29 August 2008

Hope is a thing that floats, gets votes.

I watched Obama's speech tonight at Dain's with Heather and Jill. It somehow heightened the feeling that we were watching something historic to be viewing it in a public place. It might not be remarkable to watch a political speech with the sound cranked up in a bar in Washington. But in Durham, you know something unusual is happening.

I was pleased with the speech, though not blown away. He has set the bar pretty high for himself, so it is sufficient praise to say that I thought his speech fit the occasion and met my expectations well.

I must say, unfortunately, that I was alarmed by the biblical reference he jammed in to the conclusion of the speech:
At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess. Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

That's Hebrews 10:23, roughly. In the NRSV, it says "Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful." Now, the object of this sentence is Hope, and Hope is one of the central buzzwords of Obama's campaign.

I hate to admit the possibility, but it kind of sounds like Obama used a line of Scripture and substituted his own campaign platform for the gospel of Jesus Christ as the ultimate good for which we strive. This echoes the egregious error that George W. Bush made on 9/11/02, when he described the U.S.A. by saying that "...the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it." America is not the light in the darkness; Jesus is. And the hope we confess as Christians is not the American promise, but the eschatological promise of the risen Christ.

26 August 2008

24 August 2008


By late last week, a lot of people thought it was Biden, which takes some of the joy out of having called it. But I've been trying to think about how those two fit together as a team. Of course, this week's DNC convention is all about shaping that narrative. If they're smart, they will co-opt a simple tagline: Obama/Biden '08: The Redeem Team.

The U.S. Olympic men's basketball team was nicknamed "The Redeem Team" because they were going to bring home the gold medal after four years of disappointing U.S. finishes in international play. Obama's most compelling argument, usually shrouded behind the dangerously vague banner of "Change," is that a new leader is necessary to restore America's position in the international community. Plus, what could be more messianic than promising redemption to the masses?

(Of course, there is the small problem of USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski's political leanings.)

21 August 2008

Your guess is as good as mine.

Seems that the pundits have narrowed Obama's VP shortlist down to Rep. Evan Bayh (IN), Sen. Joe Biden (DE), and Gov. Tim Kaine (VA). They've been breathlessly following every move: Evan Bayh's wife got her nails done! Joe Biden, a sitting U.S. Senator, was seen ... wearing a SUIT! Tim Kaine and Obama actually SPOKE to each other prior to a previously scheduled joint appearance!!!

There are a couple other names still being floated, like Hillary Clinton, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. (I don't know who that is, but someone saw the Secret Service in Providence. Gasp!)

Seems like there are a few key criteria to consider:
  1. Demographic appeal. Use the VP to diversify your ticket. Usually this means geographic diversity, although that conversation is a lot more wide open this cycle. If Obama needs a Southerner, I don't think Tim Kaine is the answer. Give this category to Sebelius.
  2. Complementary Experience. Choose a VP whose strengths offset your weaknesses. For Obama, this probably means choosing a person with better foreign policy credentials. In other words, Joe Biden.
  3. Fitness for the presidency. Remember why Jed Bartlett said he needed a good man as his VP? "Because I could die." Nobody's talking about this reason very much, because it doesn't really impact the election as much. But who on this list would be ready to serve as president? Clinton, yes. I don't know how you gauge any of the rest of them, but I'd lean towards Biden.
The announcement is due Saturday. No leaks yet, amazingly, but I expect that we'll know before the person walks out on stage in Springfield. Looking at my three criteria, I think the choice is clear: he should pick Brett Favre. Seriously, I still think it should've been Bill Richardson all along. But some people have asked for it, so here's my gut prediction: Obama will choose Joe Biden.

Other predictions?

17 August 2008

The Gospel According to Bruce

NPR: Preaching the Bruce Springsteen Gospel.

At first I thought it ironic that a Unitarian Universalist pastor would write a "The Gospel According to..." book, but I guess it is a highly appropriate exercise of his freedom to find truth wherever he pleases. In any case, I wish someone else would've written this book - someone like me. You can't push the spiritual themes of Springsteen's work so far as to call it a "gospel," but there is definitely a richness there. I tried to do some of these themes justice in my Sojourners review of Bruce's 2005 album Devils & Dust (I could only find it posted online here, with several typos).

If you're in the market for an overblown hagiography of Springteen's life and work, I'd recommend Eric Alterman's It Ain't No Sin to be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen.

P.S. I returned from Costa Rica last night, and will write about it soon. Perhaps a photo or two.

08 August 2008

August travels

Been on a bit of a blog hiatus since leaving Indianapolis. I drove back to NJ on Monday 7/28, making the trip in 11:20 of driving time, plus 25 minutes of stoppage. After a delightful ten days home, I am presently back in Durham, where I will be for about 16 hours. Tomorrow morning I fly to Costa Rica for a week with four Methodist undergrads from the Duke Wesley Fellowship for a weeklong work project.

Consequently, I don't expect to be posting anything again until after August 16. Be well, everyone, and enjoy the Olympics!

01 August 2008

Within reach

Only 95 days until election day!