As this blog has previously noted, President Obama has a bad habit of invoking the Almighty in unfortunate and inartful ways while seeking support for his agenda. While speaking to moderate and liberal clergy today, Obama took on those who he said were “bearing false witness” against his health care plan, and then explained why his opponents are immoral:
“These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation: that is, that we look out for one another; that is, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper,” the president said. “And in the wealthiest nation in the world right now we are neglecting to live up to that call.”
That turn of phrase, “I am my brother’s keeper,” has to the ear a tinge of Biblical truth about it — many of us can at least recall that we first heard it or something like it in Sunday School. A closer look, however, demonstrates that Mr. Obama’s theology is assembled to fit his politics, not the other way around.
To start with, Obama gets the quote wrong. In Genesis 4:9, when asked by God, “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain replied, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Of course, Cain knew exactly where is brother was – he was dead, murdered out of envy by Cain himself. Note that the quote was not by God, telling us how we should act, but by Cain, a fratricidal maniac who was talking back to God.
In fact, the Cain/Abel drama has a lot to tell us about the sin of envy and God’s will for those who want greater favor from Him. When Cain’s sacrifice to God did not yield God’s respect, and his brother’s did, Cain grew angry. God then asked Cain why he was angry, and had this advice for him: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
In other words, when one of God’s children is disappointed that her work is not shown favor by God, God tells her to work harder and to follow His will; then her work will be accepted. To do anything else, we risk sin. In the case of Cain, he failed to master his envy of his brother, and it overtook him. Rather than asking himself what he could do to earn God’s favor, Cain hated his brother for having gained His favor, and he punished him for it.
Cain was certainly not his brother’s keeper. But neither did God want Cain to be. Cain believed his brother’s success was bound up with his own — that there was a zero-sum game at work, and that his brother’s success meant his own failure. Thus, rather than prepare a better sacrifice, Cain attacked his brother. God just wanted better from Cain. Instead, Cain gave him much, much worse.
Consider, then, the moral of this story in the health care debate. (more…)