Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, holds Christian Rightists’ feet to the fire for pretending their political gathering was a prayer meeting:
Conservative Christian leaders are plotting against President Obama, hoping to do to him what they did to President Jimmy Carter: use their moral authority and organizations to remove a fellow Christian from the White House.
. . .
According to Brian Kaylor’s exclusive news report, some 40 conservative Christian leaders met in early September near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport to keep Obama from being re-elected.
Their plotting discloses a lack of moral integrity. Rather than being honest, the group met under the pretense of a prayer meeting.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, there is a debate over a political speech masquerading as a prayer.
Campbell University Divinity School professor Tony Cartledge writes of President Obama’s visit to Indonesia:
Unfortunately, since Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, Obama-haters have used the event to play up their hare-brained game of pretending to believe the president is a secret Muslim (this article cites a number of examples). I never cease to be amazed that so many people are so gullible that they believe believe some of the hogwash they read or hear: a recent Pew Research Center poll reported that 18 percent of Americans believe President Obama — who self-identifies as a Christian and who reiterated his Christian faith while speaking in Indonesia — is a secret follower of Islam. That’s up from 11 percent in March 2009.
Why confuse a mean-spirited conspiracy theory with something as illuminating as facts and a man’s word?
Prayerful smiles may have faded at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and controversy later ensued at the Biblical Recorder after John Alden Tagliarini wrote to Tar Heel Voices:
I was disheartened to hear prayer-time during the Monday night session of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina subverted by a prayer for the salvation of a professing believer. While it may be that none of us agree with the policies or even the social ethics of our United States President, to presume his lost condition without acknowledging, with similar severity, our own culpability smacked of pride.
Most who responded sided with the commenter, although there were a couple like James Harrington, who said:
Seriously… I mean really, are we going to criticize a man who prayed for the salvation of the president. Then we are going to say that he professes to be a Christian and that’s enough. How many people have you ever witnessed to that began by saying they were Christians but just a few short minutes reveal that not to be the case at all. Can a believer make one of his very first courses of actions as the most powerful man in the world to be to move back towards partial birth abortions (murder moments before birth).
Seriuosly… and we call the platform preachers arrogant and hypocritical! Wow!! I am praying for the salvation of the president as I hit the send button to this message
The Rev. Todd Blake may have been most clear in his response:
Follow this link and read President Obama’s welcome at a Prayer Breakfast on April 6 of this year:
In his remarks, President Obama stated as a matter of fact, the resurrection of Christ Jesus. He confessed that he and all of us are sinful. He confessed what many of us have: “we believe that redemption can be delivered — by faith in Jesus Christ.”
He publicly professed his own faith in Christ Jesus. If we read this address without knowledge of who delivered it, we would possibly think it was delivered by an evangelical pastor. His politics may differ from many who are gatered in Greensboro this week, but he publicly professes faith in the same Lord as we do.
Prayers like these and the ousting of faitful servants like Normaon Jameson are two of many reasons I am not in Greensboro this week.
Bob Felton at Civil Commotion is heartened by it all:
I know it will sound odd to people in the educated parts of the country, but this is progress; recall that Wiley Drake and Steve Anderson were praying for the president’s death not so long ago.
One likely goal of Jameson’s ouster, however, is to suppress such multi-faceted debate. After all, Jameson has been accusef of a “lack of sensitivity” because he expressed far less strongly worded views.
Will Tar Heel Voices remain the open, vigorous forum it has been since long before the dawn of the Web?
We shall see.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote of President Obama’s discussion of his Christianity on Tuesday in Albuquerque:
“I’m a Christian by choice,” the president said. “My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”
Nate Silver digs statistically down to the root of it.
He does explore how complex the decision was. Truly complex.
Even so, pull retiring Democratic members of Congress out of the mix. That done, as the chart at right illustrates, and the best predictor of their Sunday votes was “the percentage of the vote that Barack Obama received in each congressional district in 2008.
The voters decided this one, it seems.
Under the Bush administraion, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was a political program. Rather than abolish the entire experiment, the Obama administration took office bent on constructive civil reform. Which, when dealing with slush funds, must include establishing fiscal accountability. Something former Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page voted against.
