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Obama’s Religious Quandary

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In the latest Time Magazine (July 13, 2009) an article appeared entitled “Obama’s Sanctuary: Inside the Church Where Presidents Pray in Peace.” The article brought a question to mind which increasingly bothers me. How can a man intelligent enough to win the United States Presidency search for an organized religion? Time Magazine states the following:

For the past five months, White House aides and friends of the Obamas have been quietly visiting Washington-area churches … in search of a new—and uncontroversial—church home for the First Family.

Considering Obama’s upbringing, he could not help but have an acquaintance with Muslim religion because he attended a Catholic school for first and second grade and then a Muslim school for third and fourth. His parents had already divorced when Barack was two years old. Whereas his biological father was considered an atheist, his Muslim stepfather did not practice his religion (“Politics & Media” in Pensito Review: 7/10/05).

During his presidential campaign, Obama was often accused of having connections with radical Muslims. These accusations were rampant because a slanderous report surfaced saying that the presidential candidate had attended a radical Muslim madrassa school.

CNN debunked this savage lie on January 23, 2007 (CNN in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Washington, D.C.). CNN’s John Vause traveled to Jakarta to investigate. He visited the actual school Obama attended from 1969 to 1971. The headmaster of Basuki, the school in question, reported that “This is a public school. We don’t focus on religion. In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don’t give preferential treatment.”

After completing fourth grade, Obama returned to Hawaii where he was deeply influenced by his grandparents, particularly his grandmother whom he considered a free thinking person. At that time in Hawaii, reverse discrimination existed: whites were a minority.

In his book, The Audacity of Hope (2006), Obama confessed, "I had no community or shared traditions in which to ground my most deeply held beliefs." Yet, in spite of the many doubts he held about any religion, he opted to be baptized a Christian (1988). At the time, he had been attending the Trinity United Church of Christ on the south side of Chicago.

After 20 years at Trinity where Pastor Wright appeared to be Obama’s mentor and spiritual advisor, nevertheless, during his presidential campaign, Obama left that church. He believed the controversial statements made by Pastor Wright were damaging his political campaign (The National Center for Public Policy Research: by Deneen Borelli).

Furthermore, when asked by Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times if Obama considered himself “evangelical,” part of his response was:
“Does it mean that you feel you've got a personal relationship with Christ the savior? Then that's directly part of the black church experience … My faith is complicated by the fact that I didn't grow up in a particular religious tradition … There are passages of the Bible that make perfect sense to me [emphasis mine] and others that I go, 'Ya know, I'm not sure about that.’”

So why the fuss about Obama’s religious affiliation? To me, the answer is simple. Christianity’s most basic tenet is that an all-knowing divine God sent his only Son, Jesus, down to earth where he allowed himself to be murdered by humans as reparation for human sins. How can an intelligent person accept such a heinous crime? How could rational beings build a church on that horrendous premise or become affiliated with such an organization?

If Obama accepts a Christian faith, he must accept its foundational precepts or he is a faker. To put this in perspective, imagine the following tale.

In an unprecedented rage, Michelle Obama kills her White House chef. Why? He had provided each guest at a state dinner with one bright, unpeeled red apple as a salad course. Of course, she had hand-picked the apples from a special tree behind the White House, planted there by Johnny Appleseed on September 26, 1774 (Wisconsin Apple Growers Association).

The apples from this tree have always been forbidden. In the 235 years since the tree’s tiny seed was planted, not a single apple has ever been eaten because of the tree’s historical significance. Instead, the fruit are left to ripen, fall, and rot, re-fertilizing this ancient tree.

Barack Obama is mortified at Michelle’s sins. He is a man of power—he is Commander-in-Chief of the United States armed forces. In addition to murder, his wife has committed the grievous sin of serving forbidden fruit to topnotch world statesmen. Obama must now consider an appropriate punishment for his wife’s sins.

That night, Michelle sneaks into her daughter Sasha’s bedroom. With a soft downy pillow, she smothers Sasha to death. In the early morning, she carries the tiny corpse into the Oval Office and presents it to Barack. “Here,” she says, “Is my offering to make up for last night’s sins.”

Yes, this story is ludicrous—even stupid—because no reasonable person could imagine such events happening. Yet, some 2000+ years ago in Jerusalem, a good man, the alleged Son of God, was pinned to a crosstree and hoisted up to die three hours later as a sacrifice to his Father for the sins of all mankind including the original sin of Adam and Eve. Unlike Michelle in the above ridiculous story, this man was supposedly sinless.

In short, is this essay being written by an atheist? The answer is a resounding no. It is written by a man who believes that God, the Wholly Other, lies behind all the unanswerable questions science boasts it will some day answer, given enough time. It is written by a person who believes that Barack Obama should not adopt any religion unless he’s thoroughly examined its foundation blocks.

To become a Christian, or a Muslim, or a member of the Jewish faith, sends a wrong signal to the rest of the world. It continues the dangerous belief that one religion is better than another–ultimately, that the people of one religion are better than others because of their beliefs.

The world does not need organized religion. Like so many of the oriental thinkers believe, the world is what it is. It is unexplainable, but it is here. We need to examine it because humans have a desire to know. Claiming one organized religion has better ultimate answers than another has created epochs of agonized terror down through the ages. Hopefully, Barack Obama will rely on more than Christian religion to make intelligent decisions about world peace.

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About Regis Schilken

  • Obama should have moved quicker. In March, he had everybody eating out os his hand – the messiah. Why wander into someone else’s church when you can start your own and hire a preacher you like to deliver YOUR message to the country?

    A shame that Obama does not think outside the box. The boxes he allows his thoughts to run in will bury him.

  • I’m wondering how religious/spiritual he really is.

    It’s possible he used Reverend Wright’s church as a platform, which would explain how and why he threw his supposed spiritual leader so quickly under the bus.

    I don’t see any problem with him not belonging to a specific church. Reagan wasn’t a churchgoer either, but he didn’t attend regularly before the Presidency. I do see a problem with trying to appeal to those who do, and switching gears for those who don’t.

    Pick a policy regarding church and stick with it.

  • Jacob

    To be perfectly honest, I’ve always gotten the impression that he’s agnostic/atheistic but is attending church for his wife’s sake.

  • Baronius

    My hunch is that Obama approaches questions of religion and culture with the detachment of an anthropologist. When asked if he’s an evangelical, he analyzes the black church experience. When he talks about becoming a Christian, it sounds like a decision rather than a conversion. He sees himself as better able to approach Islam because he’s not pulled into sectarianism.

    That said, when they say that he’s choosing a church, they don’t mean a religion or a denomination; they mean that his staff is trying to pick an acceptable local facility.