Why Republicans Don’t Think Obama Is Christian

Unaware of the presence of cameras, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gives the ill-advised Heil salute.

Alex Theodoridis, a political scientist at the University of California, Merced, conducted a survey last fall of Americans’ understanding of President Obama’s religious beliefs. Remarkably, he found that in response to the question, “Which of these do you think most likely describes what Obama believes deep down? Muslim, Christian, atheist, spiritual, or I don’t know,” 54 percent of Republicans said Obama is Muslim. Only nine percent said he is Christian.

Writing at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, Theodoridis elaborated:

The percentage selecting “Muslim” is notably higher than in other polls conducted on this topic. This difference likely depends on how the question is phrased.

Previous survey questions about Obama’s religion tend to sound like a pop quiz — such as “do you happen to know the religious faith of Barack Obama?” But by asking “what Obama believes deep down?” I was intentionally granting respondents license to stray from the pesident’s self-reported Christian faith. This reveals a prevalent willingness to distrust this pesident or categorize him as “the other” in terms of religion.

Of course, respondents could also be “cheerleading” — using a survey question to express their general dislike of Obama rather than a genuine view about his religious faith.

But, if these results were largely driven by anti-Obama cheerleading, we should expect more respondents, especially Republicans, to choose the very unpopular category of “atheist.” Relatively few do so.

Previous ruminations on the Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim theme have suggested various sources for it: ignorance, Fox News, racism, too much World Net Daily in your diet.

Theodoridis’ post was inspired by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s remarks that he didn’t know whether Obama is a Christian. But do other elected Republicans suggest that Obama is not only not a Christian, but a Muslim? I ran a search in the Congressional Record for recent floor speeches in which the word Islam or Islamic and the President appear. This is snapshot, of course, and the number of constituents who actually listen to these speeches is infinitesimal. But if elected Republicans aren’t afraid to question Obama’s religious commitments for the permanent record, think of what they might say to constituents in smaller settings, or the well that they are drawing from when they make remarks in Congressional sessions for which they receive no pushback, and in fact receive encouragement.

Republicans drew from recent conservative complaints that Obama refuses to say that Islamic State and other terrorist groups are “Islamic,” that he doesn’t take the threat of terrorism seriously, and he is insufficiently protective of American exceptionalism.

On February 24, 2015, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) said on the House floor that his constituents “shared with me their frustration at the ambiguous language from this administration in describing the evils of radical Islamist terrorism,” and that he himself has “grown weary at the timidity” of Obama, who “continues to be defensive, at best.” He went on:

At first glance, the silence appears to be passive or poor leadership. But I am inclined to believe that the President’s posture is not one of weakness but, rather, an intentional directive in both rhetoric and action. It appears that his promise to take our country in a fundamentally new direction is being played out in realtime. Instead of defending our liberty and our way of life, which is the most charitable in the world, our President seems to scoff at the belief that our country has been uniquely blessed by God.

I would be remiss today if I did not pause and remember our Egyptian Christian brothers in the recent barbaric attacks in Libya. ISIS murdered innocent husbands and fathers who clearly died for their faith and their beliefs.

Just this morning, we hear further reports out of Syria that Islamic State militants have abducted dozens of Christians, including women and children. Weeks prior, the President chastised the Christian community for getting on their judgmental high horses. Yet, in describing our martyred brothers from Egypt, the President refused to even utter the word, “Christian.”

The undermining of our beliefs has become an issue with this President.

Contrary to Walker’s statement, which echoes a claim circulating in conservative circles that Obama did not identify the Coptic victims of the Islamic State massacre as Christians, at last week’s summit on countering religious extremism, Obama noted that that Islamic State’s “slaughter of Egyptian Christians in Libya has shocked the world.” Notice, in Walker’s speech, the juxtaposition of the statement that Obama “seems to scoff at the belief that our country has been uniquely blessed by God” (i.e., he’s not a Christian) with his own remembrance of the murdered Egyptian Christians “who clearly died for their faith and their beliefs.”

