By ZAC LOSEY
While Democrats and left-wingers around the country have been celebrating the reelection of President Obama, the conservative religious right has been busy declaring the beginning of America’s demise through the inevitable apocalypse being ushered in by the president. The religious right has made its disapproval of Obama no secret. Many have speculated that Obama is not actually a Christian and, for various reasons, he has often been accused of trying to destroy religion in America.
The tipping point seemed to come when the President endorsed same-sex marriage. After his announcement on ABC, there was immediate backlash from conservatives. For many in the religious right, this move was symbolic of the collapse of “traditional” or “family” values in America, and Obama was the catalyst for such a breakdown. Advocating gay marriage became one of the primary talking points of evangelical ministers around the country who accused Obama of subverting Christianity in America. Quotes like the following have only fanned the flames of hate from the religious right:
“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”
Separating Christianity from politics does not sit well with many conservatives. The attitude of the religious right is evident and accurately represented in Mike Huckabee’s video “Test of Fire,” which warns Christians that “some issues are not negotiable: The right to life from conception to natural death. Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined. It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the church to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life” and “[y]our vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity. Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?” By and large, the prevailing sentiment among religious conservatives is that Obama and his policies are not “Christian.” This misguided view is largely due to their obsession over issues such as gay marriage and abortion, issues on which Obama has taken the typical liberal stance.
On the contrary, Obama’s record makes it quite clear that he is, in fact, a Christian, just the “wrong” type of Christian. The President is representative of progressive Christianity, one that does not garner the attention of the “typical” conservative brand. As CNN’s John Blake says, Obama is “expanding the definition of who can be a Christian by challenging the religious right’s domination of the national stage.” His is not the faith of the religious right that focuses on gay marriage, abortion, contraception and the like. Instead, it is a faith that focuses much more on clear Biblical mandates to care for the poor. Obama has appealed to his faith much more than most presidents: he referred to the Bible’s instructions to care for “the least of these” while defending his healthcare policies, asked people to read their Bibles but not to do so literally, referenced Jesus on numerous occasions in his speech during last year’s Christmas speech and even appealed to Jesus while advocating for same-sex marriage.
Even so, attacks from well-known Christian leaders have continued. Focus on the Family’s James Dobson is openly skeptical of Obama’s faith, and the Rev. Franklin Graham has publicly expressed doubts about it as well. Accusations of Obama attempting to destroy America’s fabled “Christian heritage” run rampant, and some have even gone so far as to declare him the anti-Christ. While that is certainly an extreme view, it is not an isolated sentiment. The overarching view of the religious right is that Obama is undermining America’s morals and attempting to destroy religion.
Despite this view, I’m hopeful that the President’s progressive stance resurrects what seems to be a dying breed of Christianity. Too often it seems that Christians obsess over issues like gay marriage, abortion, contraception and making sure “In God We Trust” stays on our coinage instead of issues that should be at the center of the faithful’s agenda, such as caring for the poor and human rights. For many, Obama is simply the wrong type of Christian. But I hope that for many more, he’ll be an example of the “right” type of Christian and will continue to challenge the religious right’s dominance of the national stage.