Public opinion polls, like ideas, have consequences. Such is the case with the raging debate over President Obama’s faith following two polls that show a number of Americans believe Obama to be a Muslim. The president, who has kept his faith largely to himself, has publicly said he is a Christian.
A survey by the Pew Research Center found that nearly one in five Americans believe Obama to be a Muslim. Another poll by TIME magazine found one in four believes he is a Muslim. Another 24 percent did not respond or were unsure and five percent said he was neither Muslim nor Christian. This has thrown the liberal news media into a tizzy with ABC News, MSNBC and of course, the incessant bloggers mounting a fierce defense of the president.
We need to mark this moment. When was the last time the liberal media ever defended a person standing on their Christian faith? The folks at Americans for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) must be squirming. Typically both attack Christians attempting to apply a Biblical worldview to public policy issues. Their silence in this latest episode lays bare their hypocrisy.
But something else may be at work here. The polls could force the president to publicly address his faith. To my recollection, this has not happened, at least in my lifetime.
Prominent evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham, who prayed with the president when he visited Graham’s ailing father earlier this year, weighed-in on why people believe the president is a Muslim. “I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim (Obama has written that his father was an atheist). The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name,” Graham told CNN Aug. 19. “Now it’s obvious that the president has renounced the prophet Mohammed, and he has renounced Islam, and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That’s what he says he has done. I cannot say he hasn’t. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said,” adding that “the Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs.”
Graham was probably too charitable in opining why some people think the president is Muslim. Skeptics point to his relationship with his former pastor, the controversial Jeremiah Wright. He sat under Wright’s anti-American rants for years. There is also his seemingly pro-Islamic speech in Cairo, Egypt earlier this year and his apologies to the world for what he sees as past transgressions by America. Then there is his equivocating over the proposed mosque at Ground Zero and his observance of Ramadan at the White House and lack thereof for the National Day of Prayer.
Concerns also have been raised about some of his policies. For example, his executive order to allow taxpayer-funded abortions overseas contradicts the faith he professes. His support for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the military is seen by many Americans as legitimizing homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle and a threat to military preparedness.
Some have questioned the president for his lack of Sunday church attendance. The First Family planned to join a Washington church 18 months ago, but have not done so after discovering the trappings of the modern presidency to be cumbersome. Before the president attends services, the church must be searched for threats and every attendee screened for weapons. The Obamas feel their attendance turns the church into a circus. As a result, the president has opted for church services at the chapel located at Camp David. Critics point out he rarely goes to the retreat and is more often seen on a golf course than at church on Sundays.
Obama is not our theologian-in-chief. He is our commander-in-chief. But this does not excuse him from his commitment to Christ. The president, after prayer and wise counsel should — under the guidance of the Holy Spirit — humbly articulate his beliefs. This will put him at odds with some supporters and their adherence to a strict (ill-conceived) view of separation of church and state. Others are determined secularists who oppose Christianity’s influence in the public sector. As a Christian, Obama, like all of us who have placed our faith in Christ, must adhere to what that commitment to Christ entails – in the face of worldly delights. As I think about what the president ought to do, Luke 9:23 comes to mind: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
For all of us, including President Obama, the eternal truth of this verse looms large in the face of this latest controversy. We should pray for our president. Pray that his decisions, like ours, honor and glorify God.