Our Christian president and the people who cannot hear him

President Obama opened his National Prayer Breakfast remarks by saying, “I begin by giving all praise and honor to God … Continued

President Obama opened his National Prayer Breakfast remarks by saying, “I begin by giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us here today.”

That may come as a surprise to some Americans.

 That is because 40 percent of Americans don’t know what Obama’s religion is, 4 percent believe he has no religion, 18 percent believe he is a Muslim and just 38 percent say he is a Christian. This is from the most recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.

           President Obama is a Christian.  The irony is that many of the same people who criticized him four years ago for belonging to Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s United Church of Christ, are likely the same ones who now say they don’t know what religion he is, or that he doesn’t have one, or that he’s a Muslim.

            It’s not as if the president is reticent about his faith. At the National Prayer breakfast for the past three years he has spoken openly about it, as he has at the lighting of the National Christmas tree, The Christmas in Washington Pageant and other events.

            It just seems as though some people are just not listening or don’t want to hear.

            “It’s always been an opportunity that I’ve cherished,” he said of the breakfast which takes place at the Washington Hilton Hotel for over 3,000 attendees from the halls of Congress, the administration and nations around the world. “And it’s a chance to step back for a moment, for us to come together as brothers and sisters and seek God’s face together.”

            Sixty seven percent of all voters feel that it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs.

            What do you do if you are the president and so many people don’t believe you when you speak about your faith or don’t know about your beliefs?     

            Obviously, you try to talk about it. And, at this breakfast, Obama did:

   “I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion. And from time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes (both mega-pastors), will come by the Oval Office or they’ll call on the phone or they’ll send me a email, and we’ll pray together, and they’ll pray for me and my family, and for our country.” 

            So why is it that 35 percent of the general population views Obama’s religious beliefs as very different from their own and only 12 percent see his beliefs as very similar?

            Obama couldn’t be more comfortable talking about his faith. He mentioned being a Christian several times at the breakfast. He told of visiting the Rev. Billy Graham (who sent a letter which was read earlier) in North Carolina. After leaving Graham, he said, “I thought about my own spiritual journey – growing up in a household that wasn’t particularly religious; going through my period of doubt and confusion; finding Christ when I wasn’t even looking for him so many years ago, possessing so many shortcomings that have been overcome by the simple grace of God.” 

            This is not the first time Obama has spoken this way about his faith. And yet, according to the same poll, 25 percent of Americans find his religious beliefs very unfavorable and 51 percent find them very different.

            Is it possible that is because Obama refuses to pander? And he refuses, even in as Christian a setting as the prayer breakfast, to exclude other faiths even though he knows this might hurt him in the election by adding to people’s confusion over his beliefs. Listen to his words:

            “We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face.”

            He talked about being willing to give something up, having been “extraordinarily blessed.”

“But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’ It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others; or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration of others.” 

            Later he would say of God’s command to love thy neighbor as thyself: “I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and set of beliefs – from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writing of Plato.”

 And finally, speaking of values that “have defined my own faith journey” he would say “They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers.”

Brave talk for a president who has the religion numbers he does.

    It would seem he is following his own advice. “I think we all understand that these values cannot truly find voice in our politics and our policies unless they find a place in our hearts.,” he said.

            The president then closed his remarks.

      Since he met with Graham, he says, “I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment — asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong. I know that He will guide us. He always has, and He always will. And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.”

 

About

Sally Quinn Sally Quinn is the founding editor of OnFaith.
  • Carstonio

    Some of the accusations wrongly imply that one is “born” a Muslim, reflecting a common misconception that being a Muslim and being an Arab are the same thing. (That would be news to the Christian Arabs in Lebanon.) Where Obama is concerned, most of the people who label him a “Muslim” seem to have a similar confusion, in his case using the word as a euphemism for his ethnicity.

    Part of the problem is also the misguided tendency by a minority of Christians to treat their religion as a matter of tribal identity. Among office-seekers, too many Republican s and even some Democrats pander to that mindset. Whatever one’s opinions about Obama’s politics, he deserves credit for talking about his faith as a personal matter, which is really what faith should be.

