Is President Obama a Christian? And, should Newt Gingrich reconsider using Saudi Arabia as a standard-bearer for religious freedom in light of their eye for an eye paralysis punishment? Wow! What a week for the collision of law, politics, and religion!
President Obama’s on-again, off-again, on-again support of the Ground Zero mosque has continued to dominate the news cycle this week, not only within the secular press, but within the Baptist blogosphere as well. The proposed 13-story Muslim Cultural Center (including mosque), referred to as 51 Park by its supporters and the Ground Zero mosque by its opponents, will be a radioactive issue with most politicians, especially vulnerable House and Senate Democrats, all the way up to this Fall’s elections in November.
President Obama’s clumsy handling of this issue has not only affected other politicians fortunes as they scramble for cover, but has also affected how Americans view the 44th President. According to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who believe President Obama is Muslim has risen by 7 points in the last 2 1/2 years while those who believe Obama is a Christian has fallen by 14 points. And please note, this poll was conducted before the President’s remarks on Friday, August 13 in which he voiced initial support for the Ground Zero mosque.
Adding fuel to the fire, the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist, Billy Graham, gave what can only be considered a tepid endorsement of Obama’s Christianity. Because Obama’s father was a Muslim, Graham believes that the President “was born a Muslim” and somehow received the “seed” of the Muslim faith through his father, similar to how Jewish people inherit their faith through their mothers. However, I believe that Rev. Graham is conflating ethnicity with religion. Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity, in the sense that many, but not all who practice Judaism, would also consider themselves Jewish or Hebrew ethnically speaking. There are obviously some Gentiles — born neither to a Jewish mother or father — who have converted to Judaism. However, they were not born Jewish.
While I may not agree with many of President Obama’s policies or with how he understands the Christian faith, I think we begin to walk on dangerous ground when we make pronouncements about someone else’s self-professed faith. However, I think that President Obama, through some of his own words and actions, including his outreach efforts to the Muslim world, his seeming indifference and/or hostility to Israel, his cancellation of the National Prayer Breakfast for two years in a row, and his lack of church attendance while President, has contributed to people’s misunderstandings about his religious background, both past and current. You know that the misperceptions are at critical mass when the White House has to issue a press release confirming that Obama is a Christian who prays daily.
Of course, the President’s handling of the Ground Zero mosque has been one of the chief reasons why more people are beginning to have doubts about his claims of being a Christian. Mark, over at Here I Blog, has an interesting post regarding Christians and the Ground Zero mosque. Don’t miss the comments which have been lively. And, check out Charels Krauthammer’s articles, “Sacrilege at Ground Zero,” and “Moral myopia at Ground Zero” for a spot-on analysis of this hot-button issue.
Finally, Newt Gingrich may want to re-think his argument, “no mosque at Ground Zero until churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” In light of this week’s revelation that authorities in Saudi Arabia have asked several hospitals to sever a man’s spinal cord as a judicial punishment for a crime the man committed, I’m not so sure that I would use that Middle East dictatorship as an example in an argument, no matter how much I might dislike the mosque near Ground Zero!