Last week, I noted that Washington Post On Faith contributor Danielle Bean has repeatedly suggested that President Obama isn't really a Christian -- which the Washington Post describes as "slander."
The Post followed that up by publishing contributor Ronald Rychlak's attempt to blame Obama for the false claims that he is not a Christian. Under the heading "A problem of his own making," Rychlak writes that it is understandable for people to doubt Obama's faith:
It is true that the president is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to religion, but much of it is his own doing.
The president, whose middle name is "Hussein," was born in Hawaii and moved to Indonesia at age 6 to live with his mother and stepfather, who was Muslim. While there, he attended Catholic school and Muslim school. He also attended Muslim prayer services with his Indonesian stepfather. According to an interview he did in 2007 with the New York Times, he said that the Muslim call to prayer is "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset."
The president has refused to allow any school records, grades, papers written by him, or other records from his youth to be released. This has led people to speculate, and it did not help when he mis-spoke in a television interview with George Stephanopoulos referring to his, "Muslim faith," only to be corrected by Stephanopoulos.
In office, President Obama has spent a great deal of time reaching out to the Muslim world. In 2009 he declared: "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation." Earlier he had said: "I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America." His support for the Ground Zero Mosque also positioned him on the side of Islam.
Let's be clear: One cannot see into the heart of another, and we must respect and accept the president's claim to be a fully believing Christian. It is unfortunate that he has had to face so many crazy theories, beliefs, and downright falsehoods. On the other hand, his demeanor and his approach to religion is the cause of most of the problems.
Like Bean before him, Rychlak included a half-hearted acknowledgment of Obama's Christianity at the end of his diatribe. But that isn't good enough: Rychlak's post boils down to "Here are a bunch of reasons why people don't think Obama is a Christian, but he says he is and we can't be certain, so I guess we should believe him." Wink, wink. Rychlak's claim that Obama took "the side of Islam" in the mosque dispute is particularly pernicious. Actually, Obama took the side of the law and the constitution.
Last year, the Post itself blamed Obama for false claims about his religion. I suppose it counts as some small progress that the Post is now bringing in others to do its dirty work. Likewise, it's great that the Post describes the implication that Barack Obama is not a Christian as "slander." The next step is to stop publishing so much of it.