The Faith of Barack Obama and George Washington: A Double Standard?

Recent reports that nearly 20 percent of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim have been widely discussed and analyzed. Moreover, according to surveys, only a third of Americans believe he is a Christian. Evangelicals are almost evenly divided, with 29 percent saying he is a Muslim and 27 percent saying he is a Christian.

Several factors have promoted this false perception: Obama’s family background, some of his public statements, his lack of church attendance, belief that his philosophy of life is more secular than Christian, and deliberate attempts to discredit the president. Pundits on the right including Ann Coulter, David Limbaugh, and Chuck Norris have vociferously questioned Obama’s claim to be a Christian.

Clearly, the Muslim influences upon Obama as he grew up make his religious background unique among American presidents. The only church to which he has belonged is Trinity United Church in Church, which he left during the 2008 campaign because of the inflammatory statements made by its pastor Jeremiah Wright. This, coupled with his infrequent church attendance as president, has contributed to considerable confusion about his faith and skepticism about his public professions to be a Christian.

However, Obama has repeatedly declared that he is a Christian, and in some cases he has made very straightforward affirmations of his faith. Obama’s profession to be a Christian is actually much clearer than that of George Washington. Some authors argue, and many Americans believe, that Washington was an orthodox Christian, but the evidence for this claim is not strong. Washington did attend church almost every Sunday while president, continually asked “an all-powerful Providence” to protect and guide him and his army and nation, professed belief in the power of prayer, and remained an Anglican/Episcopalian all his life.

However, Washington referred to Christ only a handful of times in his public statements or extant private letters and never once declared that Jesus was divine or his personal savior.

Obama, on the other hand, has explicitly stated that Christ is his savior. In an interview in “Christianity Today” in 2008, Obama declared, “I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” “Accepting Jesus Christ in my life,” he added, “has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.” Obama also stressed that he had been a member of the same congregation for almost twenty years and asserted “I have never practiced Islam.”

At a breakfast for pastors and parachurch leaders held two days after Easter this year, the president stated that he wanted to “continue the Easter celebration of our risen Savior” and “to reflect on the work to which His promise calls all of us.” He discussed the lesson he derived “from Christ’s sacrifice” and the inspiration the story of the resurrection supplied. Obama celebrated the discovery that forever changed the world—the empty tomb and Christ’s resurrection.

Obama expressed gratitude for Christ’s “sacrifice … for the sins of humanity.” “As Christians,” he proclaimed, “we believe that … faith in Jesus Christ” leads to our redemption and brings “eternal hope.” He insisted that like “our Lord and Savior” all Christians should commit themselves to God and “act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord.”

Again, compare this with Washington. The first president never directly discussed Christ’s empty tomb, bodily resurrection, or atonement for sin. Nor did he clearly and consistently affirm belief in an afterlife.

Obviously theologically conservative Christians disagree with many of Obama’s views, especially on abortion and homosexuality. Many of us also think that Obama wants to use the government to solve problems that can be best (or in some cases only) dealt with by individuals or private organizations. This is not, however, a valid reason for believing that he is not a Christian.

The actions of some other presidents, perhaps most notably Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, have led Americans to question their profession of Christian faith. But few presidents have had their faith so closely scrutinized or so completely misunderstood as Obama.

In making this argument, I do not mean to suggest that Obama is comparable to Washington. The nation’s first president deservedly occupies a unique place in American history and played an indispensible role in the creation and development of our nation. Moreover, I recognize that times and norms have changed greatly from the late 18th century to today. I am pointing out that Washington and Obama are being judged by very different standards. Looking at the evidence objectively leads to the conclusion that Obama’s profession of Christian faith is much clearer than that of Washington’s.

If Obama wants Americans to believe he is a Christian, he and his publicists could stop stressing that he reads a devotional that a staffer sends him on his BlackBerry every morning and instead disseminate his explicit declarations about the nature of his faith. The president might also be more careful and guarded in the statements he makes about Islam. And he could attend church more frequently. Doing these things would help put this controversy to rest except among those unwilling to take his statements and actions at their face value.

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  • http://ConvertJournal.com convertjournal

    This is a very informative post. For me, the most persuasive points are not in comparison to Washington, but the statements Obama made that at least show real understanding of Christian beliefs.

    The piece ends on an interesting point of willingness to take him at face value. That indeed casts a huge shadow. See Steven Mosher’s piece also published today on Catholic Exchange entitled: Time To Pay an “End-of-Life” Visit to ObamaCare (http://catholicexchange.com/2010/09/27/134696/). That article explores the veracity of Obama’s statements.

  • v07768198309

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    However an objective observation of the phenomenon can help us understand it and provide us with an innovative solution.

    Of course we can’t solve the problem with the tools that brought us there in the first place and we need a new ideology.

    __________________

    - Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?

    - Well, remember that what an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to — to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not. And what I’m saying to you is, yes, I found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is, but I’ve been very distressed by that fact.

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  • lamie

    Saying youre a christian doesnt make you one.Its your walk and your belief in the word of God to be true, that makes you a christian. Most everything that comes out of Obamas mouth is a lie.Go to you tube and listn to him make fun of Jesus Christ and the bible , in 2006, before he became president . .Abortion and same sex marriage go against Gods word. Obama is ok with these. While on you tube , listen to him talk about his muslim faith and his homeland, Kenya .He is not what he says he is .

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