God and Barack Obama

Let me begin with what I hope is a credibility enhancer: For daring to write a book on the faith of Hillary Clinton, I was questioned by fellow conservatives, especially for calling Mrs. Clinton a “lifelong, committed Christian.” In the final chapter of that book, I included a brief section on the faith of Barack Obama, where, taking him at his word — based on a major June 2006 speech on his faith — I felt confident in reporting, “Obama is a Christian.”

I’m not disputing that here. Since then, however, I’ve taken a careful look at Obama’s faith, and there are quite a few things that stand out as historically extremely unusual, and in some cases unprecedented for a potential president. They are worth knowing, especially given the secular media’s adoration of the man.

Indeed, journalists are so worshipful of Obama that they are unfazed by his two decades of membership in the church of a ranting, blasphemous preacher who mocked everything from Bill Clinton to America itself — and who married Obama, baptized his children, and whom Obama considers a mentor and the inspiration for the title of his best-selling book. That double standard has struck even the likes of atheist Christopher Hitchens. After eight years of wailing and gnashing of teeth over a Christian Republican president, secular liberals have undergone a Saul-like conversion.

On rare occasions, however, the press has offered constructive analysis of Obama’s faith. The most revealing look remains a glowing profile in Newsweek a couple of months ago. The Newsweek offering was remarkably one-sided, even venturing into evangelical phraseology, the shared-language-of-believers style characteristic of Religious Right publications. I counted 10 examples of phrases like, “He found Christ,” “accept Christ,” “Obama went to Jesus.”

Nonetheless, even in this unusually un-critical article, much can be mined about Obama’s faith. Most salient is this inescapable conclusion: More than any presidential nominee this close to the White House, Barack Obama’s faith is a patchwork of divergent beliefs, philosophies, and influences, from what Newsweek called a “Christian-turned-secular mother” — her own views a product of “two lapsed Christian” parents and a Bill Moyers book — to a “Muslim-turned-atheist African father” to a stepfather with a “unique brand of Islam.”

As for Obama’s personal path, Newsweek noted how Obama, in his younger years, enjoyed, on one hand, Augustine, and then Nietzsche and Graham Greene. Obama hopped and groped his way through Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, asceticism, and eventually settled at the political church of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Most interesting is what Newsweek revealed about Obama and his current family: His wife, Michelle, “also didn’t go to church regularly as a child.” Neither really began regular attendance until they were married. And only then, their choice was Reverend Wright. On that, Newsweek reported approvingly: “The cross under which Obama went to Jesus was at the controversial Trinity United Church of Christ. It was a good fit.”

The couple, writes Newsweek, attended “fairly often — two or three times a month.” That changed, becoming less frequent, with the birth of their first child. Normally, the arrival of children is the blessed event that drags young couples to church — the Bushes, the Clintons. For the Obamas, however, the hassle of getting the baby out of the house for a packed service was an obstacle. “So,” explained Barack, “that would cut back our involvement.”

The Obama girls have never attended Sunday school — a definite contrast with most White House children. Even wayward president’s kids like Ron Reagan, a proud atheist, was taken to church every Sunday. Obama explains of his daughters’ religious education: “I’m a big believer in a faith that is not imposed but taps into what’s already there, their curiosity of spirit.”

Once Obama ran for the U.S. Senate, he skipped church for months at a time. Now that he publicly parted ways with Reverend Wright, reports Newsweek with a gentle wink, “Obama is a little spiritually rootless again.” Newsweek neglected to mention that Obama often appeared in churches in 2007 for strictly political purposes — i.e., to campaign in houses of worship, a practice that launches liberals into fits of screaming rage when done by Republicans.

On the plus side, there are some discernible spiritual practices in Obama’s life: family grace at mealtime, daily prayer, Obama “sometimes” reading the Bible in evenings, and inspirational emails zapped to the senator by his “religious outreach team.” Yet, even with that nod to something of a religious routine, one senses that Obama is still trying to reconcile, as Newsweek described his early life, “his rational side with his yearning for transcendence.”

