Obama

Black Mormons Face a Political Choice Like No Other

Twenty years ago, who would have predicted the 2012 U.S. presidential race would pit a black incumbent against a white Mormon?

"I’ve been black my whole life and a Mormon for 30 years and never thought either of these (candidacies) would happen in my lifetime," says Utah attorney Keith Hamilton.

"This is a day that all Americans should take some solace in — that things are changing. Regardless of who wins, this sends a message to our children."

Obama and the Two Types of Marriage

In the wake of President Obama's declaration of his personal support for the right of same-sex couples to marry under civil law, the nation is understandably focused on debating the merits of this position. Three related points from President Obama's announcement, however, deserve our attention as well.

First, President Obama noted that there is an important difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. The state defines civil marriage, which serves as the gateway for a wide variety of government benefits, rights and privileges. Religious marriage, on the other hand, is defined solely by religious communities.

These categories may be fuzzy in our minds because current law not only respects the ability of clergy and religious communities to define and bless religious marriage, it also allows clergy to solemnize civil marriage. That's why one often hears a minister conclude a wedding by saying, "By the authority vested in me by the state of X, I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Setting aside the oddity of a minister claiming the authority of the state rather than a higher power, the fact that the state allows clergy to bring a civil marriage into being does not mean it can require clergy to bless or recognize any relationship the state defines as civil marriage.

The Problem with Certitude

Image by olly / shutterstock.

As I've read and listened to Christian reaction in the wake of Obama's interview stating his personal opinion on same-sex marriage, I've been discouraged with the nature and tenor of the conversation itself. Specifically, I'm troubled by the way many Christians choose to take definitive and certain stances about complex issues, and the rhetoric they use to state and defend these positions, rhetoric that tends to divide rather than unite and close discussion rather than open it.



I'm interested in exploring what it is about the Christian religion, and perhaps more specifically, evangelicalism that results in such an approach.



I fully understand the attractions of certainty. From my study of C. S. Lewis I know that his popularity among evangelical Christians in the 1940s and 1950s was largely due to his style of certitude. Lewis was writing in a time where scientific discoveries and religious liberalism were challenging the assertions of orthodox Christianity. In a period of doubt and questioning, Lewis seemed to have a way of cutting through complex arguments and reaching a simple solution that was convincing to his readers.


Catholic Groups File Suit Over HHS Birth Control Mandate

Catholic demonstrator in NYC protests the HHS rule on contraception, March 23, 2012. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Dozens of Catholic universities, dioceses and other institutions filed lawsuits in courts around the country on Monday in a coordinated effort, spearheaded by the U.S. hierarchy and Catholic conservatives, to overturn the Obama administration’s contraception mandate plan.

The 43 plaintiffs, which include 13 dioceses and the University of Notre Dame, say the mandate forces religious employers to provide contraceptive and sterilization services to employees that violate their beliefs. They say that infringes on First Amendment religious freedom protections, and charge that the federal government’s exemption for religious organizations is too narrow.

TRANSCRIPT: President Obama on Food Security, Hunger and Foreign Aid

In advance of two days of meetings with G8 leaders at Camp David this weekend, on Friday morning, President Obama spoke to a gathering of international political and NGO leaders and activists in Washington, D.C. at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Thank you.  Well, good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Catherine Bertini, and Dan Glickman and everyone at the Chicago Council.  We were originally going to convene, along with the G8, in Chicago.  But since we’re not doing this in my hometown, I wanted to bring a little bit of Chicago to Washington.  (Laughter.)  It is wonderful to see all of you.  It is great to see quite a few young people here as well.  And I want to acknowledge a good friend.  We were just talking backstage -- he was my inspiration for singing at the Apollo -- (laughter) -- Bono is here, and it is good to see him.  (Applause.)

Now, this weekend at the G8, we’ll be represented by many of the world's largest economies.  We face urgent challenges -- creating jobs, addressing the situation in the eurozone, sustaining the global economic recovery.  But even as we deal with these issues, I felt it was also important, also critical to focus on the urgent challenge that confronts some 1 billion men, women and children around the world -- the injustice of chronic hunger; the need for long-term food security.

Watch live streaming video from thechicagocouncil at livestream.com

                                       WATCH PRESIDENT OBAMA AT 2:28:45

Voters See Brighter Future for Economy

The Hill reports on a new poll focussing on the country's economic prospects:

Voters are optimistic the economy will improve in the next year, but still hold doubts on President Obama’s economic policies, a new USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday finds. Likely voters in the U.S. think the economy is improving already, giving Obama an edge as the incumbent. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed believe they will be "better off" next time this year and 58 percent predict good economic conditions in a year.

Read more about the poll here

How Congress Can Hinder a Presidential Campaign

From yesterday's New York Times

"There is nothing a presidential campaign likes less than to be forced to answer for someone else’s actions. And yet President Obama and Mitt Romney are likely to face that challenge repeatedly during this election season as their allies and adversaries in Congress pursue agendas that do not always make things easy on the campaign trail."

Read the full story here

Obama and Gay Marriage: In U.S. Religion, the Golden Rule Rules

Open Bible,  Robyn Mackenzie / Shutterstock.com
Open Bible, Robyn Mackenzie / Shutterstock.com

As pundits and politicians struggle to divine the political fallout from President Obama’s sudden endorsement of same-sex marriage, one thing has become clear: The Golden Rule invoked by Obama to explain his change of heart is the closest thing Americans have to a common religious law, and that has important implications beyond the battle for gay rights.

In fact, one of the most striking aspects of Obama’s revelation on Wednesday (May 9) that he and his wife, Michelle, support marriage rights for gays and lesbians, is that he invoked their Christian faith to support his views. In past years, Obama – as many believers still do – had cited his religious beliefs to oppose gay marriage.

Obama told ABC News that he and the first lady “are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

One in Six Voters Still Think Obama’s a Muslim: Why?

RNS file photo courtesy Pete Souza/The White House
President Obama and his family pray during Easter services. RNS file photo courtesy Pete Souza/The White House.

After nearly four years in the Oval Office, President Obama is incorrectly thought to be Muslim by one in six American voters, and only one quarter of voters can correctly identify him as a Protestant, according to a new poll.

Voters do better identifying Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, according to a poll released Thursday (May 10) by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. A slim majority of voters -- 51 percent -- knows the presumed Republican presidential nominee is Mormon.

“Wow. He said it 100 times that he’s not a Muslim,” said Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, expressing surprise over the persistent number of American voters (16 percent) who make the mistake.

Is there something insidious behind the belief, a concerted attack to link the president with a religion that's considered alien -- or worse -- by some Americans?

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