Letter to a Trump Supporter #4: Barack Obama’s Christian Faith

This is the fourth in my series of “Letters to a Trump Supporter,” from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.

Continuing our conversation about Christianity, he sent me a chain email accusing President Obama of silencing Christians and promoting Islam.

Below is my response.

~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Mr. ——,

Thanks for passing along this email on America’s relationship with prayer. Some of it is true, but not all of it.

President Obama did not encourage schools to teach the Quran for extra credit, for example, and the so-called “Muslim Prayer Day” was not an official event hosted by either Congress or the President, but rather an unaffiliated group of Muslims exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

Actually, I would expect most Americans to be thrilled at the news of Muslims gathering peacefully, since that’s exactly what we’ve been wanting them to do, rather than turning toward violent extremism. “We need to change the face of Islam,” said one of the event organizers, “because we love America.” That sounds to me like something a Republican politician would say.

Similarly, there’s only a grain of truth in the claim that President Obama dismissed the National Day of Prayer ceremony. He never said anything about “not wanting to offend anyone.” George W. Bush is the only president who consistently held a ceremony at the White House. George H. W. Bush only did it once in four years, and Ronald Reagan only did it once in eight years. So they “dismissed” it too.

I have to say, I’m continually shocked at how Christian Americans can accuse President Obama of being anti-Christian, when he has spoken more eloquently about his Christian faith than any president since Lincoln.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read either of his memoirs, but he writes about his conversion to Christianity in great depth and vulnerability. “I felt God’s spirit beckoning me,” he says. “I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

Contrary to accusations that he’s against public prayer, he talks about his desire for it when he first joined a church, “I thought being part of a community and affirming my faith in a public fashion was important.”

He openly admits that his Christian beliefs shape his political decisions, “It’s hard for me to imagine being true to my faith — and not thinking beyond myself, and not thinking about what’s good for other people, and not acting in a moral and ethical way.”

He quotes Saint Augustine and the great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, showing a rich understanding of the religion that few politicians can equal.

In fact, arguably the most memorable speech of the Obama presidency was his eulogy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, where he wove together the American experience and the Christian experience, tracing our Christian values from the Declaration of Independence through Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. to today.

If you haven’t seen it, you really owe it to yourself. Not only is his oratory masterful, but he sings “Amazing Grace,” a testament to his Christian beliefs more powerful than anything I’ve ever seen from an American politician.

But the thing that Republicans should love about this speech, especially in this heated time of racial debate and protests, is how he argues that Christianity teaches us to forgive the white murderer who killed the innocent black Americans whom he’s eulogizing. “The essence of what is right about Christianity is embedded here,” he told his staff before the funeral. “They welcomed the stranger. They forgave the worst violence.”

Those words came from the heart. His speechwriter drafted different words for much of that speech, but the president scratched them out and wrote his own. He explained to the young speechwriter that he knew what he wanted to say because he’d been “thinking about this stuff for 30 years.” This is a man who has dedicated himself to a lifetime of faith with impressive study and contemplation.

It’s not difficult to understand why so many myths have been promulgated about Barack Obama’s faith. He doesn’t look like what many Americans think a Christian looks like, and he takes the freedom of religion enshrined in our Constitution seriously.

But it is difficult to watch him be persecuted for his heritage and his tolerance. At least we can say that, in these experiences, he is following in the steps of many great Christians who have come before him, paving the way toward a kinder, more peaceful future against all the odds.

Best regards,
Anthony

Quote of the Day: Barack Obama

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

— President Barack Obama (United Nations)

Get Me to the Church on Time!

by Norman Horowitz

While from time to time I find it difficult to remember where I parked my car, there are many things that are totally useless that I remember that take up a lot of my very limited “brain space.”

One of these is from the play Plaza Suite when Maureen Stapleton confronts her husband George C. Scott with her knowledge of his having an affair with his secretary and she says something like: “I know that you have been having an affair with your secretary and it is very sad in that I expected more of you. Everyone has an affair with their secretary.”

I expect better from our political process.

Starting with my valiant Air Force service while defending democracy for four years in Belleville, Illinois, and working for a variety of media companies, I have had an expectation of “management excellence” and it was rarely, if ever, satisfied. I did believe that, if you became the head of a multibillion-dollar enterprise, you needed to be smart and effective.

Boy, was I ever wrong about that!

As I complete my eighth decade of life, I have transferred my expectations of excellence into the political arena.

I am a big-time supporter of our President Barack Obama, who has had a three-year opportunity of managing the unmanageable and has done as good a job as possible.

In my “declining years,” I have wondered why I continue to expect reasonableness and sanity from the Republicans?

I do not differentiate between “Republican smart” or “Democrat smart”, but rather my concept of just plain “smart.”

With a couple hundred million “grownups” in our country, why is Rick Santorum a leading candidate for president?

Santorum has said that not only was the separation of church and state not absolute; there is a role for religious faith in the federal government. He went on to say that the definition of separation of church and state does not appear verbatim in the Constitution. What it does say is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Santorum wants to blur the line between the religion and government.

Santorum said that liberals are the real bigots in the debate over same-sex marriage because, he said, they argue that conservatives oppose gay marriage because of “hatred and bigotry.” He cited a recent decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that California’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, and that the ban “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” Santorum said this was tantamount to the court saying, “If you believe marriage is between a man and a woman, it is either because you are a hater or a bigot.”

Someone should tell Santorum that the Constitution is the law of the land for America. It is a secular document and does not “appeal to God.” Our government derives from people (not God), as it clearly states in the preamble:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…

While the Constitution does not include the phrase “separation of church and state,” neither does it say “freedom of religion.” However, the Constitution implies both in the First Amendment.

Santorum might note that keeping religion separate allows atheists and religionists to practice their belief systems without government intervention.

Closing with another Neil Simon play, the musical Sweet Charity had a song entitled, “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This!” Well, there just has to be something better than Santorum!