You've probably gotten an e-mail forwarded to you about it. If not, then maybe you've read what the pundits are saying about it. Or maybe-- just maybe-- you've been unfortunate enough to have an irresponsible church throw it in your face.
What am I talking about? The suggestion-- or even the outright claim-- that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or a terrorist, or the Antichrist, just because of his name and his heritage.
In case you haven't heard, there's a man running for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States whose name is Barack Hussein Obama. Obama is considered an African-American, though he is actually of mixed racial heritage. He himself has acknowledged that his name alone is a disadvantage: on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, Leno asked him if he felt like the underdog; Obama responded, "when your name is Barack Obama, you're always the underdog." Apparently when he was in high school and college, he (wisely) chose to go by "Barry" to reduce the ruthless, thoughtless teasing that immature adolescents would surely have subjected him to.
My frustration has been growing about the way people have made enormous assumptions about the man simply because of what he was named. It seems that, having grown out of the stage of ruthless, thoughtless adolescents, Obama now faces the more formidable problem of ruthless, thoughtless adults. This morning the "last straw" came across my screen: this article about a church that was short-sighted and foolish enough to put a political message on their sign. The message? Get ready... here it comes.
"Obama, Osama, hmm, are they brothers?"
Are you kidding? April Fool's Day was a few weeks ago, right?
I'll summarize the article for you. The pastor actually says the message wasn't meant to be racial or political. He just wanted to make people think. About what? About, "what could possibly happen if we were to get someone in there that does not believe in Jesus Christ," he said. He refuses to take the sign down, because he doesn't want it to appear that controversy made him do it.
Folks, let's get two things straight about this: first of all, it is unloving, presumptuous, and morally wrong to make broad-sweeping assumptions about someone simply because of their name or because of whom they are descended from. When this is done to those of Jewish ancestry, it is called "Anti-Semitism"-- and who wants to be called an anti-semite? Yet we have folks running amok with the same thing surrounding Barrck Obama.
Second, Obama has been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for 20 years. Why is everyone so concerned that he is a Muslim?
If you want to know what we should really be concerned about, here it is: how about the fact that the United Church of Christ has been creeping (and sometimes racing) toward a liberal theology for years, and they are by far the MOST theologically liberal denomination that is considered a "Christian" denomination. They are merely a few notches away from the Unitarian Universalists in terms of how far from orthodoxy they have wandered. If you want a concern about the candidate's religious beliefs, be concerned that he may be too soft and wishy-washy on matters of genuine orthodoxy.
But then ask yourself this: who would make a better president-- the one who is a firm, theologically-conservative Christian who is barely qualified for the office, or someone who is (take your pick: Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist?) of other religious beliefs but is immanently qualified for the job? Just as I would prefer an Atheist who was the best surgeon in the state over a mediocre surgeon who was a Christian, I would rather have a Muslim in office who is the BEST candidate than a Christian who was a poor candidate.
But that's a moot point, since Obama's not a Muslim. Neither is John McCain or Hilary Clinton. Since one of these will certainly be in the White House this time next year, I pray that the BEST candidate would be placed there-- and I trust that God is at work putting that in place.
Finally, a disclaimer: I realize there's a primary today, and this post is in NO WAY intended to be a statement intended to have an effect on that. (I don't even think any of my tens of readers are in Pennsylvania.) It was more a matter of timing: I read this story this morning and my "tipping point" was reached, I had to respond.