Theological purity tests will ruin presidents and the presidency (ANALYSIS)

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obama easter

President Obama and his family pray during Easter services at Allen Chapel AME Church in Washington on April 4, 2010. As many as four in 10 Americans cannot identify the president as a Christian. RNS file photo courtesy Pete Souza/The White House.

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WASHINGTON (RNS) The trouble with making presidents’ religiosity just another weapon in our ongoing ideological war is that we may have ruined religion for presidents themselves.

  • Larry

    I am waiting for a presidential candidate to tell these wannabe theocrats to go eff themselves. Someone who says, “My religious beliefs are my own and none of your business. Do you want a president of the United States or defender of your faith?”.

    The leader of our nation has to be beholden to the principles of the Constitution, not some right wing evangelical’s sectarian agenda. Even GWB was savvy enough to know that pushing sectarian agendas doesn’t fly in national politics. Although he was a “born again” he also clever enough to be ecumenical politically. If any Republican presidential candidate spoke on behalf of Muslims the same way GWB did after 9/11, they would be tarred and feathered.

    All these conservative Christians are doing is ensuring nobody sane comes out of the Republican primaries for some time. Any candidate which meets their approval will be so divisive and offensive to those outside of their faith that they will ensure Democratic presidencies.

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  • James Carr

    I am waiting for a President to have the balls to include his religious thinking into his actions as President. Obama never let’s us forget that he is black, and he has gone out of his way to comment on even the most tedious incident of racial discrimination, so why can’t a Jew or a Catholic include the same reactions in their governance of this country?

  • This story is yet another example of the harms of religion – as if we needed any.

    Requiring a President to genuflect to a Leprechaun King
    invites mockery and disdain on religion.

    I believe Obama is an Atheist. He goes through these dishonest motions at church because he is already hated enough and doesn’t want to bring on more trouble with politics.

    Shame on those who require presidents to speak positively about your pet superstition. Mind your own business and grow a pair yourself.

  • More sensible conservatives settled on conceding that Obama is a “professed Christian,” a backhanded way of implying that there is a great difference between what the president professes and what he actually believes.

    Cannot imagine how they got that idea. The President had no religious upbringing, his father and stepfather were both nominal Muslims, his sister calls herself a ‘philosophical Buddhist’, and he sat in Jeremiah Wright’s obnoxiously political Africanisant congregation for 20 years rather than join an available African Methodist or Convention Baptist congregation. And, of course, he is in everyother way incorporeal planes. When there isn’t much there there, of course you think its just another pose.

  • Because Orthodox Jews and Mass-going Catholics are not Democratic Party clients.

  • Given the reaction to Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, it is no wonder Obama has been reluctant to subject other clergy to media scrutiny for the most provocative statement they’ve ever made in a sermon.

    Actually, it was Wright’s whole ministry they were reacting to. That aside, partisan Democrats tried to make hay over John McCain’s tangential association with John Hagee (in whose church McCain had not spent 20 years worth of Sundays.

  • Even once-innocuous celebrations of faith have become fodder for vicious attacks.

    Yeah, terribly vicious taking the president to task for his blatherskite about the Crusades.

  • Evangelical leaders loathe liberal Protestants,

    Really. Care to name names?

    and many consider them modern-day heretics.

    Well, if your business is replacing Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium (or some sort of apostolic authority) with personal experience, therapy culture, and contemporary fashion, people just might think the term was appropriate.

  • Boundary maintenance is very important to white evangelicals; they like to be clear about who is in and who is out

    We’d noticed that about Laura Turner. High school never ends.

  • Jack

    Memo to Jacob Lupfer:

    The press — you guys — were the ones who asked Walker whether Obama was a Christian.

    And now you’re mad because he had trouble answering it?

    In a recent op-ed, right on this same web site, as you mentioned, Justin Taylor explained what made Walker hesitate:

    Irony of ironies, it was precisely because Walker did not wish to judge another man’s spiritual state….since from Walker’s evangelical theological perspective, answering whether someone’s a Christian is an invitation to do exactly that.

  • Jack

    Larry, the media asked Walker the question.

    He did nothing to invite the question.

  • Jack

    Then go after the media, Atheist Max. They asked Walker the question.

    And he refrained from answering…..because from an evangelical perspective, that would be an engraved invitation to judge another person’s spiritual position, something that’s hard enough if you know someone and harder still if you don’t.

  • Jack

    This article was written simply because a reporter asked Walker to judge Obama.

    And it beats up on Walker….when he refrained from doing so?

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  • Last week, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani trotted out the he’s-not-really-one-of-us dog-whistle that conservatives have employed against Obama for years.

    You know, Jacob, if you can hear the whistle, you’re the dog.

  • Good point. I’ll wager that Jacob Lupfer’s cranial-rectal inversion is sufficiently severe that it never occurred to him. (Or is it more charitable to assume it’s all just a con?).

  • Jack

    LOL…good one, Art Deco.

