Worldview WeekendCliff Kincaid
When questions came up during the campaign about Barack Obama's religious affiliation, his aides flatly asserted that he was a "practicing Christian" and was "baptized" in the Trinity United Church of Christ. However, some of the same questions have come up again in the wake of opinion polls finding people confused about Obama's religious identity. Our media cannot understand the confusion.
For most in the media, it is cut-and-dried: Obama is a Christian. People who don't believe it are dumb or misled.
But calling yourself something is not the same thing as proving it is the case. This claim deserves to be scrutinized, even when it involves a sensitive and personal matter such as religious belief.
Unfortunately for Obama and his backers, the same Obama campaign apparatus which claimed that he is a baptized Christian asserted that the mysterious "Frank" in Obama's book, Dreams from My Father, was just a black civil rights activist. It turned out that "Frank" was Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist Party member under surveillance by the FBI who served as a mentor for a young Obama in Hawaii. The 600-page FBI file on Davis even suggests he was an espionage agent on behalf of the Soviet Union.
Dupes, a forthcoming book by Professor Paul Kengor, promises to take another close look at Obama's Frank Marshall Davis connection.
So what the Obama presidential campaign says about Obama's religious affiliation is not something to be taken at face value. They have a vested interest in making Obama look more acceptable to the American people.
As President, he has gone to church only a few times, which undermines the claim that he is a practicing Christian. People see him playing golf on Sunday; they don't see him going to church.
In fact, however, being a Christian is not just a function of attending church services. Rather, it is related to being baptized. Did this critical development occur in Obama's life?
In this context, it is important to take a look at what Obama's own books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, say about the President's religion, or lack thereof.
He acknowledges in Dreams that his grandfather was a Muslim (page 104) and that he spent two years in a Muslim school in Indonesia studying the Koran (page 154). In The Audacity of Hope, he says (page 204) that "my father had been raised a Muslim" but that by the time he met his mother, his father was a "confirmed atheist."
His stepfather was not particularly religious and his mother professed "secularism," Obama wrote (pages 204-205), but as a child he went to a "predominantly Muslim school," after being first sent to a Catholic school. His mother, he said, was concerned about him learning math, not religion.
Obama's reference to being baptized is found in his second book, The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, not in Dreams, published in 1995. Obama wrote on page 208, "I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized."
Traditionally, Christianity teaches that baptism is a sacrament involving the use of water to signify acceptance of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Since Obama was not born and baptized a Christian, in order to become a Christian he had to enter into the sacrament of baptism some time later in life.
In this regard, Obama does not indicate anywhere in his books that he came into contact with what Christians regard as the "living water." Instead, he says that, in his baptism, he made "a choice," knelt beneath a cross, and "felt God's spirit beckoning." He said, "I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth."
This sounds like a powerful religious experience but it is not what Christians regard as baptism.
In Dreams from My Father, Obama discusses his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, noting that he had been "dabbling with liquor, Islam, and black nationalism in the sixties" but that "the call of faith had apparently remained" and that he went on to study religion, including "the black liberation theologians." For his part, Obama visited Wright to discuss membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ as an extension of his community organizing activities and the hope that he could get "involvement" in this effort from churches like Wright's.
As Obama contacted the churches and their ministers, he reveals that they thought he was a Muslim (page 279) or, he jokes, an Irishman, "O'Bama."
Obama talks about hearing a Wright sermon, "The Audacity of Hope," which inspired the title of his second book. However, there is no mention of any baptism in this-his first-book. The reference to being baptized came in the second book, as Obama was preparing to launch his presidential campaign. The timing is significant.
These are the facts as Obama himself reported them. So how have the media handled them? Needless to say, there has been no serious investigation into whether the claims are true and what they mean.
"Obama's religious biography is unconventional and politically problematic," Newsweek's Lisa Miller reported. "Born to a Christian-turned-secular mother and a Muslim-turned-atheist African father, Obama grew up living all across the world with plenty of spiritual influences, but without any particular religion. He is now a Christian, having been baptized in the early 1990s at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago."
The phrase, "having been baptized," is apparently based on Obama's claim about being baptized. Our major media haven't questioned the claim.
Miller went on to say, "His baptism presents its own problems. The senior pastor at Trinity at the time of Obama's baptism was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the preacher who was seen damning America on cable TVâ€¦"
Notice the formulation, "at the time of Obama's baptism." She carefully does not say that Wright performed the baptism. In fact, there's no evidence it was a baptism in the traditional sense that it was performed by Wright or anybody else. It looks like Obama walked down the aisle and made a profession of faith. That is not a Christian baptism.
The Canada Free Press published a very interesting article in February by Madeline Brooks, who asked, "Where is the baptism certificate? We do not see one because there was no baptism. That central part of Christianity was not required at Obama's former church, the Trinity United Church of Christ, during the years Obama attendedâ€¦"
She cites the research of a pastor, Usama Dakdok, who had called Obama's church to ask about membership:
"Do I have to be baptized to join the church?" asked Pastor Dakdok. "No, you don't," was the answer. "You can be a member without being baptized."
"And what exactly is required to become a member?" The answer: "You attend two Sunday school classes in a row about membership, and then you walk the aisle."
Walk down the aisle? That sounds exactly what Obama described in his book. This is how one becomes a member. But it is not a baptism into Christianity.
"I called the Trinity United Church of Christ and they confirmed that baptism is merely optional for members," Brooks added.
Pastor Dakdok reports that he also asked a spokesperson for Trinity, the membership director:
"If I am a Muslim man, and I believe in the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, but I also believe in the prophet Jesus, do I have to give up my Islamic faith to join your church?"
The answer was, "Absolutely not! We have so many members of our church who are Muslims."
Dakdok asked the Trinity spokesperson, "Is that how Senator Barack Obama became a member?" The membership director of the church refused to answer.
Madeline Brooks calls this "Muslim Christianity," which she says is theologically impossible.
In fact, the contradictions don't end there. Obama's pastor for 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, could be described as a "Marxist Christian," which is also theoretically impossible, since Marxism is materialistic and atheistic. Yet, as we revealed last November, Wright gave a speech in which he praised Marxism and faulted the media for claiming that communism and Christianity were somehow opposed to one another.
So the question regarding Obama is not just whether he is a Muslim but a Marxist, based not only on his attendance at Jeremiah Wright's unusual church but the influence exercised over him during his growing-up years by Communist Frank Marshall Davis.
Dakdok, who was brought up in Egypt, a Muslim country, is adamant that Obama is a Muslim, based on the fact that his birth father was a Muslim and that there is no evidence that Obama ever specifically rejected Islam. Christian radio host Brannon Howse interviewed Dakdok, at the urging of conservative columnist David Limbaugh, brother of the national talk show host, Rush Limbaugh. Dakdok was also interviewed recently on Stacy Harp's Christian radio show. He speaks around the country in front of Christian audiences.
While Obama may have been a Muslim by birth, that doesn't mean that he accepts the Muslim faith or philosophy. Instead, Islam may be seen as just another religion/ideology that can be used for his own political purposes.
The case for Obama being a Marxist is far more convincing. He was exposed to Marxist ideology in church under Wright, as well as from Frank Marshall Davis.
The American people now seem to get it, even though the truth about Obama's relationship with Davis has never been thoroughly explored by the major media. A poll from the Democracy Corps, a Democratic Party firm, found that 55 percent said that Obama could accurately be described as a socialist.
This is far more than the number of people who see him as a Muslim.
If and when the media start examining the Frank Marshall Davis connection, the "socialist" label could take on more sinister connotations.
This is why, of course, they will avoid it.
Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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