It’s worth at least skimming over the article in Newsweek on Obama “Finding His Faith.” There are several interesting points to glean:

  • We live in a country where political candidates are raked over the coals to see if they are “Christian enough” while we have American Christians claiming they are the subjects of persecution on the scale of Jews in Nazi Germany. To put this in perspective, try imagining Hitler being grilled by an interviewer on whether he went to Synagogue often enough. Societies generally don’t demand that their leaders be part of the group the society is busy persecuting.
  • Somehow Fox News will quote the above statement in order to compare Obama and Hitler.

  • Everyone knows that Obama is lying when he implies he’s a Christian in a traditional sense (i.e. how Christianity has been defined for roughly 1600 years).
  • But Obama does seem to be a “Christian” in a modern American or “Western Democratic” sense. Mainstream Christianity has evolved into a mostly Universalist (good people go to Heaven), slightly Unitarian (some non-Christian religions might have some truth) amalgamation of spiritualist beliefs in a Christian context. If it could give up its nagging facination over whether the members of a loving couple sit or stand to pee, it might not even be that bad a religion (not a great one, but at least not harmful).
  • Mainstream Christianity in major parts of America and probably most of Western Europe has very little to do with traditional Christian orthodoxy. On this point, Fundamentalists and I certainly agree, and the numbers back us up.
  • Obama knows that there are two constituencies here that he cares about here: those who don’t really care about their politician’s religion or lack thereof and don’t mind him lying as long as his deeds are in line with their expectations, and those who need the appearance of religion and for whom the lie is an important part of their folk beliefs. They lie to themselves every time they go to church and recite things they don’t actually believe (or possibly even understand), and they expect their politicians to have the decency to do the same. They may not really believe in God, but they’re no atheists, right? They try to believe in God after all. Only a fool of a politician would make them face that conflict directly.

Given Obama’s choices here, I think he’s walked this tightrope admirably. He’s lied, yes. But his lies are pro forma enough that maybe they’ll give courage to the next generation of politicians who may be able to give up lying and come out of the closet and tell the electorate that it’s really none of anyone’s business what crazy, inconsistent and personal beliefs they might hold in private, and perhaps everyone else would be wiser not to be quite so loud about their own. I don’t need to know how my President makes love to his (or her) wife. And I don’t need to know how he shows love for his God.