Is Obama a Christian?

The first part of this interview is not shown in the video. The panel asks Graham if President Obama is a Christian. Graham expresses his doubt, which prompts the exchange. I think that Graham’s perspective represents the classic evangelical approach to questioning the authenticity people’s faith.

For a traditional evangelical, a person is only a Christian if they undergo a “born again” conversion experience. If they do not undergo such an experience, then they are probably not “saved” from their sins, hence they are not a Christian. Some evangelicals will go so far as to question the validity of the born again experience itself: Was the person sincere? Did they really mean it? Were they believing the right theological beliefs? And did they really believe these things with their whole heart? As you can imagine, analyzing a conversion experience can get fairly convoluted. Still, it can get even more complicated, as you can see from the above video.

Graham not only questions whether President Obama had a legitimate born again experience, he questions whether President Obama’s current beliefs and actions are reflective of someone who has been born again. This is where it begins to look very suspicious, because while President Obama’s beliefs and morals are such that while Graham would question the Democratic President’s faith, the current field of GOP candidates’ values qualify them as Christians! =) All the GOP candidates qualify except Mitt Romney, who is Mormon. Romney cannot be a Christian, say most traditional evangelicals, because his Mormon theology is all wrong; hence Romney cannot possibly have undergone a legitimate saving, born again experience of the love of God.

This is a summary of a traditional evangelical’s evaluation of the veracity of the faith of others. However, having gone through this complex evaluation, they will often say, as Graham says in this video, no one can say for sure who is a Christian and who is not.

The most interesting thing to me came at the very end of the video when Graham says that he (Graham) himself is a Christian because he is a sinner and God has forgiven him. What I want to ask Graham, and evangelicals everywhere, is why not just stop right there? For me, if there is an essence of Christianity, it is humility in the face of our shortcomings and the reassuring and transformative power of knowing that we are forgiven and accepted by grace just as we are. It seems to me that when we develop litmus tests for people to judge the veracity of their sincerity, then we put ourselves in the place of God, becoming the judges of who is sincere enough to come under the forgiveness and love of God. I think that God alone is the one who loves and forgives, and any attempt to exclude people from God’s forgiveness might run the unfortunate risk of blasphemy, because it puts one in the place of God. Still, even if Graham’s comments are blasphemous, I personally do not believe that he is less loved by God, less forgiven or less accepted by God, because God’s grace is truly unconditional.

As I understand Christianity, God’s love extends most especially to those who are judged to be sinners, non Christians, morally unclean, and theologically inappropriate. That is, at the very moment we or others exclude ourselves from God’s grace, it is for that very moment that grace exists. Put theologically, we say that Christ’s body was broken for those who are broken, for the sinner and the saint, even extending itself out to Republicans and Democrats!

Here is a written article from the Huff Post summarizing the above video:

Evangelist Franklin Graham called President Barack Obama’s religious views into question on Tuesday, stating that he does not know for sure if Obama is a Christian.

Graham, who is the son of Billy Graham and the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Obama “has said he’s a Christian, so I just have to assume that he is.”

“All I know is I’m a sinner, and God has forgiven me of my sins… you have to ask every person,” he said about whether he could say for sure that Obama is indeed of the Christian faith.

However, when asked about GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s religion, Graham gave a much more concrete answer.

“I think so,” Graham said when asked if he believes Santorum is a Christian. “His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.”

MSNBC’s panelists questioned the reverend’s double standard, but Graham continued to draw distinctions between the candidates on the issue of faith. On Mitt Romney, Graham was again evasive, stating that “most Christians would not recognize Mormonism as part of the Christian faith.”

But Graham was more willing to label Newt Gingrich’s faith. “Newt’s been married several times… but he could make a good candidate,” Graham said. “I think Newt is a Christian. At least he told me he is.”

Later in the segment, Graham also said he could not be sure that Obama was not a Muslim.

“All I know is under Obama, President Obama, the Muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries,” he said.

He continued, “Islam sees him as a son of Islam… I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

Graham drew the criticism of the White House last spring when he suggested in an interview with ABC that Obama had not been born in the United States.

During that same interview, Graham also questioned whether Obama’s actions and values matched up with his identification as a Christian.

