Does President Obama’s show of faith this past weekend quell any attack from some Christians that he has waged a war on religion?
Days after being accused by Texas Gov. Rick Perry of waging a war on religion, Obama was seen taking his family to church on Sunday and referring to Jesus Christ at a Christmas event later that day.
"Take that, ye governors alleging a war on religion," wrote Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News, after reporting on Obama’s religious events. Gilman was referring to Gov. Perry’s “Strong” ad, released last week, where the Republican presidential candidate suggests that Obama is trying to undermine the Christian faith in America.
Obama’s religious faith has always been a lightning rod for debate around the country. A 2010 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey revealed that only 34 percent of Americans believe Obama is a Christian while 18 percent believe he is a Muslim.
In his 30-second ad, Perry contrasts himself with the president, saying, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian.” The Texas governor then points to students not being able to pray in school or openly celebrate Christmas as examples of “Obama’s war on religion,” which he vows to end if elected president.
Following the controversial ad, the Obamas – who have been described by the media as making rare appearances at church – were found in the pews Sunday morning at St. John’s Episcopal Church. In his sermon, the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon spoke of how many Americans elevated Obama as an idol in 2008 and sought immediate change.
According to USA Today, the priest talked about how Americans become so quickly disillusioned when things don’t work out as expected. “But that can be a good thing,” the pastor said, “if we learn to accept reality. John the Baptist was trying to point toward the reality of Jesus as God.”
At the end of the church service, the Obamas took communion. Later that night, President Obama spoke about the birth of Christ during the annual “Christmas in Washington” concert. According to the Washington Examiner, he reminded everyone of “the manifestation of God’s love,” Jesus Christ. “[E]very year we celebrate His birth because the story of Jesus Christ changed the world,” the president said.
Like Gillman of the Dallas Morning News, many Christian leaders are disputing the fact that Obama is waging a war on religion.
Bee Moorhead, executive director of the interfaith advocacy group Texas Impact, told the San Antonio Express that Obama's administration has taken “a deliberate and comprehensive approach to lifting up and working with churches and the entire faith community.”
Moorhead went on to tell the Express that it is a shame that anyone, even a politician, would want it to be true that someone hates faith just to get a vote. She also pondered the potential effect of Perry’s new attack.
“You can see why voters would get cynical about faith. And that's the saddest thing of all, when people lose their faith because it's been used as a tool for political gain.”
Perry spoke from the pulpit on Sunday at the Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa, testifying of the time he became a Christian while also poking fun at his own gaffes on the political trail.
"I spent a lot of time alone, trying to understand why I wasn't happy," Perry said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "I had a hole in my heart ... and everyone has that hole ... the fact is that spot in your heart can only be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what happened in 1977 with me."