President Obama’s 10-day Asia trip includes visits to India and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.
The president chose not to visit the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar during his time in India because it required a head covering that his advisers feared would fuel speculation about his faith. A Pew study showed that nearly 20% of Americans believe falsely that the president is a Muslim.
An example is his April 2009 speech in Turkey, in which he said, “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation, we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” The president’s critics have seized on that statement, insisting that he rejects the Christian foundations of America.
Is Obama stuck between a rock and a hard place? If you were the president, how would you handle this dilemma?
As the midterm elections displayed, there is little that President Obama can do to dissuade his opponents from making everything he says and does fodder for defeating him in the 2012 presidential race. Any “photo op” that could be used to fan the flames of those who already think he’s a Muslim will be used – whether disingenuous or not.
Even though it has been displayed over and over again that Barack Obama is a practicing Christian, why should it actually matter in a nation whose constitution insists that there be no religious test for citizenship or for office-holding? I know of no criteria in our nation’s founding documents that dictate what religion the president should be. I am not as concerned about what religious “card” our president carries as I am about how the president governs and carries out policies that benefit the nation and its place in the community of nations.
I happen to work at a college that was more clearly founded as a Quaker institution than the United States was founded as a “Christian nation.” Until our current president, we had never had a non-Quaker president. The college flourished during some of those presidencies and struggled during others. The current president is not only our first non-Quaker sitting on the throne, he is a Roman Catholic! And by all objective measures, the College has done well during his eight years in office. Not only are enrollments and finances solid, there has been real effort in strengthening the Quaker ethos on campus, too.
Having a Quaker president has not always guaranteed a strong Quaker culture on campus; nor would I say that having a non-Quaker at the helm guarantees a vibrant Quaker ethos. It depends on the commitment of the particular person – and the community around him or her. Certainly some of our strongest advocates in the faculty and staff for a vital Quaker presence at the College are our non-Quaker community members.
I believe the same applies to our nation. There have been Christian presidents who hardly lived up to the best of their religion’s profession. Heck! Some of THOSE were even Quaker! There is no reason to believe that a Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or non-religious president couldn’t have done better than some of our sorrier spectacles of occupants of the Oval Office.
And as for our being a “Christian nation,” I would say that the evidence is conflicting. So many of our founders were Deists – hardly orthodox by any standard. Look at the back of our dollar bill, for example! Pyramids! The eye of reason! Lots of implications about Enlightenment philosophy rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ! And we certainly venerate those founding foreparents.
Nor was the nation one with the “soul of a church” in its beginning. While there was an established church, attendance at religious services was low. It wasn’t until disestablishment and the necessity of churches’ competing for members (free market religious capitalism!) that church attendance assumed the lofty numbers we continue to enjoy – at least in comparison with other industrialized Western nations. If we’re going to excoriate Obama for his unbridled “socialism” and attack on our “freedoms” as individuals, let’s at least be consistent and support the unbridled religious “capitalism” that has served to strengthen our religious character!
Odd that those who so call into question the right of a “non-Christian” to govern our country are the very ones calling for an unfettered free market!