FaithTue Dec 13, 2011 - 5:32 pm EST
Is Obama’s Religious Talk a Political Ploy?
WASHINGTON, D.C. December 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Political observers have noticed a change setting in on America’s most secular president. In the last few months, Barack Obama has begun using more religious-sounding rhetoric.
A political science professor is among a growing number who say, whatever the sincerity of Obama’s faith, the new emphasis is designed for one purpose alone: to win votes.
At the annual Christmas tree lighting on December 1, Obama said, “Christ’s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar. He was a manifestation of God’s love for us. And He grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful: that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.” That message, he added, “lies at the heart of my Christian faith.”
The uncharacteristically devout speech follows the president’s quoting Scripture twice during 9/11 memorial services and saying during his speech on the jobs bill, “We are one nation under God. We always have been and always will be.”
However, that emphasis is at odds with most of Obama’s tenure in the White House. At his inauguration, he became the first president to mention non-believers. Last year’s Christmas message simply said the holiday’s message was “universal: A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love.” He made virtually identical remarks in 2009.
“The only reason he’s bringing Christianity up now and trying to play this role is because of the election next year,” Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson of The Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny (BOND) and one of the strongest voices for traditional values in the black community today, told LifeSiteNews.com. “A lot of Christians wouldn’t vote for him if they didn’t think he was a Christian.”
Sharon Hughes, syndicated Christian columnist and the president of the Center for Changing Worldviews, agreed. “I think Obama knows it is politically expedient to refer to his ‘Christian faith’ for his campaign,” she wrote in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. His campaign is “well aware of the criticisms against him” for his secularism and passing over of Christian holidays, so “there is more and more promotion of him going to church with family, etc.”
Interestingly, non-partisan academic analysis supports the contentions of the president’s more conservative Christian critics. Political science professor John Green of the University of Akron recently told USA Today that Obama is “ramping up his ‘God-talk’ for the re-election campaign.” said, “There’s no avoiding that this is a strategic emphasis on his part. He didn’t speak this way when he was at 60 percent public approval.”
Democrats have become more observant since “values voters” determined the 2004 presidential election. Democratic strategist Flavia Colgan, who majored in religion at Harvard, has told liberals they ignore religious voters at their peril. “One of the most dangerous things for the Democratic Party is to essentially be the anti-religion party, and the God-hating party,” she said, “and the party who portrays people of faith, who are the vast majority of Americans, as somehow not intellectually up to the challenge.”
Evangelicals, too, underscore the importance of overlooking them. Last year, Franklin Graham told CNN, “there are millions of evangelicals that voted for President Obama this last election. But there has not been a movement towards this administration, toward the evangelical community at all.” Hughes believes now that the campaign season is upon us Obama “with the help of his advisor Jim Wallis and others is trying to win the ‘Christian vote’” of core Democratic constituencies and others on the Left.
Many Christians say Obama’s actions speak louder than his well-crafted words. Rev. Peterson said, “I think people need to wake up and not fall for Obama because he’s saying all these good things about God. They need to reflect on his actions the last three years and see if there’s anything he’s done that makes you believe he is a Christian.”
“He went around the world in essence demeaning Christianity, saying America is not a Christian nation…He repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the military,” he said. “He supports gay marriage. He doesn’t support marriage between a man and a woman. He supports abortion at any point - any point - even if a child is born alive.”
Whether real or rhetorical, the president must take care not to appear too religious for his base. The Public Religion Research Institute warned, “Obama must navigate a religiously diverse public as president and a more diverse Democratic Party as a candidate.” A recent Gallup survey confirmed the traditional wisdom that “the least religious are disproportionately likely to affiliate with the Democratic Party.”
This has guided Obama’s attitude towards religion most of his term. He issued no presidential proclamation for Easter this year. When asked about the omission at a press conference, White House spokesman Jay Carney laughed the questions off. Obama’s 2010 Easter message said Easter’s principles lie “at the heart of Judaism, at the heart of Christianity, at the heart of all the world’s great religions.” The previous year’s statement claimed that Easter embodied “the shared spirit of humanity that inhabits us all - Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and nonbelievers alike.”
Similarly, Obama has edited God out of the national motto, skipped attending church on Christmas, banned religious ornaments from the Christmas tree, and forbidden a military flyover at a “God and Country rally” for the first time in 43 years.
Despite his aversion to Christian holidays, President Obama has released presidential statements commemorating the Islamic holidays of Eid-ul-Fitr, and Eid-ul-Adha; the Jewish holiday of Passover; the Persian New Year; and Diwali, a holiday shared by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jainists.
Rev. Peterson believes Obama will continue a policy of favoring non-Christian religions if he serves a second term. “If he’s re-elected,” Rev. Peterson said, “I think he’ll identify more with Islam than with Christianity, because his concern is not to be elected anymore.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said Obama’s actions had “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity,” and the president has personally exhibited a “disdain for Christianity.”