Weekend Seven: Obama’s Religion and Saudi Torture

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!

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
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10 Responses to Weekend Seven: Obama’s Religion and Saudi Torture

  1. Tikatu says:

    Howell, I think you need to tweak your link to Mark’s “Here I Blog”. I had trouble getting there, until I noticed you had two “http” listings in the link.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Tikatu,

      Thanks so much for pointing that out. I missed the double “http” for this particular link. All fixed now. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know. God bless,

      Howell

  2. larryk12309 says:

    I wonder what Pastor Rick Warren has to say about Obama’s religion now. After all, he held that big religion summit with McCain and Obama just before the election.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Larry,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I haven’t read any recent comments from Rick Warren regarding Obama’s religion. If I had to guess (and it is only a guess), I would say that Pastor Warren would accept Obama’s profession that he is a Christian. I would think he would be somewhat stronger than Franklin Graham was based upon what I perceive is a stronger personal relationship that exists between the President and Warren. That doesn’t mean that Warren would agree with the theology and policies of President Obama, but I think he would not be as lukewarm in his support for Obama’s Christian faith as was the Rev. Graham. Have you read anything from Warren on the subject or do you have your own opinion as to what Warren might say? Thanks again for reading. God bless,

      Howell

  3. Bennett Willis says:

    The reduction in numbers of people who know President Obama’s faith has been going on for quite a while. The discussion of the mosque in New York City probably has very little to do with it–but will move the numbers a couple of more points in the inaccurate direction. The continuous talk radio that complains about anything that the President does has quite a bit to do with the false numbers and the continuing drift away from facts that we see in today’s political activity. I recognize that when you are trying to fill 2 to 4 hours of talk radio for 5 or 6 days each week that complaining repeatedly about everything is the surest way to do it–but there should be some recognition of reality and facts regarding the complaints.

    Not that it matters, but I have thought it over and decided that I would not oppose the construction of the mosque on Park Avenue. The point that I use to justify my change in views was the someone’s statement that (sort of) went, “if the mosque really memoralizes the murderers, then no distance would be far enough.”

    Unfortunately, this whole thing is a discussion that is based on our feelings and has no factual basis of any sort. At least opposition to the building has no factual basis. 🙂 There are a number of facts that say they could build where they want.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Hey Bennett,

      Hope you are doing well. No question that talk radio and other news outlets contribute to the misperception that Obama is not a Christian. I do not think he has helped that impression of him by some of the things he has said or done, the latest of which is about the Ground Zero mosque. For an interesting analysis of the facts behind the mosque controversy, I would suggest reading Andy McCarthy’s article at National Review Online titled, “Which Islam Will Prevail?” Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  4. stephen fox says:

    Howell:
    As much energy as you have invested in this matter, I do hope you would get your hands of a copy of When Religion Becomes Evil.
    And as you know links are aplenty on this discussion at http://www.baptistlife.com/forums faith and practice.

    Here is an introduction to Charles Kimball and reviews of his book are easily googled up. With you I amdisappointed in Frank Graham and Newt Gingrich to put it mildly.
    If any body has the magnaminity of heart to consider looking at Obama’s soul with the Grace I think Christ himself would extend, David Remnick’s opening chapters in The Bridge is a good place to start.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving the link. While I may not agree with some (many) of President Obama’s policies and while his understanding of Christianity may be different than mine, I think we need to be careful in not making pronouncements about someone else’s faith when we have a hard enough time living out our own faith. Hope you have a great day. God bless,

      Howell

  5. Pingback: Obama’s Strange Reassurances of Faith | From Law to Grace

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