The Postmillennial President

By Mark Silk 2-02-2012
Over easy. Image via
Over easy. Image via

At this morning's National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama made clear just how pure a postmillennialist Midwestern mainline Protestant he is.

He spoke of how we as individuals acting in community "help bring His kingdom to Earth." And he emphasized the connection between his piety and his public efforts to to make that kingdom a reality:

But I don’t stop there. I’d be remiss if I stopped there; if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends. So instead, I must try — imperfectly, but I must try — to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation.

And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs -– from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato.

So the president makes Golden Rule Christianity the religious touchstone of his philosophy of government.

What's the religious touchstone of the Republicans seeking the chance to run against him?

The most one can say at this point is that it's some combination of opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, and support for Judeo-Christian expressions, exemptions, and entitlements. As for the Golden Rule, the best we've got is Mitt Romney's "I'm not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there."

Actually, it would be interesting to know how Romney relates the powerful postmillennial values of Mormonism to government action in the world. I'm not holding my breath.

Watch the full video of Obama's speech at the Prayer Breakfast this morning below:

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Program on Public Values. He joined Trinity College after working as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He writes on news media coverage of religious subject matter. His posts appear here via
RNS. Follow Mark on Twitter @directorsilk.

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