  • ccnl1

    And some other critical issues our “Christian/Mormon” political leaders fail to note:

    from the CDC-2006
    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (S-TDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with S-TDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from :

    Consumer Reports, January 2012:

    “Yes, or-al se-x is s-ex, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal s-ex, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of oral cancers in America in people under age 50.

    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view it as a way to have intimacy without having ‘se-x.’” (i.e. the Bill Clinton Syndrome)

    (hypenation used to defeat an obvious word filter)

  • Carstonio

    Some of the accusations wrongly imply that one is “born” a Muslim, reflecting a common misconception that being a Muslim and being an Arab are the same thing. (That would be news to the Christian Arabs in Lebanon.) Where Obama is concerned, most of the people who label him a “Muslim” seem to have a similar confusion, in his case using the word as a euphemism for his ethnicity.

    Part of the problem is also the misguided tendency by a minority of Christians to treat their religion as a matter of tribal identity. Among office-seekers, too many Republican s and even some Democrats pander to that mindset. Whatever one’s opinions about Obama’s politics, he deserves credit for talking about his faith as a personal matter, which is really what faith should be.

  • ccnl1

    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joe Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!!

    Obama “mouths” that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO’s support of abortion/choice however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting block in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting “mothers and fathers” of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39 years.

    39 years x 2 million/yr = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for “pro-life” JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

  • xexon

    Talking about your religious beliefs in public is akin to talking about your sexual perversions in public.

    Both need to know their place. It’s private and it needs to be kept that way.

    TOO much information. And it’s got NOTHING to do with running this country. We don’t pay you to thump a bible on our time and our dime.

    x

  • persiflage

    ‘That is because 40 percent of Americans don’t know what Obama’s religion is, 4 percent believe he has no religion, 18 percent believe he is a Muslim and just 38 percent say he is a Christian.’

    These figures seem familiar – maybe that’s because they compare favorably to the number of Americans that favor creationism over evolutionary theory.
    Is this merely a coincidence, or could it be the same crowd? They will invariably vote republican, so there is nothing new here whatsoever.

    This all reflects very poorly on a large segment of the general public that is widely prone to superstition and paranoia, and vulnerable to the kind of mis-information and downright lies spread around by Fox News and other rightwing media propaganda machines.

    It’s all very entertaining, but also causes a lot of real harm. The democrats are not going to get these votes anyway, so I’m wondering why Obama appears to be pandering to the religious right all over again. We all went through this in 2008, and it’s not pleasant to have to re-visit it a mere 4 years later. But that’s politics…………..

  • ccnl1

    Obama “mouths” that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO’s support of abortion however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting block in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting “mothers and fathers” of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39.

    39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for “pro-life” JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

  • persiflage

    ‘We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face.”’

    For that reason alone, it’ a shame that politicians are required to wear their religion on their sleeve, not to mention constanting yammering about their religious beliefs.

    In the secular society that we used to have, this kind of nonsense would be almost unheard of. These days, the lowest common denominator is what drives all political agenda at the national level – namely, the religous pre-occupations of the ‘great unwashed’ ……….the holy rolling voter.

  • PhillyJimi1

    You can’t be a liberal and believe in Christ. The GOP has Jesus on their side. The poll numbers don’t lie. How scary is it when the voting public can’t see clear facts and are so blind to what is right in front of them. So much for being “informed”.

    “An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.” Thomas Jefferson

  • JohnMD1022

    “President Obama is a Christian.”

    Well, he SAYS he’s a Christian, but given this President’s loose affiliation with the truth, it may well just be more taqiyya.

    Taqiyya: According to Christian ethics lying is a sin; In Islamic jurisprudence and theology, the use of taqiyya against the unbelievers is regarded as a virtue and a religious duty.

    In Obama’s case, the unbelievers are the American people who support our Constitution rather than him.

