Jennifer Epstein felt the need to write at Politico on Christmas Eve, “President Barack Obama rarely goes to church and has spent just one Christmas morning of his presidency in the pews.”
Really? With all that is going on in the United States – and I’m speaking here of the nonstop Republican obstructionism dating back to 2009, with all the religion-based madness coming from the Republican Party, like a Missouri Republican wanting to force women to get permission slips from men before they can have an abortion – this is what they want to talk about? If Obama goes to church?
It’s like 2010 all over again, when the headline appeared at CNN.com, For first time in months, President Obama attends church publicly.
We are used to Republican attacks on Obama’s Christian faith, with Fox News, as ever, leading the way. We expect it, with Tucker Carlson’s complaint about Obama’s church back in 2007 that, “[I]t’s hard to call that Christianity,” or any of a number of things Hannity or O’Reilly or others have said over the years.
And then there is Ben Wolfgang, who wrote at the Washington Times in April, “analysts say he’s opened himself up to continued criticism by failing to find his own church after five years in Washington,” and that “he’s come under fire for rarely attending church during his time in Washington.”
So it’s bad if Obama doesn’t go to church regularly, but it’s okay if Republicans don’t show up in Congress regularly? Obama wasn’t elected to go to church, whereas those Republicans, on the other hand…
Wolfgang’s unseemly complaint prompted Steve Benen at Washington Monthly to quip,
If Obama had pledged as a candidate to attend weekly services, I could see his Sunday schedules being of interest. But since that isn’t the case, coverage of the president’s worship routine continues to seem out of place.
Benen nailed it, but his appeal to common sense didn’t stop the church-obsessed. Neither have facts, like the fact that President Bush was as sporadic church-goer during his eight years in the White House. And Bush, you may remember, was elected by the Religious Right.
The Christian Post told us last Christmas that,
Obama, a professing Christian, has gone to church 18 times since January 2009 when he was inaugurated as president, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News, who is an unofficial White House historian. The number becomes more telling when compared with that of his predecessor, George W. Bush, who attended church service 120 times during his eight years in office.
And it is not only the Right Wing media talking about it. The New York Times brought it up last Christmas season too, feeling the need to tell us that “public rituals of religion have proved tricky for Mr. Obama.”
Well, doing their jobs has proven tricky for Republicans. Let’s talk about that.
What they all forget is Article VI, paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, the “No Religious Test” clause, which states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter if Obama goes to church or not. It doesn’t matter if he is even a Christian, or, as conservatives often charge, a Muslim. In a word, it is nobody’s concern but that of Barack Obama himself.
But Politico had to tweet their “Big Deal”:
Obama rarely seen in church, but advisers say his beliefs remain strong http://t.co/8Ja7dHAgzv
— POLITICO (@politico) December 26, 2014
And their tweet, not surprisingly, brought out all the haters eager to demonstrate their complete ignorance of Jesus’s message:
— TheLibertyPoint (@TheLibertyPoint) December 26, 2014
In all, Obama has gone to services on about 6 percent of the Sundays of his presidency and just once on Christmas Day, in 2011, which also happened to be a Sunday. George W. Bush, by contrast, went to church on close to 30 percent of Sundays during his eight years in office.
All of this stokes criticism on the right, with some arguing that Obama’s professed Christian faith is a sham — or at least an overstatement — meant to make him more palatable to voters.
Wolfgang cited, inexplicably, I think, Gary Scott Smith, chairman of the history department at Grove City College and author of the 2009 book “Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush” as saying,
“I think it’s a very bad move politically and I think it is probably, depending on one’s perspective, a bad move for his family in terms of spiritual nourishment.”
But most of us would agree, I think, that spiritual nourishment is not the domain of history professors, and that even if it were, Obama’s spiritual nourishment is his own business, and it is not something in any event that can be found in church only.
If the “religious freedom” Republicans harp on so much doesn’t matter, those who are concerned might take a moment to reflect that even though Obama does not go to church regularly, the economy is booming.
Even if it mattered, as Obama advisor Joshua BuBois wrote at The Daily Beast back in January of this year, “Perhaps instead of counting up the number of times he kneels and prays on Sundays, we should allow him and his family to worship as they please.”
Hey, that’s a neat idea. Let’s try that, and then we can focus on the problems that are really problems, like the Republican refusal to govern our country. You know, that thing they got elected to do.
Photo: National Catholic Register
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.