Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review - God in the Obama Era

About the Book
Turn to this book for a careful contemporary exposition of Barack Obama’s religious beliefs -- and a long term historical appraisal of their relation to the faith of predecessor presidents.

The forty-fourth President’s term of office will not expire until two more years. So who are we living with? Is Barack Hussein Obama a man of Christian faith? His middle name (which he included when he took the oath of office) means blessing in Muslim tradition. Who have turned out to be his cohorts, his opponents, his enemies? Is he tolerant, intolerant, puffed up, confused?

The world must judge! Or is he perhaps (as charged) a paranoid, a racist, a devotee of Liberation Theology, a socialist, communist, Muslim or skeptic?

Historically, it seemed to be an open question of WHAT NEXT -- how long and who wins for his administration? In the 2010 mid-term national election Democrats suffered major losses as the House of Representatives passed into Republican control. Critics said that Barack Obama is already a one term president! What had become of his biblically referenced audacity of hope, they asked? The opposition leadership vowed to seek repeal of Obama Care, the President’s health care program. Who had the forty-fourth President of the United States turned out to be, friends and enemies speculated? Statesman, Hypocrite, Liar, Paranoid, Wise Leader, Prophet, Zealot?

To begin to answer our question one must consider how the first African-American President’s plans and policies related to those of his predecessors in office--Clinton, Kennedy, the Roosevelts, Lincoln, Jackson, Washington among others; how will future historians evaluate his personality and character? How is one to appraise his foreign policy, his priorities: war and peace, nuclear disarmament, medicare, recession, religious freedom? The fact is that some of his accomplishments have turned out to be substantial even though the high rate of unemployment throughout the land has hobbled his administration and destroyed much of his earlier popularity.

Barack Obama had campaigned for the presidency with great optimism and promise. He promised to end the log jam in Washington D.C., work for disarmament and peace abroad as well as to build racial cooperation and interparty cooperation at home. From the outset of his term in office the Republicans united against him, seeking to to bring him down and to block his program. Obama himself had come to the capitol pledged to foster cooperation across party divides. It did not work! Such was the continuing confrontation between a progressive idealistic Democratic President and his Republican traditionalist opponents. The country had its most intellectual president since Woodrow Wilson, but his careful judgments did not necessarily bring votes in the face of major unemployment. Of course, internationally the nation faced continuing warfare in the Middle East, now centered now in Afghanistan rather than Iraq.

About the Author
Niels C. Nielsen, Jr. is the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Philosophy and Religious Thought emeritus at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Rice is an independent university, neither a state supported school or a church sponsored institution. He was founding chairman of its department of religious studies from 1968 to 1990.

His B.A. degree is from George Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, and his B.D. and Ph.D from Yale. He taught in the Yale University Department of Religion before coming to Texas. His professional affiliations include the American Academy of Religion, American Philosophical Society, American Society for the Study of Religion, Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies and the Society for European Culture. His doctoral research at Yale was in contemporary theology. Subsequently he has written in the fields of world religions and religion in Eastern Europe; he traveled extensively researching in these fields.

Niels C. Nielsen, Jr.'s field of study and research is philosophy and religious studies. His text, Religions of the World is a widely used class book. His study of The Religion of Jimmy Carter had international sales, with Dutch and German translations. He has also written on Religion After Communism in Russia

My Take on the Book
I have not thought much about the religious affiliations of the Presidents in the past and how this affected their stances on many issues of the day. This book though gave the reader amazing insight into the lives and spiritual calling of our past Presidents and what that meant for them and for their overall US Policy decisions that they made while in office. While the book does not over all Presidents, it does take an intimate look at some of the best known of our US Presidents.

I have been reading the Biographies of our US Presidents and this book was an amazing addition that provided even more information than even some of the biographies that I have read this far.

We hear so much these days while listening to the news about the fundamentalist leaning of the US and their political power, so it was interested to see how in the past the Presidents balanced all of this.

This book was a great read and one that I could not put down. I am planning to share this book with another colleague who like me is reading the biographies of our Presidents as I know that he will love this as much as I. If you are interested in Presidential history, this book will open your eyes to things you would have never even considered in the past! read it today!

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