Who doesn’t want to comment on U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent campaign-trail assertions that he is “a Christian by choice” who follows “the precepts of Jesus Christ”?
I do, though I hope to write most of that next week.
Meanwhile, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web Today” feature wonders about Obama’s “Golden Rule” version.
President Obama, not as part of a deliberate strategy to counter the false impression that he’s a Muslim, talked at some length during one of his back-yard shindigs about his ostensible Christian faith. Among things, the president said that “the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead–being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me.”
Reader Steven Muchmore writes that he was “struck” by “the subtle misquoting of the Golden Rule”:
The most succinct statement of the Golden Rule in the Bible is Luke 6:31: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
There is a subtle, but rather significant, difference between saying “[I treat] others the way they would treat me” and “[I treat] others the way I would want them to treat me.”
The second is the Golden Rule. The first sounds more like the pagans and tax collectors from Matthew 5:43-47:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
Probably what Obama meant to say was: Do to others as you would have them to do you, unless they make over $250,000 a year.1
Regardless, I can’t help observing that the “Golden Rule” is not unique to Christianity. Even atheists are among those who claim to follow the “Rule” (and they rush to assure Christians that you don’t need to be “religious” to be “moral”). But people seem to misunderstand that in raising the moral bar, Jesus was not merely setting a standard for someone to reach. Rather, following the “Golden Rule’s” one commandment 100 percent of the time is just as difficult as following the Ten Commandments perfectly enough to please God.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
In fairness, Obama later mentioned a stronger version of the Gospel that’s better than that offered by many professing Christians:
“I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.” 2
This may seem unfair, but for me Obama’s statement causes not reassurance about his faith but a cognitive dissonance. It’s like hearing similar confessions from the gossipy old lady, the fornicating youth-group member, the greedy businessman or the false-teacher televangelist who are not repentant for their un-Biblical beliefs and behavior.
So perhaps next week will bring more observations about that.