The Irony of Barack Obama : Barack Obama, Reinhold Niebuhr and the Problem of Christian Statecraft book cover
1st Edition

The Irony of Barack Obama
Barack Obama, Reinhold Niebuhr and the Problem of Christian Statecraft

ISBN 9781138273092
Published November 28, 2016 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

Drawing on the political theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, described by Barack Obama as 'one of my favourite philosophers', this book assesses the challenges facing the President during his first term. It evaluates his success in adhering to Niebuhr's path of 'Christian realism' when faced with the pragmatic demands of domestic and foreign affairs. In 2008 Candidate Obama used the ideas of 'Hope' and 'Change' to inspire voters and secure the presidency. Obama promised change not only regarding America's policies, but even more fundamentally in the nation's political culture. Holder and Josephson describe the foundations of President Obama's Christian faith and the extent to which it has shaped his approach to politics. Their book explores Obama's journey of faith in the context of a broadly Augustinian understanding of faith and politics, examines the tensions between Christian realism and pragmatic progressivism, explains why a Christian realist interpretation is essential to understanding Obama's presidency, and applies this model of understanding to considerations of foreign and domestic policy. By combining this theological and political analysis the book offers a special opportunity to reflect on the relationship between Christian faith and statesmanship, reflections that are missing from current popular discussions of the Obama presidency. Through consideration of Niebuhr's models of the prophet and the statesman, and the more popular alternative of the political evangelist, Holder and Josephson are better able to explain the president's successes and his failures, and to unveil the Augustinian limits of the political life.

Table of Contents

Contents: The promise of Barack Obama; The President's philosopher: Reinhold Niebuhr in the American century; The faith of Barack Obama; Realism and moral purpose in American foreign policy; The morality of a society: economic power, political power and justice; The prophet, the statesman and the nation; The irony of Barack Obama; politics and religion: a lesson; Bibliography; Index.

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R. Ward Holder is Professor of Theology and Peter B. Josephson is Associate Professor of Politics at Saint Anselm College, USA


’A valuable study of President Obama’s first term in office as a self-confessed Niebuhrian, this timely book illumines Barack Obama’s complexity as politician, Christian, and statesman.’ Richard Crouter, Carleton College, USA, and author of Reinhold Niebuhr: On Politics, Religion, and Christian Faith ’The Irony of Barack Obama is a cogent and fair-minded analysis that draws insightfully on the thought of Reinhold Niebuhr to assess Barack Obama's politics and his Niebuhrianism.’ Gary Dorrien, Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University, USA ’Holder & Josephson produce a fascinating account of Obama’s Christian Realism by skilfully exploring his appreciation of, and indebtedness to, his favourite philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr. At a time when religion and security is increasingly prominent in world politics this is a timely book providing new insight into old challenges of US foreign policy.’ Lee Marsden, University of East Anglia, UK 'Holder and Josephson (both, St. Anselm College) explore President Obama’s understanding of the relationship between faith and politics in this very scholarly study... Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collection.' Choice 'Authors R. Ward Holder and Peter B. Josephson from Saint Anselm College combine their expertise in Christian theology and politics in this thought-provoking, though necessarily incomplete, analysis of the Barack Obama presidency as it relates to Reinhold Niebuhr. ... Drawing from the burgeoning Niebuhr literature, the book offers illuminating perspectives on the forty-fourth U.S. president.' Journal of Church and State 'Holder and Josephson provide a compelling examination of the problem of Christian statecraft as it applies to Obama. ... [The authors] provide a much needed and incisive consideration of Obama's international affairs in the light of Christian realism.' Anglican Theological Review