Some of the floor statements come from ardent Christian supporters of Israel, who contrast Obama negatively with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a February 5, 2015 floor speech, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) called Netanyahu “one of the most prescient voices that we have in the entire world to address some of the subjects and some of the dangers that face the United States of America.” In contrast, Franks claimed, Obama “chooses to listen to these mysterious voices of those who did not vote in our Nation’s election,” yet “has sought to go after and silence” Netanyahu. (He did not specify whose “mysterious voices” were whispering in Obama’s ear.) Franks questioned whether Obama is “so naive or, worse, so arrogant as to believe that we can have any type of credible, diplomatic agreement” with Iran.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), in February 2, 2015 floor remarks, asked, “this administration also refuses to say that we are at war with radical Islam. There is so much sensitivity in the White House over its statements that one is puzzled to wonder: Why are they sensitive about calling terrorists ‘terrorists?'”

Hmm. Gotta wonder, right?

The next day in a floor speech, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), after describing atrocities committed by terrorists, added, “I guess if you are part of this administration, you shouldn’t consider that to be all that radical because this administration, under their watch, with Commander in Chief Barack Obama, had orders given to remove crosses from the chapels on our military installations.” (Gohmert repeats this claim, despite it having been debunked in 2013; the military, according to FactCheck.org, “has a longstanding policy against permanent religious symbols being attached to military chapels.”) In the speech, two days before the National Prayer Breakfast, Gohmert noted Obama’s upcoming appearance, adding, “I am greatly appreciative of the President’s espoused faith.” (emphasis mine).

In a January 14, 2015 stemwinder, after laying out a litany of Obama’s alleged sins in failing to recognizing “that radical Islam is a threat to our very existence and way of life,” Gohmert delivered a brief lecture on how Christians are supposed to act (and govern):

I have Christian friends that say: Yes, but as Christians, we are supposed to turn the other cheek. That is as individuals. Individual Christians should live out the beatitudes as Christ gave them. But the government has a different role. If you do evil, you should be afraid because the government, within the bounds of Christianity–Romans 13:4–is supposed to punish the evil, eliminate the evils, and protect your people. I don’t try to convert anybody using my position in government, but for those who misunderstand Christian teaching, you need to read Romans 13.

Romans 13 is about submission to governmental authority, and the particular verse Gohmert cited reads: “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” In other words, Obama isn’t punishing (purportedly Islamic) wrongdoers; he therefore doesn’t understand what Gohmert believes to be biblical imperatives for governing. Draw your own conclusions.

Of course Poe, Franks, and Gohmert represent the far right flank of their party, but their fellow Republicans don’t dispute them. As Theodoridis theorizes, Scott Walker is a “moderate” on the spectrum of misrepresenting Obama’s religion because he merely said he didn’t know whether Obama is a Christian. But you could argue that Poe, Franks, and Gohmert never explicitly said Obama is a Muslim. Yet according to Theodoridis’ research, a majority of Republicans think he is.

  • Jim Reed

    Why do Republicans still care about this? They only want to poison the well for the next election, and Obama is not running.

  • Jim Reed

    Maybe it is momentum. They have been hating Obama for all this time, so they might as well continue to the end. Then there won’t be any questions about why they changed.

  • “Of course Poe, Franks, and Gohmert represent the far right flank of their party, ” Don’t be so sure of that. From where I sit, they get the most attention, pass the most bills, and get the citizens of the United States, who are also part of the the Republican Party, to vote certain ways. There are MANY in Congress who believe the way these fools do, but wont speak up for fear of loosing elections. I have found many Democrats over the last few years, in Congress, to vote just like Tea-Party folks, this beyond the “Blue Dogs” I am speaking of the Majority of those in my state Democratic Party of Massachusetts. The only reason why we have our current mayor is because the 1% only makes up 1%. The local papers, last mayor, Democratic districts, etc… ALL voted for the Democrat who was running who was even getting money from those with Mitt Romney and Karl Rove ties, and was said to be the Republican Party’s dream mayor of Boston. Well gladly, he did not win, thanks again to, the 99%-ers of Massachusetts, who don’t wipe their asses with $100 bills.

  • whitemellon

    I highly suggest the above referenced World Net Daily’s (Wing Nut Daily) comment section for a peek at America’s underbelly. One comment is about all you get if your not in agreement with the vitriol but still it’s worth a visit.

