There is nothing like a heartfelt appeal to God to stir the loins and get the heads of the voters nodding in approval. In an otherwise admirable speech about gun violence, poverty and race relations in the USA, Obama referenced God on a number of occasions.
I never quite know whether politicians are truly cynical opportunists or whether they really believe the stuff they spout (probably either or both, depending on the person); but this quote strikes me as kind of cold, even for a seasoned politician who is a masterful public speaker.
“As a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us,”
It’s a conclusion that many theologians come to when considering theodicy, that God allows tragedy to bring about an ultimate good. It is a bizarrely masochistic mindset that thinks it is permissible or moral even; for a personal, intervening and all-powerful God to patiently tolerate unspeakable acts of violence, hatred and then unbearable suffering and grief all to slowly nudge a population vaguely towards a somewhat nebulous goal.
At times like this, no doubt that speeches need to be about comfort, reconciliation and support. So it was inevitable that a number of God references were going to be made, although the isn’t God great for letting so much bad happen so that there can be good afterwards approach is one I wouldn’t have chosen. But then, I am not a politician. And it seems to have worked.
Over on Slate there is an entire column of salivating and praise for the powerful new direction Obama’s speechifying has taken.
The president was no longer giving a speech about a tragedy; he was trying to leverage the grace displayed in the wake of that heinous act into a nation’s purpose. “As a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us,” he said. “He has allowed us to see where we have been blind.” It was that grace, the president argued, that helped South Carolina lawmakers conclude that the Confederate flag should come down.
The thunderbolts of change that struck this week seem to have energized the president. He might have given the same eulogy had he not had his opinions affirmed by the Supreme Court. But given the sense of vindication that he feels, it was easy to see how those secular victories gave him the confidence to make that soaring religious speech and to wipe away the intimations toward capitulation and defeat from just a little more than a week ago.
Well, isn’t that nice? Opium of the people indeed, and evidently a great tool for a politician needing to rally citizens to the cause.