Obama stuck between rock solid convictions and hard politics
President Obama's 10-day Asia trip includes visits to India and Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country.
The president chose not to visit the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar during his time in India because it required a head covering that his advisers feared would fuel speculation about his faith. A Pew study showed that nearly 20% of Americans believe falsely that the president is a Muslim.
The more Obama reaches out to Muslims, the more his critics are likely to slander him, implying that he is not a Christian.
An example is his April 2009 speech in Turkey, in which he said, "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation, we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values." The president's critics have seized on that statement, insisting that he rejects the Christian foundations of America.
Is Obama stuck between a rock and a hard place? If you were the president, how would you handle this dilemma?
President Barack Obama is stuck between the rock of his convictions on how to conduct himself as president and the hard place of how American politics are played.
The way I see it, Barack Obama has never played politics with faith. He began his career as an organizer for faith communities and it was through the Gamaliel Foundation that he absorbed an approach that was rooted in the crucial comment made by the foundation's namesake, Gamaliel, another teacher of the law, in Acts 5:38-39:
"If this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them."
The way that God's will was revealed in the South Side of Chicago at that time was through the common values and ideals of the faithful as they sought to live actively in their communities.
Obama has remained a Gamaliel style organizer ever since that time; he has just moved into larger and larger communities, recognizing that the political system is the primary mechanism by which we apply together our common ideals and values in our neighborhoods, countries and the whole world. Many of his public remarks reflect this approach. Here is a quote from a speech the President gave in Istanbul in April, 2009:
"When people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed. We are reminded that we're joined together by our pursuit of a life that's productive and purposeful, and when that happens mistrust begins to fade and our smaller differences no longer overshadow the things we share. And that's where progress begins."
These sentiments apply just as meaningfully now on the international stage as they did on the South Side of Chicago, years and years ago.
Thus far President Obama has refused to abandon this steadfast commitment to finding our shared values and then creatively enacting them through policy and law. I hope he never does. I hope, if I were president, I would take the same stand for this ideal of governing that so few in our body politic today appear to comprehend or espouse.
For me, President Obama's stance rests wholly on faith in Gamaliel's claim: "If it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it." Obama's Christian faith is inspiring to me and I want to share with him.
November 9, 2010; 3:08 PM ET
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