  • Don

    Such gooey hooey lies deep within them.

  • GeniusPhx

    I dont know if Poe, Franks, and Gohmert are the farthest right but they are the loudest. They are the anthony weiners of the republican party.

    Christians want Obama to openly prefer christianity and say this is a christian nation. It isnt and never was, Obama knows that. We weren’t founded for religious freedom, there was no religious freedom in most colonies. Only about 10% of the population belonged to any church, and religion was more relaxed and non judgmental.

    By law, the president cannot come out and prefer one religion over any other, or prefer religion over irreligion, per the supreme court. He’s doing a great job of that.

  • Jim Reed

    If you go by self reporting, then you have to admit Obama is a Christian. If there is some other way to measure it, then I would think nobody is a Christian because how could anyone match up to what is a set of contradictions and crazy ideas?

  • hockeydog

    He gives too much to the Islamic faith not to be muslim himself. His family in Kenya are muslim.

  • Craptacular

    “ISIS murdered innocent husbands and fathers who clearly died for their faith and their beliefs.” – Mark Walker

    As opposed to the “collateral damage” deaths caused by US drone strikes? Did those “innocent husbands and fathers” (and women and children) not die for their faith and beliefs? Or do only christian deaths matter? Or perhaps those people were simply killed by American exceptionalism?

    The GOP and their talking heads don’t really care what religion Obama is, they just need to disparage him in an attempt to keep playing up the fear to divide Americans along religious/racial lines. They get very good traction in certain demographics and will continue to use this tactic until it no longer garners them enough votes to get into office.

  • bmk

    Christians are defined by (1) being anti-abortion, (2) being anti-gay, and (3) being anti-evolution. Obama is none of those things. Therefore, Obama is not a Christian.

    But it’s still unclear why that makes him a Muslim, as opposed to an Atheist or Buddhist or Pastafarian. The constant xenophobic fearmongering over Islamic terrorists is one possible explanation, but I don’t find that convincing — after all, we’ve had long-running scares over “secularists” and the Wars on Christmas and Easter, not to mention public crosses and nativity scenes and monuments to the Ten Commandments. So why not “other” Obama by linking him with those secular progressives, who are — according to Bill O’Reilly — trying to destroy America?

    Sadly, I think that the only explanation that makes sense is race. The public face of atheism/secularism is predominantly white; the public face of Islam is predominantly brown. And Obama gets lumped in with the category that more-or-less fits his skin color.

  • fiona64

    Well, of course he’s Muslim; his skin is brown! /sarcasm

  • Rmj

    So, a majority of Republicans think Obama is a Muslim, rather than an atheist (which supposedly should be the default, if Obama is so much not a Christian as to be a non-believer), because there is so much talk among certain Republicans about how Obama is not enough of a patriotic American or supportive of Christianity (even when the evidence for that non-support is spurious)?

    And why do they think he’s a Muslim? Probably because of the drumbeat of stories about how we are (although officially we aren’t! None dare call it what we mean) at war with Islam (which is a very stupid idea, but that’s the point here). Obama is not just “other,” he is “enemy.” The majority of Republicans don’t think Obama is not Christian (as the headline says) which could mean just “atheist,” they think he’s Muslim (as the last sentence says), which means enemy. He is not the Manchurian candidate, he is the clear and present danger. He is Mary the Catholic ruling over Protestant England, and about to make apostates of us all.

    Why do the majority of Republicans think Obama is a Muslim (to restate the headline as the proper question)? Well, it’s not about race, is it?

    Because it’s never about race…..

  • Jim Reed

    Today things are changing and Obama is the Savior because he gave us net neutrality.

  • Samuelh73

    1. What do you mean “he gives too much”? Gives what? Money, attention, gifts, a hard time? And so what if he does? It doesn’t automatically make him part of that group. I know some politicians give too much attention to industrial interests; that doesn’t make them industrialists.

