Obama's Faith Problem

Posted: Dec 26, 2011 12:01 AM

Christmas is a time when many Americans reflect on the many blessings enjoyed by each of us in this great nation. Churches and synagogues are full as Americans, of all faiths, take time to pause and consider the meaning of our lives and our responsibilities to others. What a pity that our President does not participate in these simple acts of faith! Our nation would be better if he did.

There has been much ink spilled over President Obama's belief in God (or lack thereof), in the strength of his faith, in questioning what his faith is ( Christian, Muslim, other ?), and wondering what church he attends/ will attend. After almost three years, Americans do not yet have an answer to those questions. Nor are they likely to since Obama's calculating use of the clergy and religion is usually timed to garner a boost in the polls.

In deed and action, Mr Obama has actually projected a thinly disguised contempt towards people of faith, such as when he uttered his iconic "clinging to their guns and religion" speech during the 2008 presidential election campaign.

Our President is much like the fellow Narcissus, who, according to legend, was so in love with himself that he stared endlessly at his own reflection. Obama is a man quite full of himself and recently told Americans that he views himself as fourth on the list of great American Presidents-- a surprising list that doesn't include George Washington.

Meantime, Michelle Obama's Christmas gift to Americans was her comment to Barbara Walters about "putting herself as her first priority" which shows a narcissistic tendency but also a fundamental lack of understanding about the nature of public service and the "job" she signed up to as the First Lady of the United States.

Americans take great pride in American Exceptionalism. We are proud of this great nation, proud of our great history, proud of our unparalleled philanthropy as a nation, proud of our balanced, impartial system of justice, and proud of the American free market system which has made our nation so prosperous.

But, in our presidents, we prefer to see humility.

Think back on Arnold Friberg's great painting, George Washington in Prayer at Valley Forge. Or the insistence of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin that "God" be included in the Declaration of Independence. Or Abraham Lincoln's soaring, faith-based language in his Second Inaugural Address. Or Ronald Reagan's poignant speech after the Challenger tragedy, as they "slipped the surly bonds of earth to 'touch the face of God." And, despite political differences, after the tragedy of 9/11, Americans took comfort in the "quiet faith" of George W. Bush, tenacious and persistent in a time of war.

Americans, regardless of their faith, want presidents who recognize that our many blessings are bestowed and "endowed by our creator". We want to see presidents with their heads bowed with a bit of humility instead of being locked in a reflective gaze of their own image.