America's First Secular President?

president-elect-obama

 

Damian Thompson from the Holy Smoke blog in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper has declared Barack Obama as America’s first secular president.  Not far from being the truth some would say that Bill Clinton was pretty secular as well.  But I believe the point that Mr. Thompson was attempting to get across was the simple fact that the majority of church-going Christians voted for Senator McCain than did Senator Obama.  What is more revealing is that ‘Christians in name only’ voted overwhelmingly for Senator Obama.

The breakdown of voting figures in the US election indicates an extraordinary gulf between churchgoing and non-churchgoing voters. Barack Obama hoovered up the votes of non-churchgoers to an unprecedented extent: 65 per cent of them voted for him. I’ve thought for a long time that American agnostics and atheists are a growing force, under-represented in opinion polls. Obama will be their president.

 

He’ll also be the president of non-practising Catholics who, according to Beliefnet figures, voted 61 to 37 per cent for Obama. That’s no surprise: the Democrats were always the party of Catholics.

 

These are quite illuminating statistics that Mr. Thompson shares with his readers.

 

But look at the way practising Catholics voted: 53 to 47 per cent for McCain. That confirms the trend observed in 2000 and 2004, which some commentators thought was only temporary. We can now say, with some certainty, that devout Catholics are more likely to be Republicans than Catholics. As for churchgoing Protestants (most of them evangelicals), nearly two-thirds voted for McCain.

 

Mr. Thompson must be echoing my conclusions as well from a previous column.  

 

Obama is likely to be the first truly secular American president. Sure, he goes to church, but for many years the one he attended was little more than an outcrop of the leftist urban black community, in which he was as likely to hear political conspiracy theories as the Gospel from the pulpit. And his very strong support for abortion indicates that he has a profoundly secular attitude towards the sanctity of life.

 

America has certainly had relatively secular presidents in the past, but what distinguishes them from president-elect Obama is that they had a more correct and deeper understanding of Christianity. They were taught the Bible in elementary school, learned Latin and Greek, and considered attending a seminary as a serious option.  In the case of President-elect Obama, he has been enlightened by radical anarchists.

 

As for President-elect Obama being America’s truly first secular president, only time will tell.

27 Responses to America's First Secular President?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    His mother was a stone-cold atheist and I have always suspected that he is too. Certainly it is a more reasonable suspicion than to swallow his story that Jeremiah Wright led him to Christ. Obama is intelligent and I doubt if he would have confused what Wright was peddling with Christianity.

  • There have been plenty of secular presidents — what is perhaps more apropo is that Obama could be argued to be our first truly post-Christian president, both in terms of his philosophy and the base that brought him into office.

  • crankycon says:

    Blackadder’s right, but if I understand the author’s thesis, he’s talking about the voters and the not the candidate himself.

    I was thinking the same thing. Though I believe Thomas Jefferson had a much firmer grasp of Christianity than President-elect Obama does.

    It’s never a good thing to get me started on TJ, but he was fairly hostile to organized Christianity.

  • Gerard E. says:

    Obama ends the pretention about presidents and religion. Surveying the gents who held the office throughout our previous century, hard to pick out those who one would expect to occupy a church pew out of devotion rather than lookit me see how religious I am during campaigns. Jimmeh Carter is an obvious exception. I sense the lack of enthusiasm from most of you who just read that name. JFK was a hipper cooler kind of Catholic- more like James Bond than Devout Catholic Layman. Bush the Older, Ford, even the Gipper- liked talking to the Big Guy but maybe not formally. Nixon- way too weird. Slick Willie- snicker snicker. Say what you want about the late Jesse Helms, but he saw no need to frequent the Sunday morning chat shows that feature the same old secular humanists or say Nancy Pelosi mangling Catholic theology. Jesse really was in church. Would be fun to see if Rev. Wright becomes the Billy Graham for the new millenium. Stranger things are known to happen.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Utterly ridiculous….”

    Speculation on a President’s religious convictions is utterly ridiculous in what way? Or do you hold that the religious convictions of a leader plays no role in assessing how they will perform their duties and what policies they will adopt? Get used to this Mr. DeFrancisis. The election is over now and Obama is President Elect. Not only his adversaries will be asking probing questions about him now.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Mark,

    Where did you get that from the column and/or the postings?

    We at American Catholic wish President-elect Obama well. We will look forward to engaging him since he is willing to listen. We will in good faith work with him in order to achieve the common good.

    This isn’t the Huffington Post or Daily Kos.

  • People too often confuse liberal Protestantism with secularism. Both are rather indifferent to theology and tradition, both advocate abortion and feminism, both preach the “social gospel,” both complain a lot about low-church Evangelical Protestants, both talk like they think Jesus is a Democrat, if not a socialist.

    There are distinctions here. Arguably, secularism is liberal Christianity without God. Understand liberal Protestantism, and you understand a lot about secularism, but even then you must consider how differently they act with or without God.

  • In the case of President-elect Obama, he has been enlightened by radical anarchists.

    Huh??

    eople too often confuse liberal Protestantism with secularism. Both are rather indifferent to theology and tradition, both advocate abortion and feminism, both preach the “social gospel,” both complain a lot about low-church Evangelical Protestants, both talk like they think Jesus is a Democrat, if not a socialist.

    If you’re suggesting that black Christianity is a type of “liberal Protestantism,” you’re waaaay off. WAY off.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    “In the case of President-elect Obama, he has been enlightened by radical anarchists.”

    Instead of learning the classics, he learns from Jeremiah Wrigth and Bill Ayers that helped form who he is today. (as examples, that and declining state of the US public education system).