  • Jack

    Jacob Lupfer evidently doesn’t know much about the political history of America.

    American politics has always been filled with tussles of numerous kinds, including whispers and shouts about the beliefs of virtually all presidents, particularly in the golden age of American participatory democracy — ie the 19th century, when virtually everyone who was eligible to vote did vote.

    It was really much of the 20th century that was a bit of an outlier, with the rise of the imperial presidency.

  • I stole that line.

  • Not sure. The thing is, most recent Presidents have been curious characters regarding religion.

    1. Warren Harding: persistent sexual misbehavior, freemasonry
    2. Franklin Roosevelt: ditto.
    3. Harry Truman: freemasonry (and a high position in the order)
    4. Jack Kennedy: gross and persistent sexual misbehavior
    5. Lyndon Johnson: gross and persistent sexual misbehavior; financial scamming; candidate at a Masonic lodge.
    6. Richard Nixon: Quaker joined the Navy
    7. Gerald Ford: freemasonry, canonically-invalid marriage.
    8. Bilge Clinton: gross and persistent sexual misbehavior..
    9. BO: as Glenn Reynolds says, a projection on fog, just like a Scooby Doo cartoon.

  • Larry

    The “media” being conservatives trolling for who is on the Christian Right bandwagon. The only reason such questions are asked is because theocratically minded people are using such answers to gauge their support.

  • Larry

    The “media” is not a monolithic entity with its own political agendas.

    Walker didn’t answer the questions because they would make him look foolish to anyone outside of the religious right wingnuts. But he still needs those wingnuts to vote for him.

  • Larry

    More reason to tell Christianist theocrats who make such issues somehow relevant to political discussions to stuff it. Nobody needs to give a flying crap what a candidate’s religious affiliations are. If they aren’t wearing their religion on their sleeves to garner votes, it is nobody’s business.

    Frankly the next president can be a Cthulhu worshiper for all I care, as long as they uphold the Constitution.

  • Larry

    “I am waiting for a President to have the balls to include his religious thinking into his actions as President. ”

    We already had two. Two of our worst: Jimmy Carter and GW Bush.

    How about instead we simply have presidents who are willing to uphold the constitution and respect for the religious freedom it entails. Nobody needs politicians trying to legislate their sectarian beliefs. Religious freedom means nobody has to be compelled to care what you or anyone else thinks God wants.

  • Larry

    You missed our 2 born agains: Jimmy Carter and GW Bush.

    2 Presidents who were absolutely terrible at their jobs.

  • Fran

    There is evidently no “separation of church and state when it comes to running for office (even for President) in the USA.

  • I was explicitly referring to a subset.

  • Jack

    Seriously, was the journalist who asked Walker the question a “conservative?”

  • Jack

    To deny that the mainstream media is without political bias is to take a pretty strong stance against objective reality.

  • Larry

    “Recent presidents” being the term you used. They definitely fell into that categoy.

    Given the failure of the presidencies of the two born again Christians, I can see why you omitted them.

  • Larry

    Which part of the media? Some biases are more blatant than others. It depends. We have biases on both conservative and liberal elements of “the media”. Fox News and MSNBC are hardly of the same political bias. Some are rather neutral.*

    Using the term “the media” as if it has a single POV or is controlled by a single source is naive.

    *In the case of Fox News, claims of bias are usually correct given their tendency to confuse op-ed with news.

  • Larry

    Has anyone outside of the conservative echo-chamber ever made such an issue relevant?

  • Article six of the United States Constitution:
    ” . . . The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    The media including bloggers should just stop talking about the president’s religion. It’s such a waste of time. Such a non-issue. We should care little about your’s or the president’s religion.

    Interestingly, the folks most worried about the president’s religion are the ones obsessed with the president violating the constitution.

    Let’s deal with the real issues.

  • Chaplain Martin

    Richard Maus,
    Thanks for actually bringing the Constitution “no religious requirement” into this discussion.
    I will refer to the First Amendment portion of religious freedom.
    Those attacking Obama’s religious beliefs or supposed lack of beliefs (what they call beliefs) are attempting to deny him the same rights of personal beliefs given to them.

  • mike

    Mr. Lupfer, you’re out of line here:

    “That’s remarkable insight into the state of another man’s soul from a first-year seminarian.”

    Firstly, you’re out of line to take a crack at the man being in his first year of seminary, as though he has to have already earned a post-graduate degree to have formed an intellectually-sophisticated faith.

    Secondly, the comment regards discipleship – not the state of another man’s soul.

    Get over yourself.

  • Jack

    We’re dealing with Walker…..Who asked him the question?

  • Jack

    The major, non-cable media has a well-deserved reputation for being very biased in a left-leaning direction.

    As for cable, MSNC is MSNBC and Fox is Fox. In each case, the big draw is commentary, not reporting, and people generally know what they’re getting.

