- (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)
President Barack Obama, a Christian, often quotes Bible passages in his speeches and even in rebuttals against lawmakers, which some observers have criticized. Now, the president is being questioned for failing to mention God in his Thanksgiving address, which makes some wonder: can Obama win the "God" question?
Pastor David Wright, CEO of DOersTV, believes the answer depends on "who the majority of America's God is."
"If it is the God of the Holy Bible, who hates sin and evil, but loves the sinner, no way can Obama or any politician win the God question," Wright told The Christian Post.
He added, "But if it is the God most Americans have created in their own minds, a God that condones and justifies all types of sins and calls good evil and evil good…yes Obama and any politician can win the God question."
Dr. Harold Trulear, an associate professor at Howard University School of Divinity, however, told CP the criticism is not about the failure to thank God. According to Trulear, Obama has made "many strides in making faith a central issue."
"I think if he had mentioned God the critics would have found something else to criticize him about. I can't remember another president coming under that kind of criticism. From anger on one side to disappointment on another," he stated.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Despite the decision by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to prohibit religious leaders as part of the 9/11 ceremony, religious references still made their way in.
"God is our refuge and strength," said President Obama, quoting Psalm 46, following an observed moment of silence that marked the first hijacked jet crashing into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
"…God is in the midst of her. She shall not be moved," continued Obama as he stood before the white oak trees of the new 9/11 memorial.
The Scripture reading had sparked both praise and criticism.
A user on Yahoo! Answers Forum wrote, "God is a refuge to all those with a religion and it matters not what that religion is."
However, there were those that disagreed. Another user said, "Not everyone's Christian, the government has Separation of Church and State, and I bet that speech made a lot of nonbelievers quite uncomfortable."
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest released a statement, explaining President Obama's decision to read Scripture during the 9/11 ceremony:
"The President chose a scripture which he believed was most appropriate - he believed it was particularly appropriate to use &mdash: to read scripture this morning. And he chose a passage that talks of persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger."
Two months later, Obama failed to thank God in his Thanksgiving Internet address. He has since been highly criticized.
"Somebody ought to remind Obama (and his speechwriter) that when Americans sit down around a meal today and give thanks, they give thanks to God," columnist Sherman Frederick of the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote in a Thanksgiving Day blog post.
Regardless, some found criticism of President Obama unwarranted. "Wouldn't it be nice if the GOP cared as much about jobs as they do about stuff like whether Prez said God in a speech?" tweeted Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post.
According to Dr. Trulear, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks to God, however the American culture has turned the holiday into a time for "eating as much as you can and watching football."
"People of faith have allowed these other traditions (eating and football) to become dominant. America itself has lost the sense of giving thanks to God," he added.
The responses to President Obama's 9/11 and Thanksgiving addresses have raised questions of whether faith belongs in the public forum.
When questioned, Pastor Wright said, "Faith belongs in the public forum if you are a 'true' Christian."
"Faith is not confined to a church or religious activity or event. Faith is a lifestyle and a relationship," he added.
Dr. Trulear expressed similar sentiments saying, "Absolutely. Faith is a part of human rights. Religion is a core part of the human experience. Almost two-thirds of the population identifies with some sort of religious tradition and it would be impossible to have a discussion on morals and values without religion being a part of the conversation."
"The question is how can you manage it properly," Trulear stated.
Kathleen Bowens, a New York resident, pointed out, "Faith will always be in the public forum whether it belongs there or not."
"Morality is rooted in faith and while it's important not to go overboard with religious doctrine and interfere with secular law, you can't not allow someone to practice faith," Bowens said. "It's a difficult balancing act."
President Obama's Sept. 11 and Thanksgiving addresses can be seen in the videos below: