"being my brothers' and sisters' keeper" (UPDATED)

Much is being written about Obama’s defense yesterday of his Christian beliefs and what he had to say in that defense:

“It was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead,” Obama said. “Being my brother’s and sister’s keeper. Treating others as they would treat me.”

Back in January, Newsweek carried excerpts of a book written by Obama’s half brother:

Eventually the press found me in my slum. My new notoriety was a blessing and a curse. Many people presume I have a direct line to the White House, but I don’t. I’ve only met my big brother twice and have spoken to him just once since the election, to say congratulations. Still, because of our connection, I managed to pull in funds from philanthropists to support the work of the youth group. I raised enough money to buy the team gold and green uniforms–with their own numbers on the back. Last fall, Obama’s Champs won the Nairobi Super League–a feat that, just a couple of years back, would have been unthinkable for a team from the slums. With the sponsorship I’ve attracted because of my last name, we can now afford to take buses all across Kenya for matches.

I still live in one of Africa’s biggest slums, along with some 4.5 million others. We have little or no access to health care, no welfare, and no free schooling. The average income is less than $5 a day–and that’s for those who find work as servants, taxi drivers, or garbage collectors. For the rest, there is nothing. My brother has risen to be the leader of the most powerful country in the world. In Kenya I hope to be a leader among the poorest, most powerless people on earth–the people of the ghetto.

An interesting juxtaposition of circumstances especially in light of the President’s words on what he claims drives his Christian faith.

More interesting however is this, coming our way via Scott at Verum Serum:

No disrespect, Mr President, but WHAT are you talking about?  There is no such charge in the Bible to be the keeper of your brothers and sisters.  We are told to do many things in the Bible:  to love others, to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves, to put others interests before our own, etc.  But nowhere are we told to be the keepers (controllers) of people.  There IS a verse that sounds a bit like what you said, but it’s meaning is NOTHING like what you want it to mean.

Genesis 4:9

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Cain wasn’t saying ANYTHING about controlling his brother.  He was using that as an excuse as to why he shouldn’t be expected to know where his brother was.  And for good reason…he had just murdered his brother.

So I guess my point is that I would prefer that President Obama NOT claim to be a Christian and to be a person of faith when he can’t even talk the talk.

And at the same time, I have to wonder if President Obama’s perception of his faith is that he is supposed to be the “keeper” of his brothers and sisters, then does this explain his continued push to create and expand programs that in essence “keep” the men and women of this country?

In the attempt to defend his beliefs, the President has done nothing more than raise more questions.

Was this simply recklessness caused by a rush to counter polls? Or was it a clumsy attempt to pile fresh lies on top of stale ones?

I’ll report, you decide.

UPDATE: What follows comes from an email exchange with Professor Barry Rubin on the subject:

The Hebrew of the verse–which is actually what the Bible said in the original–usually translated as brother’s keeper is “shomer” which means a watchman, a guard, a protector. It does not imply that you should run your brother’s life or tell him what to do but to protect him from others. A shomer is like a security guard. What Cain is saying is: Am I my brother’s bodyguard? In other words, if someone had killed him I’m not responsible. He’s setting up an alibi, not a nanny state.
I hope you find that useful.

Professor Barry Rubin,

Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center

The Rubin Report blog 
Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal 
Editor Turkish Studies

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