So 20% of Americans think that, contrary to his public protestations, Obama believes that there is no God but Allah and Muhammed is His Prophet. *
As someone who attempts to be a practicing Christian myself (despite what Jim Wallis thinks), I think there are really two questions when it comes to Obama’s (or anyone’s) Christianity: a. can we ultimately prove their Christianity beyond taking their word for it, and b. should we need more evidence than taking their word for it to assume they’re a Christian.
Some commentators suggest that Obama’s long record of church attendance should indicate his Christianity beyond a reasonable doubt. One could just as easily argue that a history of good deeds and religious references points toward Christianity. But I think that Jesus would say that such evidence is insufficient: Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Now, I’m not saying that the outward appearance is totally useless in determining someone’s Christianity-of course, I’ve read my James. But no matter the volume of good deeds in the outward appearance, there’s no way that you can ultimately be assured that Christ resides in another human heart. Obama could easily be doing those good deeds or representing belief in the faith that doesn’t exist for any number of reasons, not least for political gain.
I’m afraid that I’ve painted a rather bleak picture up until now, and indeed if you took my position that you never can be quite sure of another person’s Christianity to its logical extent, then all Christian fellowship (or sister-ship? not sure what the gender-equivalent term is) would be destroyed.
But just as Christ gave grace to us, I believe that we should give grace to each other and take Obama at his word when he claims to be a Christian. That’s really the only alternative, isn’t it, since we can never know what’s in their heart? If not, we could easily go crazy wondering whether or not the person we were sharing with in our small group is really a Christian. Questioning something as unknowable as the state of someone’s faith really can never be productive.**
The tea-partiers, as insane as they are, thus are not totally wrong when they argue that Obama could be a Muslim. He could be. I could really be a Bahai for all you know. But if one is to have any semblance of a Christian faith in community with other believers, then you have to take others at their word when they claim to share your faith. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they’re lying. Only God really knows. But our job here on earth is not necessarily to discern who is and isn’t a Christian-that’s what the Second Coming is for-but rather to use our fellowship with other believers here to advance the Lord’s Kingdom as much as we are able.
*Or as Seth Gannon more humorously put it: “The one-fifth of America that knows Obama to be a Muslim must think the rest of us are remarkably dense. “Good Lord,” they must say upon seeing these poll results, ‘What has happened to our incredible country that 80% of Americans don’t know their own President’s religion?'”
**This section of my post borrowed heavily from Alan Jacobs.