President Obama is a Christian. He was baptized into a United Church of Christ congregation. The UCC, for those that do not know, is a denomination that traces its roots back to the Pilgrims. It is my church.
Security considerations and other factors mean that as president his family has not joined a church in Washington, DC - neither did Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush - but he prays daily, talks regularly with a small group of Christians pastors, and receives a daily devotional from Joshua DuBois, a special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Rumors persist - started during his run for the presidency - that Barack Obama is a Muslim. There has been a persistent effort on the internet to question his religion. It has been effective. I've received copies of e-mails from otherwise normal people stating that the president is Muslim and hopes to quash Christianity. A friend posted a link on his Facebook page this winter saying that the president had ordered there be no White House Christmas Tree (having been to the White House at Christmas and seen several White House Christmas trees, I had an easy response to that one).
Let's face it: some of this has to do with the president's name, family background (his father was a Muslim), fear bordering on paranoia among some regarding Islam in the wake of 9/11 (by calling the president a Muslim they are effectively arguing he is a terrorist), and even lingering racism among a small number of Americans who question the president's nationality and see him as "other" - not "one of us." All of this is fueled by right-wing radio talk show hosts and comments by extremist figures such as Franklin Graham.
Obviously, the president's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, also allowed himself to be characterized (sometimes unfairly) in ways that were harmful to the president.
Why have the numbers of Americans who believe the president is a Muslim increased since his inauguration? There are probably a number of factors. The underground campaign by the right to paint the president as less than American has been effective. Unlike during the campaign, there hasn't been a coordinated campaign to fight back against attempts to paint the president as someone different than he is (after all, the White House inherited the worse economic storm since the Great Depression and two wars...they've been busy).
Those that continue to repeat the lie do so for partisan political reasons - and sometimes out of religious and racial hatred. Other Christians must do what we can to defend the president from false charges as we would defend any person of faith from lies cast at them from those who would misuse faith as a political tool.
Photo Credit (above): http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Photo Credit (below): President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters, Sasha and Malia, walk across Pennsylvania Avenue after attending services at St. John's Church in Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Read the Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ:
United Church of Christ Statement of Faith—adapted by Robert V. Moss
We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, who is made known to us in Jesus our brother, and to whose deeds we testify:
God calls the worlds into being, creates humankind in the divine image, and sets before us the ways of life and death.
God seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.
God judges all humanity and all nations by that will of righteousness declared through prophets and apostles.
In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord,God has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the whole creation to its Creator.
God bestows upon us the Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.
God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table,to join him in his passion and victory.
God promises to all who trust in the gospel forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace,the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in that kingdom which has no end.
Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God.