The Rev. Billy Graham’s son Franklin appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning and told the nation he could not tell if President Obama were a Christian or not but then went on to assure the nation that both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were. Why that question should even have been posed in a nation that has no Constitutional religious test for office or citizenship is perplexing. The MSNBC hosts were simply giving the son of the great evangelist a chance to hit a slow fastball with no break on it right out of the park. Of course if you ask a Republican Conservative cleric if the President is a Christian he will question that. It was Graham’s partisan political duty to say he could not know about the faith of the President, even after Obama’s open avowal of it yet again in the National Prayer Breakfast Speech a few weeks ago. The President and his family go to church fairly regularly. Several times, when appropriate, President Obama has avowed his Christian faith. Abraham Lincoln preferred the theater and eschewed organized religion and did not even openly declare his faith at all though he no doubt deeply meditated upon questions of faith as evidenced by speeches and respected or as Christians have in the past phrased it, feared God. Thomas Jefferson tore out the portions of the Holy Bible he disagreed with and questioned Christ’s divinity.
This battle for liberals and anyone not in the conservative evangelical fold to be considered a disciple of Christ should not even be there before those of us who have that bit of empathy for the poor and the oppressed, and who seek justice not only in retribution for someone else’s earthly criminal transgressions but in doing what is good and right in regard to others. When the scriptures call upon believers in the book of Hebrews to build up the Body of Christ, meaning to support each other in maintaining and strengthening each other’s faith in Christ, I would have expected the young Reverend Graham to acknowledge Obama’s faith and express his hope the President would exercise it even more. But instead he went on to suggest President Obama was more likely a Muslim and was unconcerned about the deaths of Christians in the Muslim world. The President is concerned about the deaths of innocent humans anywhere on the globe as Jesus of Nazareth would be. It would seem by the same Holy Bible conservatives revere that it is up to God to judge the world and its inhabitants at the second coming of Christ. MSNBC is a premature place and the Reverend Graham is not qualified to make the judgment on over a billion and a half Muslims ultimate fate and to suggest they fill their time killing Christians.
With the continual attacks of conservative evangelicals on the faith of liberal Christians let me be the first to tell the readers of Struggles for Justice that I am most definitely not a Christian. Those people are intolerant and hate too much. I am however a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, and follow him and have accepted him as my Savior and the Holy Spirit into the depths of my very soul and have asked for his help in banishing Satan in all his forms from my presence. So far some Angels and the Spirit are doing outstanding work. So no, I am not a Christian if it means the kind of narrow hatred and bigotry toward even other professed believers in Christ. And what of a common humanity; a product of the Creator Spirit? We all have an ethical obligation to all of God’s creation even if we do not believe. We treat animals better than most humans. Think on that. Were I and just one other person on this Earth of this frame of mind we will, with God’s help, find each other and where two are more are gathered be in his presence and ask his blessings. Fortunately, I have found a number of people of like mind in my own church and we worship Jesus every week. If we do not have the approval of conservative evangelical Christians it is because we are not Christians in that sense ourselves. It would have been nice to see Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and so many conservative Christians recognize President Obama as a fellow believer as that is what God asks of us. We all fall short and I accept the Reverend Graham’s faith in Christ as I do that of Mr. Santorum and Gingrich even if I often am puzzled at their Christian witness in this world.
Over the weekend, Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh told an audience that the current debate over contraceptive health care for women has nothing to do with women at all. It is only a religious liberties issue. The statement struck me as odd. First, even if the issue is entirely and completely confined to that of religious liberty as Mr. Walsh suggests, when I last checked just over half of the American people were women, and women by law are citizens of the United States. Their religious liberty is of equal concern to that of men according to the Constitution of the United States and statute law made since its inception. So having only men scheduled to testify before a House committee looking into women’s contraceptive health services was puzzling in that there were several women on that very committee who desired to hear from at least one woman on the religious liberty issue presented to the committee. How that single woman would have expressed her views in testimony is not known fully in advance to the committee. It would appear that is one purpose of holding hearings in the House of Representatives and its many committees in the first place.
And then there is that small fact of life that the fundamental health of women is of concern to many of us: even those without Fallopian tubes and who do not produce ovum. Representative Joe Walsh’s Fallopian Tubes have yet to be located as of this writing and those five men who testified that day in committee seem to have left their femaleness at home before arriving in the hearing room. I do not pry into the reproductive health care decisions of my female friends and female relatives much. It is highly personal. But I do understand that if women were denied contraceptive health care in their insurance plans and if a Senate bill now moving through Congress were made law as Republicans hope any medical condition of any kind could be excluded from health coverage. Now the prostate gland set better sit up and take notice. Women’s reproductive health care impacts in so many ways their general health, and it goes far beyond pregnancy or avoiding pregnancy.
So no, I am no longer a Christian and am glad of it. I also do not pretend to speak with the final word on women’s health care. I too ask “where are the women?”
Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
for Struggles for Justice