Note: An edited version of this post appeared in Velocity Weekly on September 1, 2010.
On a recent hour of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR, a caller indentifying herself as an African American democrat in Miami said she has concluded that President Obama is a Muslim for all of the reasons Washington Examiner writer Byron York, Rehm’s conservative guest, said she understandably could be confused:
Because Obama made it a point to reach out to the Islamic world by emphasizing his Muslim roots.
Because he had a gutsy moment and at first sided with the developers of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.”
And because, to quote another one of Rehm’s guests, journalist Dante Chinni, unlike his predecessor, Obama “has not brought religion to the forefront of who he is. …You ask people what religion George Bush was, we all know.”
Oh yes, that religion. The one the true patriots of this country embrace. The faith of choice for relatively unintelligent, wealthy people who bring guns to political rallies and disregard the needs of the less fortunate. The religion of ignorant jingoists and hypocrites who hate science. The one that preaches fear and is against equality and progress.
The religion that’s hard to link to a president whose actions don’t match the images of it that we’re familiar with.
I think America’s struggle to believe that President Obama is a Christian isn’t just due to what Time magazine calls Islamaphobia. I think the suspicions surrounding his religion also have to do with our perceptions of Christianity.
Based on what we’re used to seeing, whether he’s Muslim or not, President Obama definitely couldn’t be a Christian.
Forget making prominent evangelical mega church pastors part of the political advisory team; Obama doesn’t even to go to church on Sunday.
He should forget that he had to abandon his church after comments in one of his pastor’s sermons were used to portray him as racist during his presidential campaign. And although his absence probably protects a pastor from having his or her sermons scrutinized for use in out-of-context political campaign attacks and prevents the congregation from getting distracted from worship, a Christian leader would invoke the name of Jesus at every opportunity to win America’s favor.
Obama reaches out to the Muslim world. Okay, Christianity isn’t exactly open-minded. But God forbid a Christian act on that whole, “Blessed are the peace makers” thing Jesus talked about instead of on his precious 2nd Amendment rights, or on a right to declare war—which, by the way, no U.S. president has. The Nobel Peace Prize must guarantee a spot in hell.
Obama wants everyone—even people like me who don’t have an employer to subsidize their health insurance—to be able to have affordable access to quality medical treatment. We’re used to Christians letting people do what they did in biblical times: afford whatever they’re blessed to afford, rely on Jesus’ miracles and protest government intrusion into their private lives.
President Obama is smart. Really smart. Proverbs 19:2 says “it is not good to have zeal without knowledge,” but intelligence is elitist. We’re familiar with humble Christians, not Harvard educated lawyers. Christians don’t really take time to think about things. They do, however, set themselves apart from the rest of the population by making millions through talk shows and books. The difference is their words are God-inspired, not from the worldly advice given at elitist institutions.
During the campaign, a friend and I discussed how delighted we were at the prospect of an intellectual Christian in the White House. He would be someone we could relate to, someone who would abandon all reason when an act of faith specifically demanded it but who would otherwise operate in the knowledge attained from rigorous study and in the prayerful wisdom of life experiences to which others could relate.
And who we could identify as Christian by Jesus’ one definitive standard: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Who was the last Christian without a “news” talk show to do that?