After demonstrating at length that Obama’s belief system is an amalgam, unorthodox, and undisciplined, Newsweek wrapped up with a shot at his detractors: “Some on the right say his particular brand of Christianity is a modern amalgam-unorthodox, undisciplined….”

No, Newsweek, that’s what you say.

One can see here another reason the secular left embraces Obama: His entire religious life, including the spiritual development of his family, is relativistic — an ever-probing quest, a realization of no single truth. The left likes this Democrat more than, say, a lifelong Baptist like Bill Clinton, a lifelong Roman Catholic like John Kerry, a lifelong Methodist like Hillary Clinton, a “born-again” southerner like Jimmy Carter. Here’s a believer secular liberals can accept: a relativist in the most expansive form.

A President Obama would bring to the office the most unconventional religious portfolio of any president in a long time, arguably the history of the American presidency.

But to get there, the freshman senator hopes to win just enough of those moral-religious “values voters” who twice made the difference for George W. Bush. Can Barack Obama do that?

In 2000 and 2004, it was the churchgoing moral-religious “values voters” that made the difference for George W. Bush. Barack Obama hopes to peel off just enough of those voters. What are his chances? From my vantage, Obama faces five primary obstacles:

First, Reverend Jeremiah Wright remains an albatross, even given the media’s best efforts to avoid him. The ranting, raving, blaspheming political sermons by an uncorked, unhinged Wright — with the congregation loving every minute — remains a cruise missile aimed at Obama’s bid for moderate to conservative churchgoers. Obama was way too close to Wright to politically extricate himself.

Second — brace yourselves, liberals — a sizable number of Americans suspect Obama is lying about Islamic roots. A Newsweek poll in June found that 12 percent of voters are convinced Obama is a Muslim, and one-in-four believe he was raised a Muslim. Such thinking has intensified with Jerome Corsi’s bestselling book and with research by Islam observers like Daniel Pipes — who, though he accepts that Obama is today a Christian, says Obama is “lying” when he denies he was never a Muslim. Additional oddities continue to surface, such as YouTube video in which Moammar Kaddafi is said to describe Obama as a fellow Muslim.

When I recently shared this factor with some liberals, their faces visibly contorted and they began yelling at me. Nonetheless, perceptions matter. This issue might become statistically important in a close election.

obama.jpgThird, conservative Christians are offended by how the secular left has greeted Obama as a messianic figure. The hosannas during Obama’s Europe trip were so over-the-top that London Times columnist Gerard Baker ridiculed the senator’s visit as akin to Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. The BBC interviewed a worshipful German who described Obama as his “redeemer.” Fox found another who exalted his “new messiah.” To the question, “Who do you say that I am? some Europeans made their choice as Obama swept into their presence.

Given the agnostic left’s search for salvation in politics, this is not a surprise, especially in post-modern, de-Christianized Europe.

This has only gotten worse. No less than a U.S. Congressman, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), said on the House floor on September 10 that, “Barack Obama was a ‘community organizer’ like Jesus.” (He then added, in reference to Governor Sarah Palin, that “Pontius Pilate was a governor.”) And now there’s YouTube video of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan calling Obama “the Messiah.”

This is backfiring on Obama among the values voters he is seeking. To them, this reverence by the secular left is intolerably hypocritical. Liberals went bonkers when a presidential candidate named George W. Bush merely cited Christ as his favorite philosopher. And now they can compare Obama to Christ?

Fourth, “values voters” are skeptical of this appeal to faith by the Democratic nominee. There has been a well-orchestrated, openly admitted campaign, begun just days after the 2004 vote, especially by Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, to get Democrats talking faith as much as possible. Actual Democratic Party working groups and colloquia have been established, employing the Christian left’s language of “social justice.”

