President Barack Obama has once again invoked the Bible to defend his executive action on immigration. While TheBlaze already highlighted some of the potential problems with his latest claim that the holy book "says don’t throw stones in glass houses," there's something else worth noting.
Obama's recent use of the story about Mary and Joseph being turned away from the inn and believers being commanded not to mistreat foreigners — a concept in Deuteronomy 10:19 — to tout immigration reform appear to depart from thoughts he outlined in a faith-themed speech delivered eight years ago.
In that 2006 address at Sojourners' "Call to Renewal" conference, Obama spoke about religion and its role in public life, seemingly taking a different stance on allowing scripture to guide public policy: mainly, discouraging people from using Christian scripture to justify policy.
While he made it clear in the address that he believes progressives are wrong to ask politicians to check their faith at the door, he also issued some challenges to conservative Christians, calling for universal values and messages that do not rely heavily upon a singular faith.
"What I am suggesting is this — secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square," he said. "Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King — indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history — were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause."
Obama went on to call on both progressives and conservatives to find common and universal ground when discussing contentious issues, noting that America is no longer "just a Christian nation."
But here's where his comments become interesting in light of his recent reliance on the Bible: even if America were still a Christian nation, Obama questioned which interpretation of scripture would be used to inform public policy.
"Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount — a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?" he asked. "So before we get carried away, let's read our Bibles. Folks haven't been reading their Bibles."
The irony, in this case, is that the Old Testament scripture he decried for outlining the stoning of rebellious children (read here for one take on its actual context) is just chapters away from the verse that Obama has been using to tout immigration reform.
Obama went on in the 2006 speech to claim that democracy demands that those who are motivated by their faith "translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values," speaking specifically about what politicians should do if they are attempting to pass laws.
"I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will," he said. "I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."
Watch the speech below:
One could argue that citing Judeo-Christian scripture to advocate for the implementation of public policy is a direct violation of the very tenets outlined in Obama's "Call to Renewal" speech.
Consider the words he delivered last month while detailing his executive action on immigration.
"Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too," he said. "My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship."
While Obama certainly used some "universal values" here, there's also plenty of scriptural referencing to go around. What do you think? Let us know below.