From the story –
But if the accusations strain credulity, they can also affect public perceptions. So it was likely no coincidence that during the holidays the president seemed to take every opportunity to put the "Christ" in Christmas.
During the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Dec. 9, Obama repeatedly referred to the birth of Christ and pointedly said the Nativity is "a story that's dear to Michelle and me as Christians." And at a Christmas benefit concert a few days later, the president spoke of how "a child born in a stable brought our world a redeeming gift of peace and salvation," and he called it "a message that guides my Christian faith."
Stephen Mansfield, author of "The Faith of Barack Obama," told Religion News Service that the polls about views of Obama's faith "had to be a wake-up call to the White House."
Politico's Carol E. Lee also tracked Obama's recent religious rhetoric and says that he has used the phrase "Christian faith" more in the past three months than he has over the past year. He also took his family to church in Washington in September, as the midterm campaign was heating up, along with controversies over the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan and suspicions about Obama's faith.
As president, Obama has rarely attended church and gave up looking to join a congregation because he said it would be too "disruptive" to whatever church his family picked. So the Obamas attend services at the chapel at Camp David when the family is there, and the president reads the Bible daily.
"I think he's just bringing more of himself to the game, so to speak," Mansfield said of Obama's recent pronouncements. "It's not as though he's changed religions or something. He's just being open about it."
Or he's being more explicit. Obama has frequently used biblical language in his presidential speeches, but he often cites the Old Testament -- the phrase "my brother's keeper," from the Book of Genesis, is an old standby -- and he favors verses from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, for example. But not many Americans can automatically connect those scriptures to Christianity, so Obama has to spell it out.
"The president understands that he needs to continually tell his own personal spiritual story," Shaun Casey, professor of Christian ethics at Washington's Wesley Theological Seminary and a former Obama campaign adviser, told RNS. "He did that masterfully in the campaign and I think you're seeing a return to that voice."
But there's also a real question as to whether Obama can ever dispel rumors about his religious affiliation, or the depths of his Christian commitment. After all, Ronald Reagan was an indifferent churchgoer, and George W. Bush never joined a church while he was president, preferring, like Obama, to attend services at the Camp David chapel or to gather with small groups for prayer and Bible study. But no one questioned their faith.
And Obama has hardly been reticent about proclaiming his Christian faith in the past. Just last Easter, Obama gave two off-the-cuff testimonies at meetings with a range of Christian clergy that were profound and eloquent expositions of the meaning of the crucifixion and the resurrection.
Soon after that, the number of Americans who thought Obama was a Muslim started to rise. If this Christmastime renewal of God talk by Obama can produce a different result it would be one of the surprises of 2011.
So here’s the deal…no matter what this man says or does, those who don’t like are still going to not like him and those who think he is secretly a Muslim are still going to think he is a Muslim. People are going to nitpick every little thing that this man says and twist it and spin it to promote their own agenda (not that this wasn’t done to President Bush mind you, but it wasn’t right then and it isn’t right now). For example (from the same story) –
In early December, for example, 41 Republicans -- and one Democrat -- who are members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus wrote to Obama asking why he told an audience in Indonesia during a trip there that the phrase "E pluribus unum" (Latin for, "from many, one") was the national motto instead of "In God We Trust."
"E pluribus unum" was adopted by Congress in 1782 and was considered the nation's unofficial motto, appearing on coins and banknotes since 1795. In 1956, at the height of the Cold War, Congress passed a law establishing "In God We Trust" as the official national motto, just as Congress had added the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.
In his speech in Indonesia, Obama used the phrase "E pluribus unum" to underscore that in Indonesia, as in America, "hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag."
So here the President makes reference to one of our national mottos and he gets called to the carpet for it. And don’t even get me started on the silly reactions and theories that have gone into his quoting of the Declaration of Independence. From what I can tell, President Obama’s religious beliefs are closer to those of President Jefferson’s than most of the conservative Christians who claim the third president as one of their own.
One of the things that I actually respect about the President is his non-traditional religious beliefs. In my humble opinion, too many people out there are afraid of or, for lack of a better word, bigoted against those who hold religious beliefs other than their own or what they would consider mainstream. Not only is that silly but it does border on bigotry (as much as I hate to call it that). I could care less what religion our President belongs to as long as he (or someday she) is a descent person; lives a good, moral, and ethical life (as much as any of us can); follows the Golden Rule; and doesn’t completely f things up while in office. Who cares if the President is a Muslim or Jew or Mormon or Hindu or Buddhist or, God forbid, and atheist? As long as said individual does a good job handling the affairs of the American people, I could care less who or what he/she prays too (or doesn’t pray too). As far as I’m concerned, actions and intent are far more important than what someone claims to believe.