Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A New Standard for Christianity

Rev. Franklin Graham's attempt to answer a question regarding his opinion on whether or not President Barack Obama is a Christian, was clumsy, evasive and blatantly political. It got worse after that. By the time he finished, he was just flat out insulting and offensive.

Going from grudging admission that salvation is a free gift received through a confession of Christ as God's Savior to the world - and, by that standard, as far as he knew, Obama is a Christian. Graham stumbled, into a rambling discourse on how, because Obama's father was a Muslim, he was considered by other Muslims to be a 'son of Islam'. The implication being, that because Obama's father was Muslim, the President might indeed be a Muslim.

After that, he was led into a much more enthusiastic affirmation of Rick Santorum's Christianity, because he (Santorum) has the 'right values'. But then, he also went on to assert that Newt Gingrich is a Christian in spite of his multiple marriages.


I've got problems with this whole thing.

Graham, not an Obama supporter, could have well said that 'Obama is a Christian, but I do not support his politics or his policies.' He could have said, 'My beliefs as a Christian align more comfortably with Rick Santorum's.'  Graham and over the past week or so (actually more than that), Santorum, have impugned the President's faith for no other reason than he doesn't share their same views - or as they say 'values'.

This is very dangerous ground. Interestingly enough, Graham says that one of the reasons he is 'qualified' [my words] in his acknowledgement of Obama's Christian faith, is because he has not been strong enough in advancing policies in Egypt where Christians are being tortured. We should, in his world view, withdraw support from Egypt, because Christians are no longer 'protected' there. By that same logic, we should stop borrowing money and trading with China. Yet Graham weakly defended Mubarak's regime, because he had offered protection of Christians as a class.

Getting dizzy yet?

Don't feel bad if you are; you should be. Because this type of selective irrationality is a characteristic of those whose hatred lies somewhere else other than policy differences. It allows seemingly reasonable believers to avoid the truth that in the 2000 years since Christ, there has never been any such thing as Christians who have all believed the same thing. Or that we tend to accept in those whom we support the failings we tend to criticize, if not despise, in those whom we don't.

Franklin seems to still have questions about Obama's faith because he began going to church when he was a community organizer in Chicago. The leaders in the organization told him that if he was going to work among them, he would have to be a member of one of their churches. That's when Obama related to him the beginning of his faith journey. He clearly dismisses the fact that Baptists believe based on our reading of the Bible, that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and that although he may at times express doubts (most thinking Christians actually do doubt at times) "...he shares core Christian beliefs in God and in Jesus as his resurrected son..."

Santorum's tirade, in which he dismisses Obama theologically, is yet another unprecedented way to disrespect the President. We  have never seen other president's personal faith challenged. Southern Baptists have never questioned Jimmy Carter's faith, at least not publicly - although some of them won't own him. Reagan, masterful at communicating Christian values, hardly ever attended a worship service while at the White House, yet his Christianity wasn't questioned. As hated as was Clinton, I don't recall his Christianity ever being called into question. Candidates for the presidency and the son of our country's most venerated evangelist, are comfortable casting aspersions and doubt upon Obama's personal faith. 

It is disturbing and disappointing. 

What Santorum and Franklin have implied that there is only one form of Christianity; one set of values which determine normative (not foundational, there is a difference) Christian faith and it can only be found in those who believe as they believe. Failure to conform to that norm and your Christianity is suspect. 

Yeah, I'm pretty insulted...

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