Refusing to State the Obvious

Refusing to State the Obvious February 24, 2012

On a recent episode of Morning Joe, Franklin Graham perplexed a panel of talking heads by dodging around a simple question: Does he consider President Obama to be a Christian? From Media-ite

“I asked him when he was running… how he came to faith in Christ. He said that he was working in the South Side of Chicago in the community and they asked him — the community — asked him what church he went to, and he said ‘I don’t go to church.’ They said, ‘If you’re going to work in the community, you have to join one of our churches.’ And of course, he joined Reverend Jeremiah’s church. So that’s what his answer to my question was.”

“So therefore, by your definition, he’s not a Christian,” Geist said.

“You have to ask him,” Graham said. “I cannot answer that question for anybody.”
Mike Barnicle then asked why Graham couldn’t just say, “Yeah, I believe he’s a Christian,” in light of him saying he is, going to church, and practicing his faith.

“I accept him as what he says. If he says he’s a Christian, I accept that, I’m not going to say he’s not,” Graham said. “All I know is what Jesus Christ has done in my heart and how he’s changed my life.”

I’m not looking forward to another round of “crypto-muslim” insinuations, but judging from Franklin’s performance that’s what we have to expect. My guess is that the slight uptick in the economy means that Republicans will scream about jobs less and about “values” more.

This whole argument is a hot mess. Graham knows good and well that Obama is a Christian. Yet if he admits that, he’s likely to be lynched by his own followers.

The modern American Evangelical sub-culture is a strange thing. Speaking in terms of denominations, it’s a very broad tent. During the colonial period, the Reformed churches would freak out about the presence of Lutherans in the neighborhood. Nowadays, few people make a big deal out of such differences. Politics is the new litmus test.

Consider what’s happening with historian John Fea, blogger at The Way of Improvement Leads Home and columnist here at Patheos. Fea recently posted a column in which he mused that, “Obama may be the most explicitly Christian president in American history.”

That column got a response on The Blaze, a site somehow connected to Glenn Beck. [warning: last time I went there I got hit with three pop-ups.] The response itself isn’t really an attack, – it’s mainly just large block-quotes – but the comments are intensely negative. Apparently, Fea is now a target for Beck fans. According to his most recent statement:

In the last 24 hours I have been called a lot of names. I have been compared to Hitler, Louis Farrakhan, and Woodrow Wilson (yes, you read that last one correctly). Several expressed wishes that I be cast into perdition. A few demanded that the administration at the college where I teach fire me immediately. The culture wars are real.

The ridiculous part is that Fea is not that far from Franklin Graham (by our standards). His column contains head-shaking about Obama’s failure to “articulate the faith-based political vision.” But he suggested that Obama might be a Christian, so here come the torches and pitchforks.

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