Monday, August 23, 2010

Does it really matter...

...if our current President, Barack Hussein Obama, is really a Muslim? There's been a lot of discussion about this lately both on news shows, internet news and even on blogs of friends of mine. I don't like to mix politics and religion here, but I'll chime in with my own thoroughly researched conclusion: DOES IT EVEN MATTER? In a word, no.

Of course, a lot of people says it does matter. They say that Obama professes to be a Christian but supports a lot of ideologies and policies that favor abortion, homosexual marriage, the mosque at Ground Zero, etc.. Well, it should be mentioned that if he does support the first two things--abortion and gay marriage (the third is not covered by church teaching nor should it be, imo)--he can still be a Christian just not a very traditional or, dare I say it, "good" Christian. One should also be reminded that Islam does not endorse those things either. So, if Obama were Muslim, he would probably be, in Muslim eyes, a "bad" Muslim.

Then comes the other argument that Obama's father is Muslim and that makes him a Muslim. Maybe according to Muslim law it does, but that still doesn't make him a practicing Muslim. I've known many Jewish people who are still considered Jews because of their mother's heritage but have never gone to their synagogue or lit the candles on a menorah or played the dradle or even had a Bar Mitzvah! They may consider themselves Jews or not.

But, to all this, I say it doesn't matter. Even Martin Luther said he would rather be governed by a virtuous pagan than a tyrannical Christian. I do not believe Obama to be virtuous in the least (his actions dictate otherwise), but I don't believe we should use a "Christian" litmus test for our leaders. Mitt Romney, who contended for the GOP nomination during the last election cycle, was repeatedly dogged by questions about his Mormonism and whether that should qualify or disqualify him from office. It's interesting that many people who say that Obama should "prove" his Christianity by going to church more seem to forget that Ronald Reagan, an icon among many Christian people in this people, rarely, if ever, went to a local church while he was President. I don't think his Christian credentials were ever examined.

Does going to church make you a Christian? A friend of mine wrote a piece about this and I disagree. I would say it helps you to be a Christian, but there are a great many examples of great saints who lived most of their lives in the deserts, repenting. They never set foot in a church and were maybe brought the Eucharist once a year, or maybe even once in their lives! Would we dare call such great saints as St. Mary of Egypt, St. Simon Stylites and other ascetics as anything but saints? God forbid! Though they had no access to a church building, they were still in the Church! I recall even reading an article once about an atheist who went to church every Sunday, sang in the church choir, participated in the church's charitable works, but still remained a staunch atheist and refused to believe. Yet, he went every Sunday. If the going to church=Christian test is true, this atheist was very devout!

The Church is a hospital. Inside the building, God is worshiped, the Gospel is proclaimed and the Mysteries distributed to the faithful. The church through Christ offers healing to those who want it. We Orthodox believe that the Church is the meeting of heaven and earth. Such beauty occurs that it can still cause people to wonder if they are on heaven or on earth as the emissaries of St. Vladimir to Constantinople once said, after witnessing the Liturgy at Hagia Sophia. Even with all the beauty and joy that comes from the Divine Liturgy, there are many Orthodox who come week in, week out, only because it's part of their heritage.

At the same time, why are we so concerned about Obama's religious affiliation? Perhaps if Obama were to claim that he was an Orthodox Christian, then maybe I'd take some more interest in it. However, there are plenty of Orthodox Christians in public service such as Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, the former Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland and even former Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis. None of these politicians I would vote for and I find their unwavering support for abortion rights to be sickening and in direct contradiction to church teaching. But I don't stay up every night worrying about it. I have my own salvation to work out with fear and trembling, as St. Paul says. Once I have done that, maybe then I can concern myself with the "Christian-ness" of others. And I shouldn't presume to do it now.

For those people who are worried about Obama's Christianity, I say "relax." Christ tells us with great assurance that "By their fruits, you will know them." If you heed that warning, then you can stay clear and work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

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