“Now he has told me that he is a Christian. But the debate comes, what is a Christian?” Graham said of Obama. “For him, going to church means he’s a Christian. For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith and we have trusted him as our lord and savior.”

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

3 thoughts on “Is Obama a Christian?”

  1. Indeed…..very discouraging. very. he’ll get elected, but to what end?

    From your article:

    Why isn’t the White House just proposing to close the loopholes without reducing overall corporate tax rates? That would generate more tax revenue that could be used for, say, public schools.

    It’s not as if corporations are hurting. Quite the contrary. American companies are booking higher profits than ever. They’re sitting on $2 trillion of cash they don’t know what to do with.

    And it’s not as if corporate taxes are high. In fact, corporate tax receipts as a share of profits is now at its lowest level in at least 40 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, corporate federal taxes paid last year dropped to 12.1 percent of profits earned from activities within the United States. That’s a gigantic drop from the 25.6 percent, on average, that corporations paid from 1987 to 2008.

    The average American is not exactly enamored with American corporations. Polls show most of the public doesn’t trust them. (A recent national poll by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell found 71 percent with an unfavorable impression of big business – about the same as those expressing an unfavorable view of Washington.)


  2. I just read the biography of Dietrich Bonhoffer. It is an amazing story of a man, but an even more amazing story about a country and how its people defined themselves. The people claimed to be Christian and named themselves Christian and wore an ancient German version of the cross of Jesus on their upper arms. They were the most advanced country in the world theologically, philosophically and scientifically. In the 1930’s the Christians in Germany were the good Germans who followed the party, and if you did not follow the party, you were not a good Christian.

    The analogy today is that in American we have a party as well, one that claims to be the party of God, the Christian party because of its pro-life stand, the only area of discussion where it has the high moral ground. This party’s candidates laugh at the poor and the unemployed and get applause at rallies when they insist they will keep the government from helping the poor, or that the answer to the plight of an America devastated by recession is for poor people to get jobs (60% of whom are children). They get applause at rallies when they say that families devastated by sickness should get no relief unless they can pay for it. They get applause for saying that strangers coming to this country to make a living for their families must be arrested as criminals. No grace for the poor. No grace for the sick. No grace for the stranger. These are the campaign mottos of our Christian leaders. And those that want to elect them cheer and wave the flag.

    What do they think? Does the Gospel say, “No new taxes?” Did Jesus say, “Blame the poor for their problems and do not help them?” Did the Lord come to heal only those who could actually contribute to an insurance plan? For me, as well as for Bonhoffer, someone who claims to be a Christian will follow the Sermon on the Mount. Discipleship costs us. It means taking up the cross and following one who loved the poor and those who were needy and gave to them, and following him, not just wearing it on our shoulders.

    Being forgiven doesn’t make you a Christian, being converted does. Being born again by the Holy Spirit doesn’t make you a decent Christian either, any more than being born by the power of nature makes you a decent human being. I had a born again Uncle who beat the hell out of his wife regularly, and claimed he was always forgiven. It was the claim that made him worse of a Christian than he could have been.

    The Holy Spirit is not an enabler, but the spirit who is worshiped by this Republican Part is just that: a spirit who enables injustice, apathy, and judgement on those our Lord came to save. Graham is currently under the influence of this spirit. The Holy Spirit, if it actually had an impact on this government, would not be filling the pockets of the rich, but would be lifting up the poor. Universal healthcare? Oh, yes, God is DOWN with that, totally. It was Jesus’ main occupation while on earth: the advocacy of the Advocate is for the poor and those in need of forgiveness and physical healing. Jesus invented love for the stranger and alien. His biggest story of love, the Good Samaritan, has as its star someone Jerusalem would have characterized as an Illegal Alien, and its moto, that we must make ourselves the neighbor, recreate ourselves as lovers in order to fulfill the law of God, is all about welcoming the Stranger and Alien. And this is not Republicanism, which worships another spirit.

    How does Obama stack up, in his policies, if we look at the Sermon on the Mount, as compared with the Republican contenders of the Party of NO? That should be the real question to an America that has NO clue what a Christian should be or who a Christian is.


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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