    2. “His family in Kenya are Muslim.” First, this is a crude attempt to form a parallel. Second, it means absolutely nothing. My family in Kentucky is Christian; does this make me Christian? Absolutely not.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Just a note: Christians are defined as….(fill in the blank). Please refrain from using generalizations in nouns. I am a Christian tired of black and white definitions. Its simply not accurate. A lot of us are not anti your terms. Quite the opposite -and we are actively working to change those three issues mentioned. Inclusive social justice is to us the Gospel.

  • grannygrey50

    Sorry, but the idiots from Texas, didn’t learn anything in their required classes obviously. They are of an age where they were REQUIRED to take either World History OR World Geography, and in both we taught a large segment on Comparative Religion, as directed by the STATE! It was actually a comprehensive view and no one was allowed to disparage other’s religions. I had one kid I threw out of class for disruptive behavior….and Biblethumping..every time we said the name of any other religion. I tried to remember if it might have been Goober..but it wasn’t.. That kid was told to ‘return to Living Stones School’ since he could not follow simple rules of manners; his parents got the hint.

  • grannygrey50

    Just got thinking…Goober is old enough he probably was in school in East Texas when they didn’t teach any of these subjects, as that area really doesn’t want anything to do with anyone else including most of Texas….Ejukashun just wasn’t needed…. I forgot that Texas tried to improve itself starting in the 70’s and worked at improving education until the early 90’s.. They actually had done fairly well until AFTER Miss Ann Richards..

  • Judith Maxfield

    Lets stir the pot: I almost wish Obama would declare himself an atheist or a “none” just so we could sit back and watch the fireworks from the wing nuts. We need a good laugh with all the other, more serious stuff going on. It they go over the edge, we can park them in the insane asylum and get on to business in the real world.

  • bmk

    I’m sorry I was unclear — I don’t agree with that definition at all. I was merely using it as an example of how circumscribed the “definition” of Christianity is when defined by political Conservative Christianity.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Thank you so much. Its hard to be on the Left side of American religion and culture. I’m trying to be forgiving with this stuff. There’s a lot of name calling and sarcasm involved from other voices, RD as well.

  • cgosling

    I am a non-believer who likes Obama. I concur with his policies, at least with what he intended, and believe he could easily be an atheist. But, there is no way he is a Muslim or Christian or any other religion. His political future would have ended long ago had he admitted he was an atheist. Obama proudly stands with Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Washington as being a freethinker and strongly supporting the separation of church and state. I suspect that Obama will eventually admit he is a non-believer when he is out of office.

  • NancyP

    It’s a hash of racism, xenophobia, desire to cast all non-“conservative evangelical Christians” as devils, and hatred of fact-based policy. Add to this a pride in being ignorant, and a strong desire to follow the lead of any chief bully that happens to be around.

  • NavyBlues05

    Do you think they have any idea of the number of Muslim slaves the “landed gentry” bought during the slave era? Muslims are as much a part of the founding fabric as whiskey makers.

  • Jim Reed

    When first running and at that Obama/Mccain trick question fest Obama said he thinks there can be multiple paths to salvation. That pretty much settles it. True Christians believe non-Christians are going to hell.

  • Argaman

    So does that mean that Catholics are not true Christians? The Catholic church has stopped teaching that “outside the church there is no salvation.”

  • Jim Reed

    Cool. You don’t have to be Christian. Can you explain a little more? Are there any requirements, or do you just need to live a good life?

  • CitizenWhy

    Repubicans are the best advertisement for abandoning Christianity.

  • CitizenWhy

    Christianity is clearly a religion of hate. So maybe Obama is not a Christian.

  • Maya Bohnhoff

    If I have to go by word and deed, then still I would have to admit Obama is a Christian. He exhibits the qualities I associate with Christ—a concern for others, care of the vulnerable, a sense of justice and equality, humility, a willingness to sit down with avowed enemies and treat them with respect even if they seem not to deserve it. The things that CHRIST has made the core of His teachings, the POTUS seems to exemplify in most of his words and behaviors. The things that his detractors vaguely insist are Christian values … well, it’s hard to tell because their principles are vague.

    I should note, too, that Jesus never said a word about American exceptionalism, so what that has to do with being Christian, I fail to see.

