Would You Vote for This Man?

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Would you vote for a man who

...gives praise and honor to God before a public audience?

...wants to seek God's face with other believers?

...admits that prayer humbles him?

...extolls the benefit of turning to our Creator and listening to Him?

...is motivated by faith and values in the midst of troubled times?

...wakes up every morning and prays, reads the Bible, and has "devotions?"

...is being spiritual mentored and discipled by evangelical pastors?

...claims that his Christian faith motivates him as a leader?

...tries to practice God's command to love our neighbors as ourselves?

...believes in Jesus's words: "for unto much is given, much shall be required"?

...tries to follow the biblical call to care for the "least of these."

...quotes C.S. Lewis in speeches?

...believes that Christians should be "doers of the word and not merely hearers?"

...wants to work toward building the kingdom of God on earth?

...is a loving husband and supportive father?

...prayed with Billy Graham?

...believes the Holy Spirit intervenes in his life, prompting him toward action?

If you answered yes to a majority of these questions, you might consider voting for Barack Obama in November. Check out his recent remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. It's all in there.

Obama may be the most explicitly Christian president in American history. If we analyze his language in the same way that historians examine the religious language of the Founding Fathers or even George W. Bush, we will find that Obama's piety, use of the Bible, and references to Christian faith and theology put most other American presidents to shame on this front. I think there may be good reasons why some people will not vote for Obama in November, but his commitment to Christianity is not one of them.

I remember sitting in the Brubaker Auditorium at Messiah College on the evening of April 13, 2008, when Barack Obama entered the room to a standing ovation from Messiah students and others in attendance. The event was called The Compassion Forum and Obama was there, along with his Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton and the CNN cameras, to discuss how his faith might inform his policy if he were elected president.

Obama talked about religion as a means by which people get through difficult economic times.  He discussed the mystery of God's will and his inability to decipher it entirely. He talked about the need to find ways to reduce abortion. He said he would fight AIDS and poverty around the world. He talked about the discipline of self-sacrifice for the greater good of the planet and each other.

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?

2/15/2012 5:00:00 AM
  • Evangelical
  • Confessing History
  • Barack Obama
  • Christianity
  • Evangelicalism
  • John Fea
    About John Fea
    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.