Would You Vote for This Man?
Not all evangelicals like the way Obama has talked about how his Christian faith connects with his politics. But such disagreements are too often based more on politics than Christian faith. For example, Jesus said nothing about universal health care or the role of government in the lives of citizens. Jesus did, however, say that we should care for the "least of these" and to "render, therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Christians can disagree on how to care for the "least of these" or how to "render under Caesar," but they should be united in the commitment to work toward the fulfillment of these commandments.
Unfortunately, for all of his religious rhetoric, Obama the president has failed to articulate the faith-based political vision he promised us that night in the tiny village of Grantham, Pennsylvania. His handling of the recent contraception issue was a disaster. He missed a wonderful opportunity to explain his health care proposal—disparaged by the GOP as "Obamacare"—as a direct extension of his Christian convictions to care for the poor and the needy. He has failed in his promise to reduce abortions in the United States and, as a result, protect the weakest and most vulnerable of the "least of these." His plan to tax the richest members of society is driven by populist rhetoric, but it lacks a prophetic edge informed by the radical implications of Jesus's teachings in the Gospels.
If Obama wins in 2012, we will see his true colors on matters of faith and policy. Without another election to worry about, he can either turn toward secularism or provide a vision of faith-based political action that would be quite different from what the Christian Right and his GOP rivals are offering. Will we get the Obama of the Compassion Forum or the Obama of the last three years?
John Fea chairs the History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, PA, and is the author of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011). He blogs daily at philipvickersfithian.com.