Written by Dr. Michael Brown
According to CNN writer John Blake, President Barack Obama is “a religious pioneer” who, in the opinion of some scholars and pastors, is “also expanding the definition of who can be a Christian by challenging the religious right’s domination of the national stage.”
To be candid, and with due respect to the office of the president, Obama should be viewed as a religious apostate more than a religious pioneer. He has shown an extraordinary disregard for society’s most innocent and vulnerable members (babies in the womb), he has misused the Bible to defend the radical redefinition of marriage, and he has trashed religious freedoms with his health care mandates to the point that groups as disparate as Hobby Lobby and Catholic hospitals are suing the government. This is hardly the legacy of a religious pioneer.
Blake claimed in his article “Is Obama the ‘wrong’ kind of Christian?” that, “When Obama invoked Jesus to support same-sex marriage, framed health care as a moral imperative to care for ‘the least of these,’ and once urged people to read their Bible but just not literally, he was invoking another Christian tradition that once dominated American public life so much that it gave the nation its first megachurches, historians say.”
Blake is referring to the “social gospel” version of Christianity that was more prominent in the early to mid-20th century than it is today. As explained by Jim Wallis (head of the Sojourners, a leftwing, marginally evangelical organization), Obama’s faith “is not the faith of the religious right. It’s about things that they don’t talk about. It’s about how the Bible is full of God’s clear instruction to care for the poor.”
Putting aside the fact that “the religious right” is used as a term of disparagement in contrast with what Blake calls “progressive Christianity,” the truth is that conservative Christians lead the way in worldwide humanitarian relief efforts, they continue to build hospitals and orphanages and schools in many nations, they are active in drug and alcohol rehab programs in the inner cities of America, and they are at the forefront of the pro-life, pro-adoption movement.
As for their opposition to gay activism, it is the natural offshoot of their belief in marriage as defined by Jesus himself (one man and one woman joined together for life), it is in keeping with their high esteem for sexual purity, and it is in harmony with their wholly justified concerns that homosexual activism is the principle threat to our freedoms of conscience, religion, and speech. From a biblical perspective, President Obama is on the wrong side of these critically important issues.
For Blake, “Obama is a progressive Christian who blends the emotional fire of the African-American church, the ecumenical outlook of contemporary Protestantism, and the activism of the Social Gospel, a late 19th-century movement whose leaders faulted American churches for focusing too much on personal salvation while ignoring the conditions that led to pervasive poverty.”
And Blake wants to place Obama in the line of Black Christians like Martin Luther King, Jr., who said that “any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them …is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”
But Barack Obama is no Martin Luther King, as our president has proven himself to be a great divider whereas King was a great unifier. And King, for his part, would not have shouted “Amen” to the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s mentor, whose often shrill version of black liberation theology formed the ideological basis of Obama’s Christianity. With spiritual foundations like that, it is no wonder that the president could make the obscene comparison between “Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf” and gay marriage.
Blake closes his article by pointing to research done by Marcia Pally, author of the book “The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good.” He writes that Pally’s “perspective suggests that Obama’s faith may be treated by history in two ways: He could be seen as the last embodiment of a progressive version of Christianity that went obsolete. Or he could be seen as a leader who helped resurrect a dying brand of Christianity for a new generation.”
Pally and Blake fail to consider a third, more likely scenario: Obama could be seen as a religious apostate, a man who denied some of the most fundamental values of Christianity (what else can be said of a political leader who three times vetoed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act “that would require medical care for a baby who survives an abortion”?), a man who used the Bible to back a radical, often harmful social agenda. In that regard, Obama is more a disciple of Saul Alinsky than of Jesus.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire, and his latest book is The Real Kosher Jesus.