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The Faith of Obama

US President Barack Obama bows his head during a prayer at the Republican GOP House Issues Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 29, 2010.      AFP PHOTO/Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama bows his head during a prayer at the Republican GOP House Issues Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 29, 2010. AFP PHOTO/Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Question from a listener, discussing this interview:

Re your guest today: So Obama is a devout Christian? Surely that will come as a surprise to the millions of unborn babies whose deaths he has financed and facilitated both in the U.S. and abroad. God gave us brains, so we can look at what he does, and not what he says. Your guest should try it.

Mike,

Thanks for responding. I’ve pointed this problem out many, many times. President Obama is just another in a long line of professing Christians who live inconsistently with what the Scriptures and the Catholic Church teach.

Since 2007 when most of the world began looking at Obama, I pointed out that, based on his own words, he professed pretty conventional beliefs about Christ. His divinity, redemptive sacrifice, bodily resurrection. Gary Scott Smith now cites all this in Religion in the Oval Office: The Religious Lives of American Presidents. Here’s a brief example from Christianity Today.

CT: “You’ve talked about your experience walking down the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ, and kneeling beneath the cross, having your sins redeemed, and submitting to God’s will. Would you describe that as a conversion? Do you consider yourself born again?

BO: I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn’t ‘fall out in church’ as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn’t want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.”

He and I disagree on most issues. But we both publicly affirm that we need the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. One of the reasons I refuse to deny the stubborn and uncomfortable fact that he professes faith in Christ is because I dislike the shabby way people use religion in politics. So does he:

“There is one thing that I want to mention that I think is important. Part of what we’ve been seeing during the course of this campaign is some scurrilous e-mails that have been sent out, denying my faith, talking about me being a Muslim, suggesting that I got sworn in at the U.S. Senate with a Quran in my hand or that I don’t pledge allegiance to the flag. I think it’s really important for your readers to know that I have been a member of the same church for almost 20 years, and I have never practiced Islam. I am respectful of the religion, but it’s not my own. One of the things that’s very important in this day and age is that we don’t use religion as a political tool and certainly that we don’t lie about religion as a way to score political points. I just thought it was important to get that in there to dispel rumors that have been over the Internet. We’ve done so repeatedly, but obviously it’s a political tactic of somebody to try to provide this misinformation.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/januaryweb-only/104-32.0.html?share=99ORZouogczgB13neZCoISGnAScwbCPu

Is President Obama using religion to score political points? Maybe, but how would I know? Is Ted Cruz or Ben Carson or did George W. Bush? Bush’s claim that Jesus was his favorite political philosopher was clearly an attempt to establish his evangelical bona fides. Virtually, no one calls Jesus a political philosopher. This manipulative use of religion is going on this week as Donald Trump is accusing Ted Cruz of being a lousy Christian. This is the same Donald Trump who boasts he’s never had to ask forgiveness of anyone for anything, who is best known for building casinos some of which, I am told, offer erotic dancing, whose marital history is outside the usual Christian model, whose braggadocio, swagger and fancy for insults doesn’t really look like the imitation of Christ. I’m not sure when Mr. Trump decided he could discern the authenticity of another’s faith. He has said precious little about his own faith. If and when he does profess Christ before men, I won’t arrogate to myself the right to judge whether or not his faith is real. I will take his profession at his word and then look at his observable behavior. Is it consistent or inconsistent?

In that CT interview Obama is clearly not just a supporter, but a champion of abortion rights. Thanks to his former right hand man, David Axelrod, we now know that he deliberately lied to us about his support of homosexual so-called marriage. We also know that his administration has been more hostile to religious liberty than any previous administration. Just check out his unrelenting efforts to force groups like Little Sisters of the Poor, EWTN, Ave Maria Radio, Priests for Life, etc., to be complicit in providing insurance that covers abortifacient contraceptives.  Also consider the Hosanna Tabor case in which his Justice Department told the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod who qualified as a “minister” in their schools. He lost 8-0 at the Supreme Court. Or consider his refusal to highlight Christian persecution in the Middle East both of which show extraordinary insensitive to our first liberty, religious liberty. Or his blindness or worse that fails to acknowledge the Islamic foundation of the global jihadist movement, a movement which is theocratic, supremacist, imperialistic, exclusionary, violent and deathdealing. 

It is uncomfortable to acknowledge that apparently sincere professions of faith can sit side by side with behavior that seems to deny key aspects of that faith.

My way of dealing with this is not to deny his profession of faith nor to deny his gross inconsistency in supporting, even championing, abortion rights. Neither you nor I know what is going on in his heart of hearts. Is he sincere? Is he invincibly ignorant? Is he poorly catechized? Is he wickedly trying to deceive the world? Is he a brother who needs some stern admonishing and the threat of excommunication? Or is he a subversive manipulating religious language to achieve his nefarious ends? Only God knows what Obama actually believes in his heart of hearts.

We don’t do ourselves any service by denying what others say about their beliefs. The great sculptor Eric Gill was a major artistic and religious force in England. His personal diaries describe his incest with his two teen daughters, his sisters, and even sexual acts on his dog. Yet he continued to go to confession and receive the Eucharist and write on the Catholic faith. Was he even a Christian? One might say that he repented as often as he sinned. That doesn’t seem to be so with President Obama. Yes, but in truth we don’t know what the repentance point is for another. But if I take the President at his word, I then possess fraternal authority to not only pray for him but to correct him and hold him accountable to the standards that Christ maintains for his disciples. 

Isn’t it a testimony to the strong role that Christian faith has played in the White House that even a President as spiritually inconsistent as Barak Obama still claims that he needs to pray and rely on God when considering the weight of his responsibilities. Even someone brought up by Marxist, atheist parents finds his way to affirm truths about Christ. He may be grossly inconsistent but Christ will take every movement in his direction. I try to do the same because I know the universe isn’t divided between conservatives and liberals. It’s divided between those who are being drawn to Christ and those who are fleeing him. I can’t catch those who are fleeing but I can bid those who are being drawn, sometimes ever so slowly and imperceptibly, to come closer to the Fire, be purified and be saved. Can you tell me if he is being drawn or is he fleeing? If you don’t know, then isn’t it better to exercise the judgment of charity and give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his interior disposition while at the same time not letting him off the hook when it comes to matters of doctrine and morality?

Fraternally,

Al

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