The fine upstanding folks at the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission have announced their Top Ten Instances of Christian Bashing in America. It's highly amusing, of course (Jack Black and you Prop 8 backers, I think you can count on going to hell), but this one caught my eye:
INSTANCE #3: Barack Obama Defames Christianity
According to research into President Elect Obama's own statements about faith, and an examination of Obama's position on moral issues, CADC has determined that by any biblical and historic Christian standard, Barack Obama is not a Christian, although he claims he is a "devout Christian."
First, I'm a bit confused: How exactly did Obama "defame" Christianity by claiming to be a Christian? This is Christian-bashing exactly how?
But then there's the matter of what Obama's writings and statements actually are pertaining to his faith:
Barack Obama was not raised in a religious household. Like his mother, he said he "grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion." His father was born Muslim but became an atheist as an adult. His mother's family members were "non-practicing" Baptists and Methodists. It was after college that he encountered a "spiritual dilemma." He realized something was missing in his life and he felt drawn to be in church.
Obama said he had begun to sense God beckoning him to submit to His will and dedicate himself to discovering truth. So one day he walked down the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and affirmed his Christian faith. During a "Call to Renewal" Keynote Address in June 2006, he refers to himself as a progressive Christian. And in this New York Times article, Senator Obama's denomination, the United Church of Christ, is described as "a mostly white denomination known for the independence of its congregations and its willingness to experiment with traditional Protestant theology."
Barack Obama's Expressions of Faith:
Barack Obama said that his faith "plays every role" in his life. "It's what keeps me grounded. It's what keeps my eyes set on the greatest of heights." In the "Call to Renewal" Keynote Address he also said, "Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts. You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away - because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey."
However, I think I began to get a picture of why Obama might not be a "real Christian" for these folks when I took a look at what he has on his website [pdf file]:
Faith should not be used as a wedge to divide.
“We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expressions of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them, and drives us further apart.” – The Audacity of Hope.
“Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America – there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America – there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.” – Democratic National Convention Keynote Address.
The separation of church and state is critical and has caused our democracy and religious practices to thrive.
“[Conservative leaders] need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland ... It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religion, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith…” – Call to Renewal Keynote Address
We are a nation of many faiths and of those with no faith at all. The religious practices of all must be respected.
“Given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.” - Call to Renewal Keynote Address
For the hardcore evangelical crowd -- who practice a pinched, narrow, picayune, highly judgmental kind of Christianity -- these kinds of sentiments are indeed blasphemy, even though they're perfectly in keeping with what Jesus of Nazareth preached. Indeed, I know many very serious Christians -- priests, pastors, and theologians among them -- who hold similar if not identical views.
And I've known many evangelicals who consider all such people (myself included) not to be "real Christians." But I'm content knowing that God, and not they, will be the final arbiter of that.