Obama - Work as a Spiritual Responsibility ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama - Work as a Spiritual Responsibility

Barack Obama's inaugural speech focused a great deal on work. I found an interesting post by John Pahl, professor of History of Christianity in North America, reflecting on the religious tones given to work in this historic speech.

I too am caught up in today's inauguration of Obama and listening to commentary beginning to "dissect" the events, prayers, and speeches flowing throughout the day. I just found on the Religion in American History blog a nice reflection on how Obama reinforced work in his inauguration speech as a spiritual responsibility:
Barack Obama Inauguration Coverage
Barack Obama's inaugural speech signaled a fascinating new twist on an old role for religion in American culture. Platitudes of civil religious discourse, exploited so effectively by recent administrations -- "sacrifice," "God's gift of freedom," and the ritual invocation of God's blessing on America -- were present, but muted. Obama's chief theme was that religions provide people with spiritual strength to be responsible citizens; to work for the common good.

No less than ten times Obama invoked "work," "works," or "workers." "Everywhere we look, there is work to be done." It is not in "worn out dogmas" that one can find the American spirit, he asserted, but "the faith and determination of the American people" is evident in "the kindness to take in a stranger . . . the selflessness of workers . . . [a] firefighter's courage." "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

The speech mixed ideals with practicality, and in a near future of economic challenge and lowered financial expectations, Obama seems to stress that work is more than just about making money but about our identity, our dignity, and our contributing connection to the broader society.

American historians will read and re-read Obama's speech for years to come. Pahl's short, thoughtful post is a first, and quite worthwhile, read.

(Obama & Workers Image via whitehouse.gov)

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