I’ve had enough, more than enough, of Barack Obama saying that we should be “our brothers’ keepers.” All of us should utterly reject that notion. I explain why here.
Obama did it again during his official Thanksgiving proclamation. I explain why the claim is misguided both in terms of faith and of the American political tradition.
From the standpoint of faith:
In not a single place in the Bible is it ever written that we are indeed our brothers’ keepers. (Look it up!) And for good reason: To be a “keeper” of another person is not necessarily to help the other but instead to control him. An Internet site called “Cup of Wrath” explains it well: “No one is their brother’s or sister’s keeper, unless that person is incapable of taking care of him or herself . . . Loving thy neighbor as thyself doesn’t mean being your neighbor’s keeper or overseer. Instead it means taking his or her best interests to heart.”
Again, the command from Christ is not to act for others, but to serve others – to love the brother as an equal, not in loco parentis. To assert parental responsibility for a brother is to assume a role – to wrongly assume it – that God has reserved for Himself. Even if undertaken with the best intentions, to be a brother’s keeper is to commit a sin akin to vainglory by putting oneself above one’s proper station.
From the standpoint of American political theory and tradition:
…. to be a “brother’s keeper” is to tread dangerously close to the realm of George Orwell’s fictional “Big Brother” – an all-powerful state of the sort explicitly and rightfully rejected by our nation’s Founders and by large majorities of every succeeding American generation.
I read somewhere (I can’t find it now) that the “brother’s keeper” emphasis is a central tenet of the black liberation theology espoused by the infamous Rev. Wright. It is a Marxist bastardization of traditional Judeo-Christian tenets. I can’t vouch for that explanation myself, but it rings true. Either way, even if Obama’s intentions are laudable on this front — a respect I went way out of my way to afford him, although one can certainly argue he does not deserve such respect for his good intentions — those intentions are antithetical to traditional and valuable understandings. We should all love our brethren … but we should not “keep” them, lest we ourselves in turn become “kept.”