One of the forbidden things in Western culture is to question the reality of a person’s faith. “How dare you? I say that I’m a Christian,” he protests, as though an assertion settles the matter.
This has come to light recently with another minor flap concerning President Obama’s religion. The president claims to be a Christian, and those who question his assertion are roundly criticized. For most people, if the president says that he is a Christian, then that’s that. Case closed.
Byron York, writing in the Washington Examiner, addressed the matter last week with his article “Why are Americans confused about Obama’s religion?” It seems that the current media sport is to trap Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker with a “gotcha” question. After all, he may be the Republican nominee for president, so many journalists relish the opportunity to reveal publicly a stumble. York writes, “On Saturday, two Washington Post reporters asked Walker, in the nation’s capital for a governor’s meeting, whether Obama is a Christian. Walker said he didn’t know.
“Informed by the reporters that Obama is in fact a Christian, Walker replied, ‘I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,’ protesting that the president’s religion is not a topic of great interest to voters. ‘I would defy you to come to Wisconsin. You could ask 100 people, and not one of them would say that this is a significant issue,’ Walker told the Post.”
What is striking is York’s statement, “Informed by the reporters that Obama is in fact a Christian.” How do the reporters know that “Obama is in fact a Christian”?
York notes that confusion about President Obama’s faith goes far beyond Gov. Walker: “In June, 2012, Gallup asked, ‘Do you happen to know the religious faith of Barack Obama?’ Forty-four percent said they did not know, while 36 percent said he is a Christian, 11 percent said he is a Muslim, and eight percent said he has no religion. The ‘don’t know’ group included 36 percent of Democrats.”
Why is there so much confusion? Despite his assertions that he is a Christian, the president makes little effort to attend corporate worship. York notes, “Few people see Obama openly practicing any religious faith. After the president did not attend church on Christmas 2013, the New York Times, citing unofficial White House historian Mark Knoller, noted that Obama had attended church 18 times in nearly five years in the White House, while George W. Bush attended 120 times in eight years. Yes, there are a variety of reasons some presidents don’t go to church very often, but in Obama’s case, absence does nothing to change existing public perceptions of him.”
Frankly, I suspect that only a few of America’s forty-four presidents would be classified as Christians in the biblical sense. Most have claimed to be Christians, but the reality would probably be that they were Christians in a cultural sense, not a biblical one, perhaps nominal Christians at best. Regardless, how should a person respond when his Christian faith is questioned? Should we respond as though we’ve been insulted? Should we simply protest that we are indeed Christians?
Warren Wiersbe, in his Walking with the Giants, relates a situation involving the Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte: “A friend told Whyte, ‘The evangelist said last night that Dr. Hood Wilson was not a converted man.’ Whyte jumped from his chair. ‘The rascal!’ he cried. ‘Dr. Wilson not a converted man!’ Then the friend reported that the evangelist also said that Whyte was not converted. At that, Whyte stopped short, sat down, put his face in his hands, and was silent for a long time. Then he said to the visitor, ‘Leave me, friend, leave me! I must examine my heart!’”
The question is not whether President Obama is a Christian. The question is whether we are: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5 [ESV]).”