  • edbyronadams

    There is a difference between having beliefs and practicing a religion. Anyone can have beliefs and they do not require attention. Actually practicing a religion requires some effort and is difficult to impossible to practice in isolation. Since regular church attendance does not seem to be on the President’s schedule, I tend to think that while he may have beliefs, he is not a practicing Christian.

  • Steve1441

    O is far too smart ot be a Christian or to be religious at all. He’s just pandering for votes like every other politician.

  • Steve1441

    Stupidest post in WAPO history. I pity you. But yes, “liberals” are far too intelligent to believe in ghosts and magic men in the sky.

  • Steve1441

    yawn

  • persiflage

    ‘Brave talk for a president who has the religion numbers he does.’

    I suppose we’d all rather hear Romney waxing religious about his Mormon beliefs? The problem is, he’d need a translator to explain the fine points.

    No, you won’t hear Romney rambling on about his religious convictions among generic Christians after the bashing he took early on.

    The folks that say it really, really matters what Obama has to about religion will give Romney a pass when he says nothing at all…. completely ignoring the elephant in the room.

  • WmarkW

    Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are citizens of the world, who believe religions are more the same than they are different. I don’t fault anyone who stays in his family’s church. I’m a little less comfortable with the possibility that Obama chose his earlier church to express a political ideology. I don’t care about Jimmy Carter being a Southern Baptist; I would be concerned if a politician specifically chose Thomas Road church as his Baptist congregation.

    I’m hoping and expecting that neither candidate will want to bring religion to the fore of this year’s campaign.

  • wolfeja

    While I have heard that the President has not chosen a home church, I have not heard that it doesn’t attend church regularly. I can think of many reasons why the President might not want to join a particular church and its denomination, including security reasons, a reluctance to politically promote (intended or not) one denomination over another, and others. I don’t know that he has shared his reasons, but I would think that criticism for not chosing is a bit short sighted and narrow minded.

  • edbyronadams

    My point is that he appears to have a very short soapbox from which to promote this agenda.

  • Chip_M

    Complete nonsense. Please explain how dressing up and planting your behind a pew to listen to a rehash of the same sermon you’ve already heard a hundred times before somehow makes you a better person or you beliefs stronger than someone who doesn’t?

  • Rongoklunk

    It’s called working the room – telling the crowd what they most want to hear.
    But yeah – he’s too smart to believe in the invisible skygod -and knows only too well that Americans are not ready for intellectual honesty and the rejection of a supernatural dimension to reality (where god lives).

    When he’s an old man I’m sure he’ll clarify that in his autobiography. But a man has to do what a man has to do! Otherwise you don’t get anywhere in this very superstitious part of the world.

  • Rongoklunk

    Comical too, when one bears in mind that believers believe what mom and pop tell them about reality – whether mom and pop are Muslims, Mormons, Catholics or Hindus. As Mark Twain put it, “The quiet confidence with which I know the other man’s religion to be false – makes me wonder if mine isn’t also.”

    If only ALL religious folk were that curious about why they end up with the particular religion they ended up with. But they don’t. It’s as if they’re mostly hypnotized – and unable to see things any other way. Indoctrination does that to people.

  • koter5683

    Obama is not a real Christian. He is a fake Christian there are many fake Christians in the world. Has he read and studied the bible? What makes a fake Christian you may ask they do not live their lives according to the bible. They pick and choice what they like out of the bible. They follow what they like and ignore what they do not like. It is sad but I do not think there will ever be a real Christian President because the majority of the voters are not for God. They do not fllow the bible and they vote for people that are against God. Why do we keep having bad presidents the voters keep voting non Christians in and keep falling for the same thing over and over again please wake up. The voters listen to the lies (fraud) of the canididates instead of looking at what they did in the past way past anything being done now is just for show to win points like a salesman selling a car there are selling themselves (lieing anything to win or sell) to be elected once elections are over any good being done now will be taken away it is the same every election. Also the fact that whoever has the most money wins that is corrupt. The presidents views are against god just a couple of examples same sex marriage and abortion (MURDER) underminding God’s plan. When the presidents were Christians the world was a much better place. Since there have been non christian presidents for a very long time the world is a mess and getting worse.

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