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Did Obama Ignore Machiavelli's Advice on Religion for Too Long?

4 years ago
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When reports surfaced last month showing that many Americans wrongly believe President Obama is a Muslim, many analysts wondered if Obama might have avoided this by simply reminding people about his Christian faith.

After all, as president, Bill Clinton -- a public relations master -- was frequently photographed carrying a Bible as he entered, or departed, a church, yet Obama had infrequently attended church since taking office.

This advice to Obama, of course, was anything but new. As Italian political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli wrote nearly 500 years ago, a prince should
appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality.
To be sure, there is something to be said for keeping spiritual matters personal (Ronald Reagan, for example, rarely attended church services). And one could certainly applaud Obama for not acting Machiavellian (Machiavelli doesn't just advise a prince to advertise his faith, but goes a step further, saying: "it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them").

But perception matters in politics, and while keeping spiritual matters private may be noble, it is interesting to consider that one of Obama's main political problems might stem from ignoring advice dispensed so long ago -- in what is arguably the most famous treatise on politics.

Interestingly, it seems Obama has finally decided to heed this advice. This past Sunday, for the sixth time since taking office, he attended church in Washington. He has also started talking more about his faith, most recently saying he was "Christian by choice."

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11 Comments

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Kat2988

Two more years until the next election so who cares what he says at this point.

September 29 2010 at 2:22 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
tplapper

I noticed during my lifetime that the people who try to pass themselves off as righteous Christians are often the ones who get busted in some sex or money scandal. Take the televangelists for instance.

September 29 2010 at 1:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bltcarbiz

The issue is one of TRUSTING what a person is saying is true. The problem is that TRUST is something that must be earned and when it is doubted it is hard to gain back TRUSTING.

September 29 2010 at 1:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
B

I think we have out grown Niccolo Machiavelli's "appear". Just because one says they are Christian, doesn't make them a Christian. Neither does going to church make you a Christian. However, Obama is President of our country. What he needs to do is not cater to one religion over the other. Americans need to KNOW our religous freedom is not at stake and our American way of life is assured.

September 29 2010 at 12:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to B's comment
DADDY

You gotta be kidding. This country is going down the tube.

September 29 2010 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mikey

...Jesus was a liberal? Do you think he was pro-life or pro-choice? He loved the children didn't he? I take the Pres. at his word but now he has to show us by his actions by embracing all...loving all...and welcoming all (even our babies into this world). Until the Pres. does that, I remain sceptical. Just don't tell me ~ show me by your actions...

September 29 2010 at 12:02 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mikey's comment
jjoekiker7

.......Jesus was a conservative??? Ya think he would have pulled the switch for an execution?!?!?!?! And my reply to B above, thinking that we have outgrown Niccolo Machiavellis thoughts. The opposite is true, now more than ever, its not who you ARE, or what you do that counts, but what people, voters THINK, you are and have done! If the war is going good, its your war, if the economy is going down the drain, its that last presidents economic policy that did it!

October 02 2010 at 6:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
catalogsplus

It's hilarious how the media keeps saying many Americans "wrongly believe" Obama is Muslim when the truth is no one knows, not even the media. What we DO know is Obama supports and talks non-stop about Muslims, tries to force everyone in America to accept everything Muslims, and yet he very rarely talks about Christians and has only attended church 6-times in 2-years for what looks like photo ops.

September 29 2010 at 11:43 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
im4ncsu

So Obama now shows up to church out of convenience to be seen by others, rather than to seek God. This would be seen as a mortal sin against God. What would you expect from Lucifer? This man has no shame. November 2, 2010 and in 2012 we need to take our Country back from the Socialists who call themselves Democrats, Progressives, Liberals. There is nothing progressive or liberal when seeking to take away one's inalienable rights. Hilter,Stalin and others tried it and failed. So will Obama and his three stooges...Biden, Pelosi, and Reid.

September 29 2010 at 9:35 AM Report abuse +18 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to im4ncsu's comment

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