane politician who seems not just with his words but with every step he takes, simply by the fact of his running at all, to promise so much for our country, for our future and for the eventual state of our national soul. I say “pitiable” because this fear of disappointment, which I hear underlying so many of the doubts that people express to me, is ultimately a fear of finding out the truth about ourselves and the extent of the mess that we have gotten ourselves into. If we do fight for Obama, work for him, believe in him, vote for him, and the man goes down to defeat by the big-money machines and the merchants of fear, then what hope will we have left to hold on to?

Thus in the name of preserving hope do we disdain it. That is how a phobocracy maintains its grip on power.

To support Obama, we must permit ourselves to feel hope, to acknowledge the possibility that we can aspire as a nation to be more than merely secure or predominant. We must allow ourselves to believe in Obama, not blindly or unquestioningly as we might believe in some demagogue or figurehead but as we believe in the comfort we take in our families, in the pleasure of good company, in the blessings of peace and liberty, in any thing that requires us to put our trust in the best part of ourselves and others. That kind of belief is a revolutionary act. It holds the power, in time, to overturn and repair all the damage that our fear has driven us to inflict on ourselves and the world.”

A theologian might suggest that this is what we mean, in part, by “eschatological hope.”

I don’t want the connection Hess makes between Chabon’s quote and Christian theology to be lost because people don’t understand a confusing theological term, so here’s a quick teaching moment on eschatological hope…in my best understanding this term refers to the hope Christians have that Jesus Christ will return to make things right on earth (including our personal salvation). This is a very basic definition, and is in no way complete, but eschatology is the name for the area of study within theology that is concerned with the final events of the world (including, but not limited to, the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the renewal of creation, the final judgment, the establishment of the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of all God’s promises). I asked Mary to explain how she was using the term in her post and she said that she was “noting the resonance to a form of hope that can not be proven, that indeed is often not demonstrable in human terms, but exists nonetheless and draws us out to live LOVE.” Meaning, the hope Chabon (and many others in America, including and the other celebrities in his video) have that Obama will deliver the change that he has been promising in his campaign is not something that can be proven any more than Christians can prove that Jesus Christ will return to earth at the end of history and deliver the promises we believe God has made for all of creation, but just because it can’t be proven does not mean we can not or should not hope for and support the idea of those things happening.

Fox News ran an interesting article to read alongside Chabon’s article, this one was written by Father Jonathan Morris (a Catholic priest typically known as simply “Father Jonathan”) on the Virtue of Contemplation on Super Tuesday. Father Jonathan is a regular contributor to FOX News and is perhaps best known for being Mel Gibson’s theological advisor during the making of The Passion of the Christ. You might not agree with everything he writes, but I think he offers an interesting perspective on how we should view politics within our culture, especially for people of faith in God.

Thanks to my friend Paul for passing on the article from Father Jonathan, and also for writing several comments in response to the Obama speech/song. I decided not to share his comments on anewdoxology only because they are very political in nature, and like I wrote above, I don’t want this to become a political blog.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you’ll continue sharing your thoughts in response to anything on this site.

6 thoughts on “Re: Yes, we can.

  1. Andy, here’s my question: I loved the Obama video, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about church history and it reminded me of the 19th century humanist movement when primarily German theology had taken on the belief that humanity, when unified, could in essence solve all the world’s problems. This theological presupposition came crashing down in the wake of WWI (which subsequently gave rise to fundamentalism), but seems to be re-emerging in our postmodern context in which everyone seems to have a cause. I wonder whether this neo-liberalism is on display in the fervor over Obama’s message?

  2. I’m not really sure how to respond to this Bryan. I guess I’m not familiar enough with the historical and theological issues you referenced to answer it directly, but here’s my thought.. most, if not all people want to believe in the good and hope for a positive change, so whether we’re looking at the response to Obama in the current political situation or any other cultural/spiritual/political movement throughout history, sometimes the only way we are able to deal with all the junk in our lives and in the world is to put our faith, trust and hope in something or someone (God/Jesus, a musician, politician, or revolutionary leader, a new product or what/who-ever else people can “believe” in) that seems to be worth getting in line behind because maybe, we tell ourselves, following them is going to bring us where we always wanted to go, the promised land. Does that make sense at all?

  3. The uncertainty involved in all of this is why I brought Mary Hess’s comment about “eschatological hope” into the conversation, because that’s a hope in something that can’t be proven. My seminary advisor Andrew Root defines eschatological hope as “the anticipation for God’s future,” and while Obama is not America’s Savior, for some people he seems to represent the anticipation for America’s future. If that inspires lots of people to be part of a positive change in this country, then I certainly am not going to say it’s a bad thing, but it makes me wonder why the church’s proclamation of the Gospel isn’t inspiring more people to be part of a positive change throughout the world.

  4. The liberal theology movement began (many believe) with Schleiermacher (sp?) in the late 18th, earth 19th century and finally evaporated in the early 1920’s. Hegel was another key figure in this movement. Many believe that Barth was an instrumental figure in, at least for a time, snuffing out such theology, which was very much rooted in post-enlightenment presuppositions about the primary of humanity’s ability to reason truth.

    I liked what you said at the end of your post,

    “…it makes me wonder why the church’s proclamation of the Gospel isn’t inspiring more people to be a part of positive change throughout the world.”

    Calvin referred to the humanity heart as an “idol factory.” When you look at culture’s obsession with the broken lives of pop stars I think you can make a case for Calvin’s words. While I happen to believe that Obama is the best candidate we have to choose from, the hope some people seem to be placing in his anticipated presidency seems to be a bit unrealistic. It makes me wonder whether what people are really looking for is a savior…and in an election year a political leader provides the most viable option for salvation.

    Of course, it takes faith (real faith…not energy generated by poll data, charismatic speeches, or compelling campaign ads) to cling to an invisible, all-powerful, eternal Savior, and that’s a presupposition we as Christians bring to culture and is a leap most of culture is unwilling (or unable) to make.

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