  • Maya Bohnhoff

    No, I rather think they’re the best advertisement for discovering and adhering to actual Christianity—meaning the teachings of Christ.

    Jesus speaks to this with total clarity in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:20-25): “…by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that Day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, ‘I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.’’

    What’s a Christian? According to Christ, it’s “…whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them…” I think He ought to know.

  • Maya Bohnhoff

    You have a very narrow experience with Christianity if you believe that to be true. Christ didn’t teach that (far from it) and not all Christians believe it.

  • Maya Bohnhoff

    Sorry, but as a person of faith myself, I see Mr. Obama’s words and deeds as being very Christian, if by Christian you mean someone who actually follows the teachings of Christ and does not, as Jesus Himself remarked, teach “as doctrine the commandments of men.”

    If I use the measure of Christ’s words and behaviors, then Mr. Obama is very much a Christian, whether or not he verbally professes to be one. But then, if I use the measure of Muhammad’s words and behaviors, the same is true. At the heart of both sets of faith principles is a deep concern for justice, an elevation of mercy toward the vulnerable, and a devotion to the needs of the community.

  • Maya Bohnhoff

    This makes no sense. He gives respect to Islam, certainly. If he didn’t, I’d be disappointed in him, for he is the president of all Americans, not just Christian Americans. But if he were a Muslim and openly so, so what? There is nothing wrong with being Muslim.

  • Jim Reed

    Jesus doesn’t determine what is Christian. The Christian church decides who is Christian, and that determines what they are like. Instead of associating goodness with Christianity, try associating goodness with being good.

  • Jim Reed

    The church spent decades and maybe centuries inventing and refining what Christ is. Whatever they finally decided on, it is much less important than what the church has been doing for these hundreds and thousands of years. People can do better when they try to concentrate on good progressive teachings wherever they find them, and forget the religious stuff.

  • Jim Reed

    Maybe rather than Christian or Muslim, he is a Democrat.,

  • Larry Brickey

    Muslims aren’t supposed to drink alcohol. Better inform Obama.

  • Honey Badger

    The far more telling answer is that nearly a plurality of Americans (republicans, democrats, and independents) answered “I don’t know” when asked about Obama’s religion.

    Probably many of those answers mean that people simply don’t know and/or don’t care. But certainly many others look at and observe the Obamas and honestly don’t know what, if any, religion they practice.

  • Honey Badger

    Muslims aren’t supposed to chop off heads and burn people alive. Better inform ISIS.

  • Honey Badger

    “But, there is no way he is a Muslim or Christian or any other religion.
    His political future would have ended long ago had he admitted he was an
    atheist.”

    Honest people can differ on this, but this seems the most likely answer to Obama and religion. He went through the motions for political reasons.

  • hockeydog

    I use to think like you. What’s wrong being a member of ‘The Religion of Peace’? Until I did a little digging.

    What would you say to this video?

    http://tinyurl.com/lqawd79

    There is no place for Islam in the 21st century.

  • hockeydog

    http://tinyurl.com/lxwy5wr

    The president met with leaders that have ties with Hamas and The Muslim brotherhood.

  • Murmur1

    Why Republicans don’t think.

  • Murmur1

    There is no “Christan church.” There are a lot of “Christian” churches. And Christians are individuals who follow the precepts of Christ, not necessarily members of any of the Christian churches.

  • Jim Reed

    “the precepts of Christ” is kind of sketchy. That just means every church will judge the way they want. I think the main thing we are learning here is there is no way to define Christian, or precepts of Christ. The religion is creating an illusion when it tries to claim it is something concrete.

  • Gregory Peterson

    “Conservative” Evangelicals aren’t suppose to drink alcohol either… more proof that he’s not a “real” Christian because they are, after all, the measure of all things, right?

  • Abide

    Christians know from a real heart-to-heart conversation with someone if they are a disciple of Christ or not. Our spirits bear witness with one another and we can pick up a thing or two along the way in public narrative, but I think it’s useless to draw any conclusions one way or the other when it comes to politicians – Republican or Democrat. Religion should be treated with enough reverence to not dirty it by bringing it into politics.

  • Jim Reed

    The heart to heart conversation is going to find those who are a theological match.