In his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama describes some of the particulars related to his years in Indonesia where he and his mother, Ann Dunham, went to live with her second husband, Lolo. Obama lived there for about four years until he was 10 years old.
His Mother’s Admirable Goal
In the book he talks about his mother’s uneasiness regarding his being raised in the Indonesian culture. She felt that he was not gleaning proper values, which he would have absorbed from American culture. He describes her concerns as follows:
“If you want to grow into a human being,” she would say to me, “you’re going to need some values.” Honesty— Lolo should not have hidden the refrigerator in the storage room when the tax officials came, even if everyone else, including the tax officials, expected such things. Fairness— the parents of wealthier students should not give television sets to the teachers during Ramadan, and their children could take no pride in the higher marks they might have received. Straight talk— if you didn’t like the shirt I bought you for your birthday, you should have just said so instead of keeping it wadded up at the bottom of your closet. Independent judgment —just because the other children tease the poor boy about his haircut doesn’t mean you have to do it too. (Obama, Barack (2007-01-09). Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance [Kindle Locations 927-933]. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
Wanting her son to internalize these values was a worthy objective. They represent solid moral concepts. She should also be credited for recognizing that her son was picking up wrong values from Indonesian culture, and that American values would enable him to become a better man.
His Mother’s Devastating Mistake
The tragedy related to this scenario, though, resides in her perception regarding the source of such values. In the book Barack Obama describes her understanding of the source of American values as follows:
My mother’s confidence in needlepoint virtues depended on a faith I didn’t possess, a faith that she would refuse to describe as religious; that, in fact, her experience told her was sacrilegious: a faith that rational, thoughtful people could shape their own destiny. In a land where fatalism remained a necessary tool for enduring hardship, where ultimate truths were kept separate from day-to-day realities, she was a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism. (Obama, Barack (2007-01-09). Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance [Kindle Locations 937-941]. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
According to Barack Obama’s perception of his mother’s beliefs as expressed in this passage, she was convinced that American morality did not find its source in Christianity but rather in secular humanism as expressed in American liberalism. There is good reason to believe that this assessment is accurate, first because Obama was in a position to make a correct analysis, and also because his mother manifested distinct liberal leanings.
There is every reason to believe that her assessment is wrong, that instead American virtues stem predominantly from our nation’s Christian cultural orientation. This seems to be a valid conclusion because these virtues are taught in Scripture. Though it is true that at times in our history secular humanists also adopted this morality. However, there is no reason to believe that they ingested these virtues from secular humanism. If we look at the French Revolution, which may have been one of the purest expressions of secular humanism, we find a glaring lack of morality. Consequently, this gives us good reason to believe that American secular humanists did not derive their values from humanism but from the American Christian culture prevalent during those days. This conclusion is also substantiated by the lack of values of our post-Christian nation. Absent previous Christian influence, our nation’s morality has quickly deteriorated, Barack Obama himself providing a glaring example.
Just imagine if Barack Obama’s mother, rather than viewing secular humanism as the source of the values she cherished for her son would have recognized their genesis in Christianity. What might have been the outcome if in an attempt to expose her son to that morality she would have secured his placement in a Christian environment in which he would not only have been taught Christian values but even more so the source of those values in a relationship with Jesus Christ? How different might our nation be today?