Obama himself picked this up early on. In a June 2006 address to the Call to Renewal convention, Obama appealed to religious voters. He recalled how in his 2004 Senate race, his support of abortion rankled his opponent. Obama protested, arguing there were policy issues that proved his Christianity — issues like supporting daycare subsidies and the estate tax.

Obama can protest all he wants, but values voters consider legislation mandating medical care for abortion survivors more important than legislation mandating estate taxes for the wealthy.

Speaking of which, and fifth, abortion is beyond doubt the overwhelming obstacle for Obama. He is the most extremist pro-choicer ever to get this close to the presidency. His stand-alone votes against bills protecting newborn babies who survive abortions were horrible. He calls abortion a “safety net” and vowed to Planned Parenthood in July 2007 that the “first thing” he would do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would nationalize abortion policy and overturn all the perfectly reasonable state-level restrictions on abortion by bipartisan legislatures throughout America. Then there are Obama’s revealing statements on the stump — such as how he would hate to see his daughters get pregnant out-of-wedlock and “punished with a baby.”

Secular liberals cannot begin to imagine the opposition to Obama strictly on abortion. I’ve received an email several times, titled, “10 Reasons Christians Shouldn’t Vote for Obama.” Among the ten, seven are on abortion.

The unprecedented outcry from the religious community is further evidence. The reaction of the Catholic bishops is extraordinary. I’ve never witnessed them so exercised and committed to leading the flock, and doing so carefully and eloquently, especially among traditional Catholics who still think their party is run by Harry Truman and Jack Kennedy, and literally don’t even know Obama is pro-choice.

A poll last week by Investor’s Business Daily showed a swing of 20 points for John McCain among Catholics, from an 11-point deficit to a 9-point lead. If McCain wins Catholics, he wins the election.

It all adds up to the reality that Barack Obama will have difficulty picking up values voters. His hope that they are not energized by McCain has dissipated with the Sarah Palin pick and the steady emergence of information on his abortion fanaticism.

A summer Pew poll showed McCain leading Obama among evangelicals by 61 to 25 percent, comparable to the margin enjoyed by Bush over Al Gore in 2000. More recently, the respected scholar Dr. John Green released a study finding that evangelicals favor McCain 57.2 percent to 19.9 percent, very similar to Bush’s 60.4 percent to 19.6 percent over John Kerry at the same point in 2004.

It remains to be seen where, exactly, this will finish next Tuesday. As in 2000 and 2004, however, the values voters could make the difference.

Dr. Paul Kengor

By

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • goodfriend

    For the sake of fairness when do we expect to read a critical analyses of the faith of John McCain from the author? After the elections, if ever, when it will make no difference.

  • DonnaMaria

    I hope and pray you’re right, Paul.

    Guess what, goodfriend–there is nothing but criticism of McCain and Palin in the mainstream media, and nothing but praise for Obama there, so kudos to Paul Kengor for daring to talk about the liberals’ messiah. Obama’s “fairness” bill would hush up any opposition, so we had better pray and get out the vote so that we don’t become the “USSA”.

  • twallace

    What seems strange is that Rev. Wright was able to see that the US Govt created the aids virus which according to him was to eliminate the black race and yet cannot see the Mr.Obama as a promoter of abortion rights is doing far more than the aids virus.
    And I fear that a Pres. Obama will provide more muscle to planned parenthood of america in forcing contries in Latin America and the Caribbean. PPA currently funds groups in these countries without US govt support. It is a genie when released from the bottle that will not go back in…..Jerimiah 6 v 16-17: Yahweh says this: Put yourselves on the ways of long ago enquire about the ancient paths: which was the good way? Take it then and you will find rest. Instead they have said,”we will not take it”. I posted look outs on their behalf: Listen to the sound of the trumpet! But they answered we will not listen”….. Paul, the bishops ,PFL are the lookouts.
    Be mindful of your call and speak out loud very loud

  • marcey

    goodfriend,

    For the sake of fairness?!

