To commemorate President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office, U.S. News & World Report documented what it considers to be the "10 Most Important Obama Faith Moments."
Without defining what "most important" and "faith moment" mean, the magazine clearly showed the thesis and thrust of the article with this sentence: "Barack Obama has embraced faith in a more visible way than any other president in recent memory."
Given that statement, the top 10 list must contain rock-solid faith-stimulating actions by Obama, right? You decide. Here is the list and my thoughts on each item:
"1. Rick Warren's Inauguration Day Invocation." I'll grant Obama and U.S. News & World Report that this was a significant "faith moment," though maybe (as I discussed in a previous column) it wasn't significant for all the right reasons.
"2. Granting First TV Interview to Arabic Language Network." I would call this more of a "diplomatic moment" than a "faith moment" despite the fact that the majority of the Arab world is Muslim.
"3. Reversing Mexico City Policy on Family Planning Providers Abroad." Since when is subsidizing other nations with federal funds to provide more abortions a "faith moment"?
"4. Opening Rallies With Prayer." To describe six simple invocations as "a big step further in embracing religion" in comparison with George W. Bush's practice of starting Cabinet meetings with prayer and encouraging Bible study groups at the White House reveals the author's clear political bent.
"5. Launching White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships." Could the advances of this "faith moment" suffer a horrendous reversal when Obama's administration finally deals with its postponement of the issue of whether to demand these federally funded groups hire leaders from outside their faith traditions?"6. Convening a Faith Advisory Council." While this council has external appeal, it represents little more than another bureaucratic piece of red tape and another way the long arm of government is weaving into the fabrics of our religious practices.
"7. Joe Biden's Receiving Ashes on Ash Wednesday." With all respect to Biden, to think that the vice president's participation in Lenten church services should be classified as a faith moment of Barack Obama's borders on comical.
"8. Lifting Restrictions on Federally-Funded Embryonic Stem Cell Research." Like No. 3 -- on expanding international abortions -- to include the lifting of restrictions for federally funded embryonic stem cell research in this list is ludicrous.
"9. Announcing Plans to Give Notre Dame's Commencement Address." I would agree with this if Obama had said he would speak at the baccalaureate Mass, but he's giving the commencement address.
"10. Speaking to Muslim World From Turkey." This should be the No. 1 non-faith, or secular, moment of Obama's first 100 days, for he skirted our religious makeup and heritage.
If my math is correct regarding this U.S. News & World Report article, the preceding "10 Most Important Obama Faith Moments" include two instances in which Obama encouraged Muslim relations and Islam around the world, two cases in which he increased the number of terminations of human lives, one nonreligious speaking engagement he committed to making at a university, two acts of his that promoted community development, six events of his that included invocations, and one instance in which religious soot was seen on the forehead of the vice president.
It's strange how or why the magazine left out of its list that Obama proposed to limit tax deductions for charitable contributions. And what about Obama's request for Georgetown University to cover a monogram symbolizing Jesus' name when he gave an economic speech there?
I can think of a title that suits the majority of entries in this article much better: "10 Most Important Obama Faith Mashings." (I wonder whether U.S. News & World Report or any other major news magazine would run that article or my op-ed?)
Regardless of where one lands on Obama's religious actions, there's a real faith moment coming up this week, and we need it more than ever. It's the 58th annual National Day of Prayer, Thursday, May 7, with events in your neighborhood. It could be one of your and America's most important faith moments this year.