Obama, Christianity and Scandal

Obama church

A few days ago, Wisconsin Governor and potential presidential nominee Scott Walker was trolled at a meeting of the National Governors Association:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a prospective Republican presidential contender, said Saturday he does not know whether President Obama is a Christian.

“I don’t know,” Walker said in an interview at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington, where he was attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Told that Obama has frequently spoken publicly about his Christian faith, Walker maintained that he was not aware of the president’s religion.

“I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said, his voice calm and firm. “I’ve never asked him that,” he added. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”


From what is the only possible response to a very stupid question a garden industry has developed in scolding Governor Walker on his comment.

For instance, the GOP Establishment weighed in with its disapproval via its mouthpiece Michael Gerson:

But here Obama has been as forthright as anyone could be. “I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian,” he said in a 2008 Christianity Today interview. “I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn’t ‘fall out in church’ as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn’t want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.”

 Questioning this affirmation involves a serious charge — an accusation of the worst sort of cynicism. And it is simply not the role of a Christian layman to publicly dispute the self-identification of other Christians, especially in a political context. It is a practice that can lead down ugly alleys of sectarianism.
Apparently, Walker’s answer is some source of shame that makes him unfit for office. Even though he does nothing that Gerson accuses him of. What this is all about is a bunch of asshats who loathe religion and religious people trying to make a big deal out of a subject they don’t understand.
The evidence that Obama is Christian in any, as Erick has said, meaningful way is scant. His profession is nice and all but let’s not forget that when his stepfather enrolled him in school in Indonesia he said young Barry Sotero was muslim and, even Media Matters agrees that he attended mosque with his stepfather. At some point he joined a politically connected “church” in Chicago which would be labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center if Jeremiah Wright were melanin-challenged.

Simply saying you are Christian, especially when one is as estranged from the truth as Barack Obama, contra Gerson, is proof of nothing other than you said you were Christian. Walker was quite right to say he didn’t know about Obama’s faith because none of us really know about the state of another person’s soul.
The real issue, though, concerning either Obama or Cox or anyone else in public life is not what they think themselves to be. Mental hospitals are chock full of people who think they are something they are not. The real issue is the theological concept of scandal. Scandal, in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, occurs when:
“a man either intends, by his evil word or deed, to lead another man into sin, or, if he does not so intend, when his deed is of such a nature as to lead another into sin
Scandal is why the behavior of people holding a position in a religious organization is so critical. When a minister steals money or commits adultery or abuses a child he not only, possibly, encourages someone else to do the same (he did it why can’t I?), he may encourage people to turn from religion altogether thereby placing their salvation in grave jeopardy.
The roots of this go back to Cain and Abel. You are, whether you wish it or not, your brother’s keeper and when by your actions or words you induce someone else to sin you have created scandal. Now to the point Erick made about Obama’s Christianity:
What I see of the President reflected in the world is a man who used his faith as a lie to claim he opposed gay marriage when he really did not; who spoke out in favor of allowing abortionists to kill children who survive abortions; who has actively promoted abortion in his Presidency; who has publicly used the courts to curtail the free exercise of religion paring it down to a right to worship; who, when he thought he was off the record, mocked Christians bitterly clinging to guns and religion, etc., etc., etc.

In fact, that ultimately is it. The President, when he thought he was off the record and in the advancement of his political agenda, has been no friend to the church and its orthodox teachings. He trots out religion publicly as a political tool to help himself, not others.

When you say homosexual marriage is okay you are encouraging others to engage in sinful behavior. If you are the president then that action is magnified a million fold. If you encourage a young woman to seek an abortion you are placing her salvation in jeopardy along with yours. When you use the coercive power of the state to ensure millions of children are killed and make abortion a fetish then you increase the damage much beyond what any one person can do alone. When you set people against each other based on income, wealth, race, and social class you are encouraging others to act sinfully based on your words and deeds. When you are charged with enforcing the laws of the land without fear or favor and you only obey those laws you like, you encourage others to do exactly the same. Quite honestly, Jeb Bush has exactly the same problem in this regard as Barack Obama.

We only know Obama’s faith because he has told us about it, when he is not actively trying to suppress the ability of other people to live their faiths. He may be Christian. We can’t know. What we can know is that by claiming to be Christian and acting in the manner that he acts he is inducing millions of people to violate basic Christian beliefs and to fall into sin. I don’t know that boasting of being a Christian under those circumstances is either commendable or going to do you much good in the long run.


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