Several of my Facebook friends (along with 16,000 other people) have recently shared this article, in which White House officials announce that Barak Obama is a Christian, despite survey results that show more and more people feel that he is a Muslim. Their reasoning? “The president is obviously a Christian. He prays every day.”
Besides the fact that this characteristic by itself is certainly not enough to distinguish Christians from Muslims (who pray five times every day), there are several problems with this entire debate over whether or not the president is a Muslim. Many people seem preoccupied with trying to discern his religion. But “Is President Obama a Muslim?” is the wrong question entirely. Before we can determine the right kind of questions to ask, we need to take a couple steps back and look at the relationship between faith and politics logically.
Step 1: Broadly speaking, there are two ways of looking at this relationship. Either a man’s faith makes an impact on his ability to govern well or it does not. (I’ll use the masculine gender throughout for consistency’s sake, but the same will obviously apply to women as well.) There is no reason to ask what a politician’s religion is unless one believes it will affect policy decisions. Though many men have claimed that their religious beliefs will have no effect on their governance, I don’t see how anyone could consistently believe this. Everyone has a religious worldview — even Atheists. What someone believes about God (even if it’s that He doesn’t exist) will necessarily play a huge role in every decision. A faith that can be set aside is no faith at all.
Step 2: Once we acknowledge that someone’s religious worldview affects policy decisions, it is not surprising that we should seek leaders who share our worldview. Christians want Christian leaders. Atheists want Atheist leaders. Muslims want Muslim leaders, etc. Because of this, it has become politically expedient in this nation to claim to hold to the religion with which the most number of people identify themselves. For the moment, that’s still Christianity. It’s why we’ve never had a president who did not at least claim to be a Christian.
Step 3: True, Bible-believing Christians should care about the faith of our leaders. The last words of King David — by whom the Spirit of the LORD was speaking — were a song praising God and talking about leadership. Here we learn that one who “rules justly over men” is one who rules “in the fear of God”. Such a leader is a blessing to his people, bringing order, security, and prosperity (2 Samuel 23:1-5). Exhibiting what the Bible calls “the fear of God” requires a biblical worldview.
The Real Question
The first question to ask then, is “Does this person have a biblical worldview?” There are a lot of things entailed in that question, but for now I’ll just operate under the short, basic definition that a biblical worldview means believing that Jesus Christ is God’s Son; that the Father and Son are one; that Jesus, by way of his substitutionary death on the cross for the atonement of the sins of others, is the only way to salvation; and that salvation comes only by grace through faith in the work accomplished by Christ in his life, death, and resurrection.
While these beliefs do not by themselves qualify a man for leadership, if we elect a man who does not hold to these beliefs, we should not be shocked to find that his rule is unjust. Ultimately, it will not matter whether he is a Muslim, Atheist, Jew, Hindu, or anything else. Reverent fear of the Lord is the foundation for just leadership and of wisdom. Those who reject this foundation are fools, and will govern foolishly.
The main problem is that many — if not most — professing Christians in America do not possess a biblical worldview themselves, much less the discernment to look for it in others. We have allowed ourselves to be convinced that a man can be “good enough”, even “Christian enough” to rule us justly without bothering to see whether they actually exhibit the marks of a true Christian (Romans 12:9-21; this is the context for the infamously-abused “submission to authorities” passage). This guilt crosses party lines.
Men cannot see the heart as God does, but we can make judgments about someone’s faith based on observation of their lives. The mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart (Matthew 12:34), so the words our leaders speak reveal what is truly important to them. We can also recognize their faith by the fruit they bear (Matthew 7:15-20). Bad fruit = bad tree.
Based on the overwhelming evidence of Barak Obama’s words and his fruit, I do not believe him to be any more than a nominal Christian: a Christian in name only. To me, being a nominal Christian is far worse than being a Muslim. Giving lip service to God while pronouncing judgments and making laws that are contrary to His nature is the gravest hypocrisy. It is the sin for which Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (Matthew 15:7-9) who would soon put him to death!
But just like the Israelites to whom Isaiah originally gave this message (Isaiah 29:13), these warnings have become to us like the words of a book that is sealed (Isaiah 29:11-12). When we hear them, we do not listen. We’ve become indifferent.
America is now largely a nation of nominal Christians. And because we seek leaders who share our worldview, we have elected as leaders one nominal Christian after another. The problems our nation faces cannot be placed on the shoulders of Barack Obama, nor those of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or any other individual. Each of us must bear our own portion of the responsibility, because we are a nation which has rejected God as our king. Those who truly know the Lord have hidden the light of the knowledge of Christ under a bushel, often choosing to give our time and energy to the advancement of political and cultural agendas rather than to the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
The great irony is that if professing Christians would get back to the Bible, learn what it means to truly be a Christian, and spend more time carrying out the Great Commission, we’d turn this nation upside down. If we invested ourselves in discipleship and evangelism more than in “culture war” issues, the “culture war” would cease to be an issue as the hearts and minds of the people turned to the Lord. As it is, the nominally Christian political establishment is perfectly happy to let us keep chasing rabbits like birth certificates and school prayer, because it keeps us from focusing on what is truly important.
So, no. I don’t care if the president is a Muslim. If the fruit is bad, I don’t want to eat it no matter if it’s Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic, or pseudo-Christian. Any argument that a Muslim’s leadership might be “worse” for Christians could just as easily be countered by an argument that it might more easily separate the wheat from the chaff. Nominally Christian leadership has lulled God’s people into a slumber, and it’s long past time to wake up.
One last thing. I realize that what I have defined as a “biblical worldview” is based exclusively on a conservative Protestant understanding of Scripture. However, I believe that the distinctives of the worldview I outlined are absolutely vital to true faith. This is important to note in this discussion because the poll statistics show that the demographic group most likely to believe Obama is a Muslim are conservative Protestants (source). Polling also shows that a majority of those believing Obama is a Muslim have this belief because of the media.
If media has this much influence on our beliefs, ought it not be important to limit our exposure to media, and/or to be discerning about the worldview of those providing the media we do consume? How ironic is it, then, that most of the providers of “news” media consumed by conservative Protestants are not conservative Protestants? Yet we wonder why we have such a limited impact on the world around us…