    You are kidding, right?

    That is actually laugh out loud funny.

  • elkabrikir

    Mr Kengor:

    thanks for collating and synthesizing the information regarding Obama’s faith journey. Just this morning I counseled my children to take heart for God does not hear the prayers of the unrighteous. (ergo, if you’re praying for Obama the raving pro abort to win. Obama may win but it’s not because God heard and answered that prayer, although it may be God’s will to allow evil to prosper for awhile, as in the book of Job.)

    ” Peter wrote, as a motive to righteous living, ‘For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil’ (1 Peter 3:12). This passage, which we originally find in the Old Testament (Psalm 34:15-16), clearly manifests a fact about God and prayer that is often-overlooked—the lives we live have direct bearing on the effectiveness of our prayers.

    “If we would turn through the pages of the Old Testament, we would find example upon example of the Lord refusing the sacrifices of the Israelites because of sin in their lives. One of the strongest of such statements is made beginning in Isaiah 1:11. The Bible says…
    ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.’” ….the blood of the unborn 48 million of them, 13 million of them black!!!!! (in the USA alone since 1973)

    Sarah Palin’s faith has been explored in the media. She was baptized Roman Catholic and then moved to Alaska as a small child with her family. At that point the family moved into the wilderness and stopped attending mass. I think of her as having a typically American”frontier faith” that is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus, the Ten Commandments, and a unity with God as found in the natural world. She attended an evangelical church with her family as an adult. She switched churches to better meet the needs of her children. Her faith is well integrated into the decisions she makes in daily life. Most obviously she chose life for her 5th child and supported her daughter in her unplanned pregnancy. (as opposed to Obama who wouldn’t want his daughters “punished with a baby”. Isn’t the relevance of that comment interesting now?)

    McCain seems to have lived a mainline protestant religious life. He started out Episcopal and is now a Southern Baptist. He has been divorced and remarried for about 30 years. He seems to me to live his faith the way many many regular church attendees do. His Christian faith influences his life in quiet simplicity. That is why most of his decisions have been moral and according to the dictates of his protestant faith.

    goodfriend; Why don’t you write an article yourself? CE is always interested in running timely essays written from an authentic Catholic perspective.

  • goodfriend

    Marcey et al,

    Are you saying that as Catholics we should imitate the liberal mainstream media and be biased?

    We have seen what another conservative Christian politician (a good guy like McCain) has done to America and the world. You-know-who lied to America and the world about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and invaded. Consider the effect of that decision on lives being lost and the blood of Christians, including that of an Archbishop, being shed in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq.

    I asked a question yesterday that was not answered. Was CE so critical of pro-choice (or is he pro-abortion?) John Kerry when he was the Democratic candidate?

  • yblegen

    To goodfriend,

    You are missing the point. First and foremost is life of the most vulnerable. Everything else is so irrelevant. Societies in the past didn’t self-destruct because they argued about who said this about that. They self-destructed because they abandoned the fundamentals- which is respect for life of the most vulnerable and the sanctity of marriage. Hey, don’t believe me. Do the research yourself.

    Also, I would highly recommend listening to the two “you tubes” that Dr. Kengor placed in this article. As an Arab American I am deeply disturbed by what both Khadfi and Farrakhan said. As a committed Maronite Catholic, I am deeply disturbed by what Obama doesn’t stand for—which is life of the innocent and the sanctity of marriage.

  • guitarmom

    goodfriend (Love your name!)
    You ask some good questions.

    “Are you saying that as Catholics we should imitate the liberal mainstream media and be biased?” Most assuredly, NO! But because the mainstream media is not doing it’s job to fully inform the public about Senator Obama’s positions and views, it is the job of the alternative media to point out those issues which are important to its readers. Religious background and views on abortion are most relevant to the readers of Catholic Exchange.

