“If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” – popular Christian saying
How do you know if somebody is a Christian? Well, I suppose there are a number of qualities and qualifications that one could consider. In the old days, I mean the real old days, it was sufficient enough just to ask. You see, being a Christian has been, at various times and places, enough to warrant torture and death. When Jesus said “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 10:32-33) it would seem that He was giving a hat-tip to this reality. Even under pain of death – we do not deny Christ.
But, we don’t live in the old days anymore, and perhaps asking isn’t enough. In 2 Cor 11:13-14, Paul speaks of Christian missionaries and “apostles” who boast of their own mission – “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Now, obviously these men would have acknowledged Christ if asked, so asking was not enough. Jesus takes up the issue in Matt 7:22-23 when speaking of the last day: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” This has always been one of the most dramatic verses on the subject, in my mind. Here are men who have prophesied, cast out demons, and done mighty works in the name of Jesus – but they did not do the will of the Father (see v. 21).
Clearly, you cannot always take a person’s word for it. In fact, the Lord does not ask us to. So, how shall we know them? Well, we can know them (the Christians) by their love one for another: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). We can know them by their fruit: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt 7:15-16). What fruit? Well, the “fruit of the Spirit” is found in Galations 5:22-23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
At this point, you’re asking yourself “why is he going on such a long diatribe about how to determine if someone is a Christian?” I’m glad you asked. Time recently released a poll in which 47% of those polled believe Barack Obama is a Christian, 24% believe he is a Muslim, 24% declined to answer or weren’t sure, and 5% said he was neither Christian nor Muslim. (SPOILER ALERT: It seems I find myself in the minority again.)
The poll has created a bit of a firestorm around the issue of the president’s religion. The White House has released a “statement” ardently denying the accusations of Obama being a closet Muslim. Let us consider the evidence, shall we.
Is Barack Obama a Muslim? I find it highly unlikely. Yes, his father was a Muslim, making him some sort of de-facto Muslim at birth. We need not recognize such things though. Religion ought to be a choice of free will, and Obama claims to have chosen Christianity. It is unlikely a Muslim would do such a thing. Now, I will concede that Islam does not hold the same degree of contempt for denial of the faith. They will (by some interpretations) allow a denial of the faith to save your skin, as long as you didn’t really mean it. But to extend this to the current state of affairs one would have to believe that Obama connivingly “renounced” Islam to become a sleeper agent in the US, ultimately joining a Christian church just waiting for the day of his arrival in power to pounce and release Sharia law on the unsuspecting American infidels. (Insert diabolical laugh here.) It is beyond belief.
Is Barack Obama a Christian? I find it highly unlikely. Do I know for sure? Well, surety is a difficult thing when dealing with a person who you’ve never actually met – that’s why I said “highly unlikely.” He indicated that rural Pennsylvanians “cling to guns or religion …” Well, I don’t know about the guns, but I cling to my religion (I actually cling to my relationship with Jesus Christ – but most would lump that in with “religion” – fine). We talked just the other day about his removal of the conscience clause – which allowed doctors to refrain from providing services (e.g., abortion) that they felt were immoral. Is this the fruit of a life in Christ?
Barack Obama attended Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, only to throw him under the bus when election time came around. Since then has he really been a member of a Church? Now, I don’t worship the act of Sunday church attendance at all – but Christianity is not a solitary religion (see Hebrews 10:25 or Acts 2:42).
On the issues it gets even tougher. Abortion – obvious. Antipathy toward Israel – you may have a different worldview on foreign policy, but Christians read their Bibles and understand that there is room for both good policy and policy that doesn’t run afoul of God’s plans for the nation of Israel. (Don’t even get me started on the moral equivocation of holding Israel to an intolerably high standard while excusing all of the nastiness of their enemies.) We could be here all day, but you get the point.
The White House’s response to this has been near comical – for the Christians in the crowd. Check out this quote: “The president is obviously a Christian. He prays everyday.” Do I really even need to comment on that one? OK, it sounds a bit like the OJ Simpson prosecution – “Of course he did it, I mean, come on”. “Of course Obama’s a Christian, I mean the guy prays – like every day; come on.”
So if neither a Christian nor a Muslim, what is he? Well if you’re asking me (and I suppose if you’ve read this much you may just read a little more to find out), I’d say he’s a secular humanist. He’s a progressive – which is a religion in its own right. He’s not particularly given over to this religion or that. He believes in the education and intelligence of the best and brightest among us (by his definitions); but not necessarily in fundamental, immutable truth.
The signs are there. Consider this, Obama gets a devotional sent to his Blackberry every morning from his “director of faith and neighborhood initiatives.” To this end he comments: “That’s how I start my morning. You know, he’s got a passage, scripture, in some cases quotes from other faiths to reflect on.” [emphasis added]. Secular humanists and progressives love this sort of stuff. It shows how open and inclusive they are. I personally think they use it as a crutch. If they ever start feeling the conviction from the Word of God they can just turn to other faiths and press the “see, maybe God really isn’t there to make these demands of me – after all, there are other faiths and they have pretty sayings too” button. (Now, you may argue that reading inclusively is good for a president, who must lead the entire country, not just the Christians. Sure. But this is hardly a means to defend his Christianity.)
As for how I feel about this, well, I don’t feel that one has to be a Christian to lead a country. Sure, I tend to prefer it, but this is no theocracy and we can function just fine with non-Christian leaders.
Of course, politically it is very sensitive. Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Agnostics, and Athiests have all but conceded that they may always have to vote for someone not of their particular faith – just not the American Christians. One wonders how Christians living in non-Christian majority nations ever survive.
On the politics note, it seems that this poll could not have come at a better time for Obama. He is absolutely sliding uncontrollably in the polls. Initial unemployment claims jumped back up to 500,000 (ouch!). The economy is faltering again. The war in Afghanistan ain’t going so well. He’s stirred up any number of hornets nests with the Arizona immigration kerfuffle and the ground zero mosque. This is a breath of fresh air for him. He can actually come out on this and play the victim card. “I’ve been portrayed unfairly by the media and those evil conservatives as a Muslim.”
I personally hope the silliness dies down. There are real difficult issues to deal with here and harping over one man’s religion (whether it exists or not) is probably not that big of a deal … probably.