Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Is Barack Obama a Christian?

If you judge his public statements as charitably as Glenn Beck and Peter Lillback judge George Washington's, then yes he is. At least Obama has spoken explicitly about Christ, the cross, the resurrection -- and by implication -- his belief in the Incarnation and Trinity -- none of which show up in the speeches and writings of our first president. After parsing some of the quotes trotted out to prove that Washington et al. were orthodox, Bible-believing followers of Jesus Christ Daryl Hart concludes:

If you were as inclined to read Washington’s generic affirmations of providence as charitably as Lillback does, wouldn’t you also be inclined to view Obama as an evangelical Christian? Well, the reply might be, “Obama tolerated Jeremiah Wright and so that indicates the flaws in his devotion.” But Washington’s associations were not always so clean or holy. As the folks over at American Creation have explored, Washington made favorable comments about the Universalists. One could also point out that Washington was a Freemason. So it’s not as if Washington’s faith is squeaky clean compared to Obama’s.

In which case, the reason why Washington gets an orthodox grade and Obama fails has more to do with politics than religion. Why a Federalist is more attractive to Republicans than a Democrat is not entirely obvious since the political antagonisms that divided Federalists from Democratic-Republicans during 1790s about how to be a republic free from European political pressures are a long way from issues that divide today’s Republicans and Democrats over how best to be a superpower – an entity that the founders would hardly recognize. I for one would prefer Washington’s politics to the current convictions that dominate the city named after him. But Lillback’s point is not supposed to be about politics. It’s supposed to be about taking religion seriously. So then shouldn’t we take Obama’s religion seriously? And shouldn’t Obama’s assertions indicate that the bias of secular, liberal America is not nearly as partial as Lillback and Beck assume? Or that there is plenty of bias to go round?

As always, for the full context read the whole thing! For what it's worth I hope I run in to George Washington in the new heaven and new earth, but I'm perfectly comfortable with honoring him as the great man he was without having to transform him into a Christian icon, or spiritual leader of a movement to take our country back from the Godless Democrats.

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