Professor notes transformative powers of King David and Obama

Hartford Seminary professor compares Obama to King David/contributedHARTFORD – Barack Obama is no King David.

The president hasn’t used a slingshot to slay a giant. He can’t trace his genealogy directly to Jesus and he hasn’t murdered his top soldier because of a woman.

But, Uriah Kim, professor of Hebrew Bible at Hartford Seminary, said in a lecture Wednesday night that King David and our 44th president do have some commonalities.

In his lecture, titled, “The Transformative Power of King David and President Obama (or The Transgressive Power of Hybridity: David and Obama),” Kim noted that both leaders have overcome the “politics of difference,” and have embraced multi-cultural headship.

The radical inclusivity shown by both David and Obama, Kim said, “should be prerequisites for all leaders.”

He added that both men have mixed ethnic identities, and have therefore crossed the cultural boundaries constructed by humans.

Kim, who moved to the U.S. from Korea 30 years ago, explained that unlike his predecessor King Saul, David was able to create a nation based on allegiance rather than cultural makeup.

“He was able to establish a kingdom based on diverse groups of people,” he said. “David’s hybrid kingdom reflects God’s vision for this world.”

The professor said in Hebrew this is called “hesed,” and is the loyalty a person shows to another in a mutually obligated relationship. In Korean, he said it’s called “jeong.”

Kim said that because Obama is the first black man to be elected as a U.S. president, he should automatically be considered a transformative figure in America. It’s the first step in a delicate dance toward Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of racial harmony, he said.

“David pulled it off in his time, and Obama’s pulled it off in our time,” Kim said.

He addresses the issue further in his book, “Identity and Loyalty in the David Story.”

Gervais Barger, of Plainville and a student at the seminary, said it was the first time he’s attended a public lecture at the institute.

“It was very, very intriguing. I really enjoyed it,” he said.

He said he’s been a student of the bible since the late 70s and until he heard Kim, didn’t realize King David was a multicultural leader.

“He’s forced me to go back and look it up,” he said.

Dean and Professor of New Testament Efrain Agosto said the lecture was part of the seminary’s educational outreach program, which features various speakers throughout the year.

A podcast of the lecture can be downloaded on the Hartford Seminary Web site.

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