Ben Johnson

Is Obama’s Religious Talk a Political Ploy?

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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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

Likewise, Obama did not mention God in this year’s Thanksgiving message, although he did mention God in his written proclamation. Last November, he gave thanks for “the blessings of choices.”

“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.”

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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