Matthew Avery Sutton: Back on Message

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address

President Obama’s State of the Union speech marks a major shift in strategy for the Democratic Party. During the 2008 campaign, Democrats caught the religion bug from the GOP. Apparently they have finally killed it. Obama is back on message. Echoing Franklin Roosevelt, he preached economic liberty to the poor and justice to the oppressed without pandering to religious prejudices. For decades Republican leaders have used faith to cloak exploitative economic policies that favored the rich and the powerful. No more. I am encouraged that going into the 2012 campaign the president is not going to let them set the terms of the debate.

Matthew Avery Sutton is an associate professor of history at Washington State University and the author of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard University Press, 2007).

  • TBascom

    Gee, that’s a nice, neutral perspective for a news journal to promulgate! I especially like Sutton’s demonstrated capacity to adhere to the scholarly assumption that those who disagree with him are, like him, well-intentioned; to wit: “For decades Republican leaders have used faith to cloak exploitative economic policies that favored the rich and powerful.”

    I’m surprised he didn’t note that Republicans – and conservatives more generally – have small skulls, close-set eyes and tiny horns to go with their rapacious appetites and carapace-like bellies.

    It’s also cool that Sutton celebrates the Democrat Party’s ability to finally kill that dreaded disease, religion – a “bug” they “caught” from the GOP. I love seeing a basic respect for religion on a religion and ethics news site!

    Odd, however, that he completely ignores the profound role religion plays in Obama’s views and values – something readily discerned by reading the President’s discussion of his conversion experience during the Rev. Wright’s sermon, “The Audacity of Hope,” and his description of his sense of finding a spiritual home when he further explored the Black Liberation Theology underlying Wright’s preaching and teaching. Sutton cannot be glad the Democrats have killed the religion bug and also be happy with Obama’s frame of mind. How does he reconcile the two – I mean, as a historian and (ahem) scholar?

    He also ignores the large donations the Democrats have received from Wall Street and Big Banking, along with mega-millionaires from the entertainment industries. This is easily confirmed on Or, from a perusal of campaign finance reports. And, after all, it’s common knowledge that it’s the President who is pursuing a billion dollar campaign war chest, not those “rich and powerful” Republicans Sutton so despises.

    Thank you for sharing this high-class and scholarly perspective. I assume REN will be providing equal time to an equally-objective historian for the less-than-human other side?