Bruce Prescott got the goods on Page from the a report on the White House Web site. The report shows Page voted against requiring “houses of worship that wish to receive direct federal social service funds to establish separate corporations as a necessary means for achieving church-state separation and protecting religious autonomy, while also urging states to reduce any unnecessary administrative costs and burdens associated with attaining this status.”
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote of this matter:
One year after Obama announced his version of the faith-based office, civil rights and civil liberties groups such as mine are still fighting Bush-era battles over tax funding to religious groups that proselytize, job discrimination on religious grounds in public programs and lack of accountability. It’s disheartening.
I am not a member of the president’s 25-member Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the body Obama formed one year ago to examine these issues. But I did serve on a task force offering the Council advice on a range of questions.
During our deliberations, I often found myself on the other side from conservative religious activists who resisted even the most benign and reasonable rules that would safeguard the rights of taxpayers and the disadvantaged as well as help preserve the constitutional separation of church and state.
. . .
Conservative religious representatives on the Council disagreed. They want sectarian groups to have access to plenty of government money with very little (if any) meaningful accountability. That’s the status quo; they like it.
No one should be surprised that President Obama’s faith-based initiatives are drawing fire from liberals and conservatives.
After all, it is known that the program failed to increase churches’ social services and some have advocated doing away with the program completely. Also, a broad coalition of organizations jointly said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was meant to protect religious liberty not lead to discrimination.
So folks like Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and former Southern Baptist Convention president Frank Page, still take issue with the program.
David Waters, who edits an online discussion about faith for the Post and Newsweek and blogs about religion, concludes that the faith-based initiative remains a “fundamentally flawed concept.”
“The federal government and U.S. religious groups serve two different masters. The government serves taxpayers, religious groups serve God. When it comes to distributing and overseeing the use of federal tax dollars, government overrules God.”
Churches and other faith-based groups that take government funding, should follow the rules, Waters said.
“If not, they can decide to help people the old-fashioned way — because God calls them to, not because government pays them to.”
Bloggers who fell for and did not issue flat-footed corrections regarding the blasphemously doctored “hear our prayer” video are squirming now, and Mollie Wilson O’Reilly is for the best of reasons disinclined to turn down the heat.
She writes [and we do agree]:
No one, especially not anyone who values religion and dislikes seeing it dragged through the muck of partisan politics, should have believed in and disseminated a video of health-care-reform activists “praying to Obama.” The video didn’t supposedly show “secular messianic devotion” — it showed a minister, in vestments, leading a prayer service. To believe those people were saying “Hear our cry, Obama!” was to believe that they literally regard Obama as some sort of deity. And that’s silly … .(A lot of people said some creepy things about Sarah Palin, but if anyone ever claims to produce a video of right-wingers actually praying to her — “Hear our cry, O Palin!” — sensible people should regard it with enormous skepticism.).
Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics looks at why some religious conservatives, among them perhaps some journalists of whom we might have expected more, could have fallen for such a bizarre contrivance. He writes:
Within conservative evangelicalism, George W. Bush came to be seen as a hieratic figure–”Our Christian President,” an anointed leader. The most notorious image of this conceptualization comes from the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp, where youngsters are shown praying ecstatically around a cardboard cutout of Bush.
You can, then, be a religious conservative in America today who doesn’t believe that Barack Obama is the Antichrist but who nevertheless thinks that his more strenuous followers look at him as your own strenuous folks looked at George W. Bush. There is no evidence that religious liberals are worshiping Obama, but religious conservatives have reasons to imagine them to be doing so.
Add to Silk’s observation the possibility that O’Reilly perhaps unintentionally calls to mind for us by mentioning Sarah Palin, who is not a black woman.
The congregation defamed by the video doctoring is predominately black.
There is no “card” to be played here. The circumstances say there is something more poisonous involved than straightforward gullibility of conservatives who should know better than to think so reflexively ill of liberals in general.
Our attention-eager friends on the Religious Right surely did not anticipate seeing Iran quickly give ground in the face of “weak” President Barak Obama by offering to have its nuclear experts meet with U.S. scientists.
Although they must have known of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s statement last week, echoed today, that “Sanctions are seldom productive but they are sometimes inevitable.” If they knew, you see, our friends were demanding what they had good reason to suspect was in fact inevitable. That’s, well, an easy victory.
As real events proceed apace, however, their hyperventilating open letter begins to look a bit, er, undignified.