Potential presidential candidate and renowned budgetary hole-blower Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) sent the media into a tizzy over the weekend after Robert Costa and Dan Balz of The Washington Post asked if he thinks President Obama is a Christian. He replied, “I don’t know.” After the interview, a Walker spokesperson called the Post to say, “Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian,” and explained that Walker was trying to shy away from “gotcha questions,” which apparently also include inquiries into his views on foreign policy and the theory of evolution.
As someone with 2016 aspirations, Walker certainly bungled his response. While his initial declaration of ignorance might play well on the fringes of the GOP, it’s also a signal to the rest of the party that Walker isn’t ready yet.
But as someone without 2016 aspirations, I find myself utterly incapable of believing that Obama is really a Christian, or an adherent of any religion for that matter, which is why — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — I actually agree with Erick Erickson when he says,
I don’t think Barack Obama is a Christian. He certainly is not one in any meaningful way.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 22, 2015
Of course, Erickson considers this a knock against Obama and I do not. Earlier this month when discussing the president’s faith, Erickson argued that Obama isn’t a Christian in part because he’s hinted that Jesus may not be the only path to heaven. Erickson is correct, as (mainstream) Christian theology teaches that the only way to salvation is by believing that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of humankind.
It’s true that while running for president Obama said he believes “in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” in an answer that seemed more rehearsed than sincere, but it would be downright fatuous for anyone to take his word for it. Obama is after all a politician, and no one is more of a politician than a serious contender for president, who even in the 21st century must profess a deep faith in Jesus, or at least something. Recall too, Obama “affirmed” his Christian faith in the same 2008 campaign in which he said he opposed same-sex marriage — a position that this month was revealed as bullshit by former top aide David Axelrod.
It’s also true that Obama has and continues to attend church on occasion. Most notably he belonged to Trinity United Church of Christ where he listened to fiery and occasionally ludicrous sermons by the infamous Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But as an ambitious young man with political aspirations on the predominantly black and religious South Side of Chicago, Obama was surely aware of the necessity of making a show of religious faith at the very least.
Obama’s alleged Christianity would also be something of an anomaly. For one thing, neither of his parents were Christians, or even particularly religious. His father, though absent for most of his son’s life, was an atheist. As for his mother, based on what Obama wrote in Dreams From My Father and The Audacity Hope, and the words of his maternal half-sister, his mother might best be described as spiritual but not religious. According to Obama she was a “witness for secular humanism.”
As a person with irreligious parents, it would be unusual that Obama would become more religious than they, especially considering Obama’s elevated level of intelligence and his advanced degree (from Harvard, no less) because statistically, these tend to have negative correlations with religiosity.
While some liberals will view Walker’s professed ignorance and Erickson’s bold claim about Obama’s faith as still more attempts to paint the president as the Other (which could certainly be a motivator), their indignation is misplaced. The proper response to people who claim that Obama isn’t Christian isn’t to cry foul, point to instances where Obama has asserted his Christian faith, and assure everyone that he is indeed a Christian.
Instead, the best reaction is to ask, “So what?”