I received a letter this week from the White House. A big fat packet. Ain't I special?
Unfortunately, it wasn't an invitation to a special gala or for me to sing at an event. It wasn't about a special partnership with One Day's Wages, or joining his circle of sagacious advisors. It wasn't asking me to join Warren Buffet in helping turn around the U.S. economy. It wasn't informing me that President Obama would be visiting my church. And no, it wasn't a direct letter from Obama himself. But it was a letter from one of his staff sharing some stuff about Obama, some initiatives, and what I perceived to be clarity about his faith. Huh?
It puzzled me initially but after some thought, I think I know why I received the letter, as I'm sure several other "pastors" may have received it, as well.
Why? Because an increasing number of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim:
A new national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama's religion is. The survey was completed in early August, before Obama's recent comments about the proposed construction of a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center.
The view that Obama is a Muslim is more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers. Roughly a third of conservative Republicans (34%) say Obama is a Muslim, as do 30% of those who disapprove of Obama's job performance. But even among many of his supporters and allies, less than half now say Obama is a Christian. Among Democrats, for instance, 46% say Obama is a Christian, down from 55% in March 2009. [source]
The purpose of this post has nothing to do with juxtaposing the two religions in question: Christianity and Islam (or Cactusism, if you want to count that). Nor is the point of my post to declare faith in Christ to be integral to being the President, because it's not.
What's amazing to me is that President Obama has gone on record numerous times to state that he is a Christian, so here's my question: Why can't people just believe him?
It's amazing to me that if someone doesn't share one's exact worldview, it is so easy to discount the genuineness and veracity of that person's statements and identity.
As a Christian and a pastor, I have, on occasion, been labeled and called numerous things including heretic, non-believer, "not a true Christian," and a jerk. With the exception of maybe being an occasional jerk, none of these things is accurate. Being called such things or having something so dear to me (my faith) questioned definitely does not feel good. It actually stings -- a lot.
I recently I read an article about President Obama being asked at an event "billed as a discussion on the economy" about his Christian faith (and his views on abortion).
While I may have answered the question with different words and nuance, I was impressed with his answer in the same way that I was impressed with former President George W. Bush when he spoke about his faith.
The article reads:
"I am a Christian by choice," Obama began, standing beneath a blazing sun, when asked why he is a Christian.
"I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead," Obama said. "Being my brothers' and sisters' keeper. Treating others as they would treat me. And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings."
Humans are "sinful" and "flawed" beings that make mistakes and "achieve salvation through the grace of God," the president continued, adding that we also can "see God in other people and do our best to help them find their, you know, their own grace."
"So that's what I strive to do," Obama said. "That's what I pray to do everyday. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith." [via cnn]
So what's my point? Obama's faith is a personal choice and a personal decision, and he has made it very clear what his choice and decision is. His view might not exactly mirror my view or your views, but he is a Christian. He believes in Jesus. He believes in the Gospel that is not just merely propositional or intellectual truth but truth that has been personified in the person of Jesus the Christ.
As a fellow Christian and a pastor, while I personally like the idea that Obama is a Christian and believes in Jesus, I care more about how he leads this country and influences the world as President of the most "powerful" nation in the world.
So, while I enjoy receiving thick packets from the White House (it makes me feel important and that I get to see direct outputs of my tax dollars), I'd rather have President Obama and his administration tend to more important things: immigration, foreign policy and relations, the federal budget deficit, the economy, health care, the education system, moderating the excessive militarism and presence of U.S. soldiers on foreign soil including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, caring for our U.S. veterans, unemployment, the alarming and rising rate of poverty in the U.S., extreme poverty, the Global Fund, the environment, and terrorism, just to name couple minor issues.
I confess that I am not a guru on all things judicial, executive, and legislative, but I want to publicly go on record and state that there are more pressing questions than whether President Obama is a Christian, a Muslim, or a cactus.