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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The President and Religious Language

Thomas S. Kidd writes in USA Today:

Earlier this fall, President Obama repeatedly misquoted the Declaration of Independence, saying "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights." Why leave out the "Creator"? Doing this once would have gathered no notice. Twice, and the grumbling began. Three times, and people began to wonder whether he had made a conscious decision to reword this founding document, presumably for the purpose of political correctness.

Apparently, the president has heeded such criticism. Adelle Banks writes in The Christian Century:

When President Obama lit the National Christmas Tree behind the White House last year, he spoke of a "child born far from home" and said "while this story may be a Christian one, its lesson is universal."

This year, Obama referenced that same "child born far from home," but added a more personal twist: "It's a story that's dear to Michelle and me as Christians."

Three days later, at a Christmas benefit concert, the president again talked about how the story of Christmas "guides my Christian faith."

What changed? For one, three separate polls in the past year have found that one in four Americans think the president is a Muslim, 43 percent don't know what faith he follows, and four in 10 Protestant pastors don't consider Obama a Christian.

Timothy Sherratt, professor of political science at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., said lingering questions about Obama's faith, as reflected in the polls, probably played a role in the latest language.

"Some of that, one would think, has to be in the back of his mind," said Sherratt, who taught a class this semester in political communication at the evangelical college. "Where there's ambiguity, it's always tempting to bring more clarity."