Uh-oh. Politico’s Martin and Lee have been tracking President-elect Obama’s post-election church attendance record and found it wanting. It seems that since the election, BO has been more attentive to his body than his soul Sunday mornings. Could it be that, like the majority of the people who voted for him, he is a bit, ah, episodic in his churchgoing?
Meanwhile, Time‘s Amy Sullivan and WaPo’s Salmon and Boorstein have been canvassing the territory for a good church for the Obamas to attend. The irrepressible Sally Quinn plumps for that Episcopalian pile called the National Cathedral–thereby earning jeers from GetReligion’s Douglas LeBlanc.
LeBlanc in particularly annoyed at Quinn’s emphasis on the National Cathedral’s inclusivity–which, she avers, accords well with a widely quoted remark of Obama’s that we are no longer just a Christian country but a Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. one as well:
Obama’s words are an apt description of the United States in the 21st century. Applying those words to a Christian cathedral is an act of theological incoherence. Even if the President-elect believes that pluralism is the most important factor in choosing his family’s church, he deserves a more spiritually informed invitation than Quinn offers.
I carry no brief for the National Cathedral, but it’s worth noting that inclusivity has been part of that church’s establishmentarian ecclesiology, as it were, from the outset. One is certainly entitled to be annoyed at the presumption of those Episcopalian would-be hegemons, but there’s no denying that they intended their place to serve as the ceremonial headquarters for the country’s Common Faith in the nation’s capital. As so it has to some extent become. When a former president such as Ronald Reagan dies, it’s to the National Cathedral that the dignitaries repair for the memorial service.
It should also be noted that Obama’s own inclusivity goes beyond mere description of the country’s religious diversity. As he told Cathleen Falsani in that 2004 interview, “I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.” So on those theological grounds, it’s just possible that the National Cathedral would work for him and his family. But there are plenty of other reasons to think that it wouldn’t.