    On Fox, anyone who thinks O’Reilly, Kelly, or Hannity is doing reportage rather than commentary is truly out to lunch. They’re doing commentary and they don’t pretend otherwise.

  • Jack

    I just think he’s taking the lazy man’s road to article writing, that of loosy-goosy connections between things. If A is within 1500 miles of B, that’s a connection in his mind.

  • dmj76

    Dear Max

    My president is a liberal Christian, not an atheist. The spectrum of our search for unity with some kind of a higher power is wide.

    Heaven forbid that I should give advice to better educated people, but I cannot help it: Your writings might be more effective if you took an hour or so to read Julian Baggini “Atheism: A Very Short Introduction”.

  • @dmj76,


    “Even if we had only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would it be James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK – and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith. Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application. So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles now. Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.”

    – Barack Obama, 2006

  • I omitted them (and a mess of others) because there is nothing odd about the juxtaposition of their religious profession, their sundry associations, and their mundane behavior. The point is not difficult to infer and grasp — for an ordinary person.

    Given time and diligent effort, you may at some point utter a remark that is not both arrogant and obtuse.

  • Richard Maus, the constitutional provision in question debars legal prescription of a religious test for officeholding. Pretty irrelevant to public discussion of a candidate’s religious viewpoint and the influence of that viewpoint on policy.

    It’s such a waste of time. Such a non-issue.

    You’re religiously indifferent and we’re all obligated to imitate you. Thanks. We all need a lesson that advanced age is no bar to self-centeredness.

  • He’s lost his right of free exercise because he’s criticized?

    I’m beginning to think you can understand the portside take on public discussion, social relations, and policy if you just understand daily life through the prisms used by a raging narcissist.

  • Yeah–Obama doesn’t look like the Republican Christians since he’s never divorced.

  • Billysees

    Here’s a good belief, attitude or philosophy to guide anyone whether a private person or someone in the public eye —

    Whatever faith you have and whatever things you believe in, ‘keep’ them to yourself and God………Romans 14:22

  • Ken

    Finally Atheist Max, you said somethimg of worth:

    “I believe Obama is an atheist.”

    And of course the fruit and proof of your assertion is legalized drugs and sexual depravity, abortion as a plague on the human condition and depravity as a civil right.

    Oh and let us not forget the ever exploding numbers of the dangerously mentally ill that are the products of a godless leader and a secular morality. Oh yeah, and the mandatory anti-rape laws needed for an ever-growing problem in our secular institutions of higher learning.

    By the fruit . . .

    Ya got it right pal. This time.


    Of course. The fruit falling from the correct tree.

  • Ken

    Two Christians dealing with the ever-growing unruly mob of demanding Sodomites.

    No wonder they both had trouble.

  • Ken

    Yeah Chap, but Obama is forcing his secular immorality onto all of us. Violating our First Amendment rights.

    The guy is as Christian as Judas iscariot.

    To believe that a person’s private moral convictions will not influence his political power is idiocy.

  • Ken

    You mean like Ahab and Jezebel?

    Another committed couple of powerful political leaders.

    But I won’t get into your judgmentalism . . .

  • Ken

    Says the demanding secular Troll.

    It’s laughable how totalitarian the mad dog secularist truly is. Yet cries the diversity mantle.

  • Larry

    Right, says the person who understands that religious freedom demands secular government. Says the person who understands the concept is not meant to be self-serving and to further just your own beliefs.

    Totalitarian mad dog secularist!?!

    LOL! That is like saying I am a totalitarian moderate. A radical ecumenialist!

    Someone who wants government to respect all religious faiths and beliefs by not entangling the two is hardly “totalitarian”.

    I can’t help it if you have trouble understanding concepts of religious freedom.

  • Larry

    Right there is nothing odd about the juxtposition of a Born Again Christian and being a lousy President in Chief. It seems like a natural conclusion to make.

  • Ken,

    What sexual depravity?

    You are blaming Obama for the 40,000 children raped
    by Pedophile priests?

    Obama has nothing to do with Catholic priests.

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  • The Hollywood Muslim stands alone. We have never had one of those in the White House before. You have to look far and wide to find another person who embraces the beliefs of these two groups. I see nothing good coming from him. Only evil continually. He is a sign of the times. The fact that many people can’t see him for who is also is a sign. Many are given over to strong delusion that God foretold for the last days. Those days are here. Jesus Christ is our only hope to escape the judgment that will surely come. Judgment of this world, and more importantly the final judgment. Receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and turn away from evil and know God’s peace and forgiveness and blessings. God Bless

  • Fox News (faux news) is all about pretension. But then again, so is religion. They fit well together, sick as they both are.

  • “Loosy goosy connections”. Luv it. Now THAT’d be religion for ya.

  • Oh Ken, you are such an undemanding Sodomite yourself. What color is your kettle, dearest?

  • Methinks you won’t know First Amendment rights until your cell door locks behind you and your new cellmate Bubba.

  • No, indeed, don’t. You’d just make a bigger fool of yourself.

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