    “You-know-who lied to America and the world about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and invaded.” As a Catholic, I must insist that we use the proper definition of “lied.” To have “lied” means that one INTENTIONALLY deceived. “You-know-who,” along with Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, and the majority of the House and Senate — not to mention the Parliament in UK — all saw the same foreign intelligence that pointed towards weapons of mass destruction. “You-know-who” may have been mistaken, but we cannot say he “lied.” Further, our troops did uncover weapons of mass destruction, just not in the numbers expected.

    Let us not forget that lives were being lost in Iraq before the war began. Did you not read reports of Saddam Hussein murdering people by sending them through giant paper shredders? Life was not somehow safe in Iraq before the war. Oh, and despite Senator Obama’s rhetoric, we in fact WERE greated as liberators when we toppled Saddam Hussein. I know this, as I know people who were there.

    “Was CE so critical of pro-choice … John Kerry when he was the Democratic candidate?” Yes, CE was just as critical of John Kerry’s pro-abortion views. (Please note: CE is criticizing the views of candidates, not the candidate himself.)

    guitarmom

  • Mary Kochan

    Yes, CE was critical of Kerry and urging people to vote pro-life 4 years ago. Were we “as critical”? No. Because Kerry was not promising the kind of pro-abort actions that Obama is. Also, Kerry, if he won, would not have had the power that Obama will have with a Dem controlled congress. He was not as much of a threat to the lives of the unborn. we have certainly never wavered in criticism of the “pro-choice” position and we try to stay on that all the time, election or not.

  • johnny o

    Abortion is the loss of life,
    The Declaration of Independence says: ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
    If you do not have Life, don’t worry about Liberty and the persuit of Happiness.

  • marcey

    goodfriend,

    Let us not forget “you-know-who” in the form of Colin Powell who fully supported Bush on Iraq but is quickly trying to switch sides and assuming, maybe rightfully so, that Americans seem only to care about the issues of the day and that they won’t see any clips of Powell’s support of the Iraqi war because the media is so biased and hellbent (no pun intended) on getting obama into the White House that they won’t play those tapes. Heaven forbid Americans should be reminded of where Powell stood just a few short years ago lest obama’s media glow be tainted.

  • sillyfuzz

    goodfriend,

    Many of us faithful Catholics are experiencing a sense of being overwhelmed with the many issues that are being discussed and debated. The Catholic Church proclaims a consistent ethic of life that covers a wide range of issues: human life, the family, global solidarity, social justice, environmental stewardship, etc. While all these issues are important, the intentional destruction of innocent human life from conception to natural death is paramount among our moral values. In the hierarchy of truths, this truth is never morally equivalent to all other issues embraced under a consistent ethic of life.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271).

    Let me say that I am not and never have been a McCain fan. But the fact of the matter is that Obama is radically anti-life and anti-family and McCain is not.

    God Bless!

  • kel3at

    I hope the Catholic Church that I go to isn’t an indication of how the election will turn out. We have more Obama bumber stickers on the cars parked in the lot on Sundays than of anyone else. I have only seen one McCain sticker all year. I think Catholics are embarrassed to be considered a Republican this election and I don’t blame them.

  • marcey

    kel3at,

    Embarrased to support life? I don’t get it. Embarrased because democrats have learnred how to, in a very snakelike fashion, make everything seem to be the fault of Republicans? Embarrassed because Republicans are human and make mistakes versus others refuse to believe they have flaws? Embarrassed why?

  • stutmann9

    Obama is going to be VERY surprised on election day, I predict. Alot of Obama’s supporters turn a blind eye to all that is questionable about him. I bet Obama himself isn’t aware that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger was a racist and targeted black babies for abortion. That’s why alot of the abortion mills are located in black neighborhoods. You would think he would stand up against something like that, instead he champions the cause!
    Also, I bet alot of folks don’t know that he has read, or may currently be reading the book, “The Post American World”, which is an Islamic view on how to destroy America from within. He was recently photographed walking with that book in his hand at his side. If you’d like a picture of that, e-mail me: stutmann9@catholic.org

  • asdwanamaker

    I will not pretend to know one way or another who will win on election day. I do know one thing. Regardless of the victor, God will still reign sovereign over the Earth. Caesar has power because God allows it for purposes we cannot even hope to know.

