Obama's Road to Damascus



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On Sunday, August 25, 2013, First Baptist Church, Arkadelphia, Arkansas preacher Lee McGlone delivered his morning sermon under the title “The Reluctant Witness” and used the text from the Book of Acts, Chapter 9, verses 10-22, as the centerpiece around which he wove his exemplum. In previous chapters from the same book Saul is portrayed for what he is: a belligerent fanatic whose zealotry earned him a reputation for harassing, bullying, and hunting down newly converted Jews. As a Pharisee and spiritual enforcer, Saul was an unwavering defender of the faith whose mission in life was to deliver converts into the hands of rabbinical courts. Armed with the sword of religious piety and zealotry in one hand and warrants in the other, Saul embarked on his journey from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest Damascene converts. Somewhere on the plateau overlooking Damascus Saul is blinded and has a life changing experience that has been celebrated in art, literature, speeches, homilies and exempla – so much so that the phrase “On the road to Damascus experience” has become an aphorism for life changing events. For me the most iconic representation of this experience is Caravaggio’s The Conversion of St. Paul, a composition that graces the walls of the Cerasi Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, Italy.

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