  • If you’re suggesting that black Christianity is a type of “liberal Protestantism,” you’re waaaay off. WAY off.

    Ah, but Trinity United is not a member of any of the historic Black Protestant denominations, and the UCC is pretty much a classic, White, liberal Protestant group.

  • cminor says:

    “Though I believe Thomas Jefferson had a much firmer grasp of Christianity than President-elect Obama does.”
    No doubt true, Tito, as a well-educated man of his day would have been–but based on my readings of some of his letters I’d say he also succumbed to some pretty flaky theology and questionable theories about Christianity. And his grasp of Christianity didn’t seem to dissuade him from an unseemly enthusiasm for the idea of violent revolt as political purgative.

    “Obama ends the pretention about presidents and religion.”
    Not sure how that works, Gerald–as far as I can tell the guy is a thorough secularist, yet he makes claim to being a Christian and seems to be able to quote chapter and verse when it suits him. Don’t know what to call that if not pretense.

    “If you’re suggesting that black Christianity is a type of “liberal Protestantism,” you’re waaaay off. WAY off.”
    Michael, while I make no claim to clairvoyance I think Kevin was suggesting Rev. Wright’s church is a type of liberal Protestantism–not really an arguable point if you ask me. I’ve lived most of my life in the South, myself, and it never occurred to me to view black Christianity as monolithic in anything except perhaps certain points of worship style. I’m not sure why you assume this view.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    CMinor,

    I agree on Jefferson’s ‘exploration’ of Christianity. He certainly had other influences that shaped his unique view on our faith.

    Zach,

    I believe there may have been other presidents that have been hostile, but I may be confusing anti-Catholicism with that.

  • Michael, while I make no claim to clairvoyance I think Kevin was suggesting Rev. Wright’s church is a type of liberal Protestantism–not really an arguable point if you ask me.

    It certainly is arguable if you know what the precise meaning of “liberal Protestantism” means from the perspective of theological studies and church history. Liberal Protestantism is precisely what black theologians like James Cone critique.

    I’ve lived most of my life in the South, myself, and it never occurred to me to view black Christianity as monolithic in anything except perhaps certain points of worship style. I’m not sure why you assume this view.

    I didn’t say anything about them being monolithic. Certainly they’re not monolithic.

    Maybe what they were trying to say is that Obama will be the first President to be actively hostile to religious activity in the United States?

    What evidence of this would there be?

  • S.B. says:

    Almost by definition, a UCC church would be the quintessential example of “liberal Protestantism.” Indeed, I was stunned when I first found out that there was a black UCC church — the UCC probably has fewer black people than any other denomination in existence. If not the fewest, they’re certainly in the running.

    Anyway, if Michael is interested in “black Christianity,” he needs to widen his experiences. People like TD Jakes, Creflo Dollar, etc., are much more representative of black churches in America.

  • Anyway, if Michael is interested in “black Christianity,” he needs to widen his experiences. People like TD Jakes, Creflo Dollar, etc., are much more representative of black churches in America.

    I’m responding, of course, to the charge that JEREMIAH WRIGHT’s particular church is a “liberal protestant church.” He is obviously influenced by theologians like James Cone and Dwight Hopkins and they are not part of the theological tradition of liberal Protestantism. They explicitly reject it.

    I know it’s hard for you, S.B. but try to respond to what I actually said.

  • S.B. says:

    Besides, after you concededly lied about my discussion of the Third World, you have no standing ever again to complain that someone is misreading you.

  • cminor says:

    “try to respond to what I actually said.”

    Well, I did, and you dodged, Iafrate.

    Your response to Kevin Jones
    “If you’re suggesting that black Christianity is a type of “liberal Protestantism,” you’re waaaay off. WAY off.”
    was a pretty obvious. attempt to change the argument. I don’t think you had any reason to assume that he was speaking about anything other than Obama’s specific church background (i.e. Trinity UCC) but you conflated the comment to encompass all of black Christianity. You then backpedaled from your own implication about black Christianity (i.e., that it was not liberal) although black Christianity encompasses many denominations and independent churches (to include some predominantly black urban Catholic churches) and certainly includes everything from the very conservative to the very liberal. I have to conclude that my comment about having never seen black Christianity as monolithic must have hit close to what you wanted to insinuate about Kevin, as your response was to deny having called them monolithic. Granted that you didn’t use that word youself: what you did, however, was to paint all of black Christianity as a single entity when it is not. I can only conclude that you did this because you could not adequately answer the point as it was presented.

    I believe a couple of the gentlemen responding above have already dispensed with the issue of whether Obama’s home church qualifies as a “liberal” denomination, so I won’t belabor that point.

    You might find your arguments are better received by readers here if you will subscribe to some basic principles of integrity in argumentation. Personally, I’m raising my third and fourth teenagers and am neither fooled by nor have much patience for standard adolescent dirty debate techniques, especially coming from adults.

  • To clear things up, I did indeed have Obama’s UCC affiliation in mind when suggesting he’s a liberal Protestant, though it’s clear his former church is almost sui generis.

    It is possible that American religious disputes echo the Broad Church/Low Church or Modernist/Fundamentalist distinctions of Anglo-American history. Both groups formed in reaction to each other.

    Fundamentalist/low churchers cast aspersions on the piety of their fellow Protestants, while Modernists/Broad Churchers don’t share their disputants’ style of vocal religiosity and look upon them as zealots.

    I’m not a scholar of this, so if my betters can correct me I welcome it. If my descriptions are generally accurate, their influence on American Catholicism would be quite a topic for study.

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