    That said, I sent this article to approximately 100 persons today, hoping that they would forward to as many as they could. I know that at least some of the recipients forwarded to others. An Obama presidency isn’t quite as scary as the prospect of an Obama presidency combined with a Democrat super majority in the Senate. That’s where the real disaster lies in wait.

  • SolaGratia

    kel3at,
    People are not embarrassed to be Republican or promote McCain/Palin, but most of us cannot afford to repair our cars after they get keyed or repair damage to our houses given in punishment for posting yard signs that apparently enrages our tolerance & peace promoting left-leaning brethren to the point of lawlessness & violence.

    Yet another reason to be afraid of an Obama presidency – these people definitely consider power something to be grasped at (& wielded with an iron fist)…

  • Cooky642

    Speaking of cars and homes being damaged by those “tolerant and peace-loving” Obama supporters, how about taking a container of Holy Water to church with you and “baptizing” all the cars with Democratic bumper stickers? Doesn’t “damage” the vehicle, so it’s not illegal (nor immoral, nor fattening, either!). Perhaps God would cause something to happen in the lives of the drivers/owners to “give them light” before next Tues. Just a thought.

  • Mary Kochan

    Aren’t these the same people who are blessing themselves with Holy Water as they enter and leave Mass?

  • costanoan

    My thanks to Dr. Kengor for his very good analysis. I would just like to home in on the one statement of Barack Obama’s which revealed to me that he doesn’t “get” what any Christian, at a minimum, should get. It was his statement that he did not want his daughters, in the hypothetical situation, to be “punished” with a baby.

    As soon as I heard that he had said those words, I knew that he had revealed something very deep about himself. No Christian who “gets” the message revealed by Christ could speak those words. A Christian of any stripe who has listened to the Word and accepted it, even imperfectly, understands that a baby is always a gift from God, a baby cannot be a punishment.

    I wracked my brain trying to remember another pro-choice politician who had ever used those words. I could not think of one. Even the most clueless politician must know that a Christian hearing those words would be brought up short by the outrageousness of portraying the Giver of new life as the Punisher.

    I hope and pray, especially if he is to be elected, that Obama will become a true seeker, and that he will come to “get” what he so obviously doesn’t get about what being a Christian really means and Who it is we worship.

  • Cooky642

    Dear Mary: Don’t know if you’ll see this, but my point was to “Bless” the CARS with the bumperstickers on them. Perhaps the bumperstickers would fall off before they influenced any other drivers? Or, perhaps, the bumpersticker would be defaced in some way (and no, I’m not even hinting that we should be doing that: if God won’t force someone to believe in Him, we can’t!). Yes, okay, these same people are blessing themselves with Holy Water going in–and, possibly, coming out–of Mass. Obviously, it hasn’t affected their minds, their wills, yet. Might their cars be needed to take them some place that would??? How about they would be driving somewhere and come upon a car on the shoulder where “mom” couldn’t make it to the hospital, and baby makes an astounding appearance in front of them? (I can think of some other scenarios, but they are less pleasant.)

    In case you hadn’t noticed, God has a really unique sense of humor, and an arsenal of circumstances up His sleeve for getting peoples’ attention. I’m just saying, give Him an opening!

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  • Mary Kochan

    I’m all for the blessings, Cooky. You are right. Looks like it will take a lake of Holy Water to overcome the bad catechesis of the past two generations, though.

  • Cade01

    I recently read a review of “The Faith of Barack Obama” book by Stephen Mansfield.

    http://www.xanga.com/gtaviano/680258943/obamas-faith.html

    Gabe, notes specific pages from the book that clearly show Obama’s relativistic beliefs.

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