Obama seems to be using the God line to get relected, and probably does mix
government and religion.
Obama invokes Jesus more than Bush
KENS 5 - TV San Antonio Eamon Javers Eamon Javers â€“ Tue Jun 9, 5:09 am ET
Heâ€™s done it while talking about abortion and the Middle East, even the
economy. The references serve at once as an affirmation of his faith and a
rebuke against a rumor that persists for some to this day.
As president, Barack Obama has mentioned Jesus Christ in a number of
high-profile public speeches â€” something his predecessor George W. Bush rarely
did in such settings, even though Bushâ€™s Christian faith was at the core of
his political identity.
In his speech Thursday in Cairo, Obama told the crowd that he is a Christian and
mentioned the Islamic story of Isra, in which Moses, Jesus and Mohammed joined
At the University of Notre Dame on May 17, Obama talked about the good works
heâ€™d seen done by Christian community groups in Chicago. â€œI found myself
drawn â€” not just to work with the church but to be in the church,â€ Obama
said. â€œIt was through this service that I was brought to Christ.â€
And a month before that, Obama mentioned Jesusâ€™ Sermon on the Mount at
Georgetown University to make the case for his economic policies. Obama retold
the story of two men, one who built his house on a pile of sand and the other
who built his on a rock: â€œWe cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of
sand,â€ Obama said. â€œWe must build our house upon a rock.â€
More than four months into the Obama presidency, a picture is emerging of a
chief executive who is comfortable with public displays of his religion â€”
although he has also paid tribute to other faiths and those he called
â€œnonbelieversâ€ during his inaugural address.
Obamaâ€™s invocation of the Christian Messiah is more overt than Americans heard
in the public rhetoric of Bush in his time in the White House â€” even though
Bushâ€™s victories were powered in part by evangelical voters.
â€œI donâ€™t recall a single example of Bush as president ever saying,
â€˜Jesusâ€™ or â€˜Christ,â€™â€ said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative
Christian group Family Research Council. â€œThis is different.â€
To Perkins, Obamaâ€™s overtly Christian rhetoric is a welcome development from
an administration that he largely disagrees with on the issues, though Perkins
sees a political motive behind it, as well.
â€œI applaud that. It gives people a sense of comfort,â€ Perkins said. â€œBut I
think itâ€™s a veneer, a facade that covers over a lot of policies that are
anti-Christian.â€ That includes, in his view, Obamaâ€™s stance in favor of
The Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of the group Americans United for
Separation of Church and State, doesnâ€™t like the trend with Obama: â€œI
donâ€™t need to hear politicians tell me how religious they are,â€ Lynn said.
â€œObama in a very overt way does what Bush tended to do in a more covert
Obamaâ€™s public embrace of his Christianity so far has not included choosing a
church in the capital, and he has attended Sunday services only once since his
election, on Easter Sunday. The White House said at the time the family was
still looking for a spiritual home in Washington.
But inside his White House, Obama has placed his Office of Faith-Based and
Neighborhood Partnerships â€” run by a 26-year old Pentecostal minister named
Josh DuBois â€” under the White Houseâ€™s Domestic Policy Council. That was
widely seen as an effort to involve a religious perspective in the
administrationâ€™s policy decisions.
Also, religious leaders meet with White House policymakers on a regular basis
â€” and help to shape decisions on matters large and small. A White House
speechwriter working on Obamaâ€™s Egypt speech called several faith leaders to
get their thoughts. After the White House unveiled its budget in April,
officials convened a two-hour conference call with religious leaders to discuss
how the spending plan would help the poor.
â€œPresident Obama is a committed Christian, and heâ€™s being true to who he
is,â€ DuBois told POLITICO. â€œThereâ€™s an appropriate role for faith in
public life, and his remarks reflect that. And they also reflect a spirit of
inclusivity that recognizes that we are a nation with a range of different
religious backgrounds and traditions.â€
Still, it is ironic that Obama, who rode a wave of young, Internet-savvy and
more secular voters to the White House, would more freely invoke the name of
Jesus Christ than did Bush.
In his first year as president, Bush mentioned â€œJesusâ€ or â€œChristâ€ a
handful of times â€” but only in innocuous contexts, such as his Easter
proclamation, a Christmas message and a proclamation on â€œSalvation Army
To be sure, Bush talked openly about his faith. On the day of his second
inauguration as governor of Texas, Bush reportedly told Richard Land of the
Southern Baptist Convention, â€œI believe that God wants me to be president.â€
As a Texas governor running for president, Bush declared in a presidential
debate that the philosopher he most identified with was Jesus.
And in an interview for Bob Woodwardâ€™s 2004 book â€œPlan of Attack,â€ Bush
was asked whether heâ€™d talked to his father, the President George H.W. Bush,
about the decision to invade Iraq.
â€œThere is a higher father that I appeal to,â€ Bush said.
But there are different political imperatives driving the two presidents. Obama
has every incentive to broadcast his Christianity, while Bush, for other
reasons, chose to narrowcast his religious references to a targeted audience.
For Obama, Christian rhetoric offers an opportunity to connect with a broader
base of supporters in a nation in which 83 percent of Americans believe in God.
Whatâ€™s more, regularly invoking Jesus helps Obama minimize the number of
American who believe he is a Muslim â€” a linkage that can be politically
damaging. According to a Pew Research Center study, 11 percent of Americans
believe, incorrectly, that Obama is a Muslim; itâ€™s a number that is virtually
unchanged from the 2008 presidential campaign.
Yet Obama has targeted his messages, too. He used speeches in Turkey and last
week in Egypt to highlight the Muslim relatives in his past as a way to draw a
connection with his Muslim audiences â€” something he shied away from during his
For Bush, invoking Jesus publicly was fraught with political risk. He was so
closely politically identified with the Christian right that overt talk of
Christ from the White House risked alienating mainstream and secular voters.
Bush instead quoted passages from scripture or Christian hymns, as he did in his
2003 State of the Union Address when he used the phrase â€œwonder-working
power.â€ That sort of oblique reference resonated deeply with evangelical
Christians but sailed largely unnoticed past secular voters.
To some, the difference between the two presidents goes beyond rhetoric. David
Kuo, a former official in Bushâ€™s faith-based office who later became
disillusioned with the president he served, worries that both men have exploited
religious phraseology for political gain. â€œFrom a spiritual perspective,
thatâ€™s a great and grave danger,â€ he said. â€œWhen God becomes identified
with a political agenda, God gets screwed.â€
And he suspects that Obama has an even larger goal: the resurrection of the
largely dormant Christian Left, a tradition that encompasses Martin Luther
Kingâ€™s civil rights leadership and dates back as far as Dorothy Day, the
liberal activist who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement in the 1930s.
Recast in 21st Century terms, that long-dormant stream of American political
life could become a powerful political force. A Pew survey released May 21 found
that even as Americans remain highly religious, there has there been a slow
decline in the number of Americans with socially conservative values â€“
especially among young voters. That creates an opening for Obama, especially at
a time when some conservative evangelicals are telling pollsters they are
frustrated and disillusioned with politics.
â€œIn the long term, this could be huge,â€ said Stephen Schneck, director of
the Life Cycle Institute at The Catholic University of America, who is active in
left-leaning political efforts. â€œThere are swing Catholics and swing
Protestants even within the evangelicals. To the extent Obama can mobilize those
people as part of a new Democratic coalition, that marginalizes Republicans even