On Faith: Obama’s Muslim dilemma

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 10, 2010 — 3 Comments

My latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site is now up.

Here’s this week’s panel question:

President Obama’s 10-day Asia trip includes visits to India and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.  The president chose not to visit the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar during his time in India because it required a head covering that his advisers feared would fuel speculation about his faith. A Pew study showed that nearly 20% of Americans believe falsely that the president is a Muslim.

The more Obama reaches out to Muslims, the more his critics are likely to slander him,implying that he is not a Christian.  An example is his April 2009 speech in Turkey, in which he said, “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation, we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” The president’s critics have seized on that statement, insisting that he rejects the Christian foundations of America.  Is Obama stuck between a rock and a hard place? If you were the president, how would you handle this dilemma?

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

“When Obama says we aren’t a Christian nation, he isn’t negating Christianity’s role, for good or ill, in shaping our country’s history. Instead, he is acknowledging that we live in a secular, multi-religious society, where Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus, Humanists, and Christians must all learn to coexist and work together to face our nation’s problems. That secular democracy can work in a country teeming with religious diversity, with no one group (in theory) imposing its moral will on another. The kind of democracy some would like to see “exported” to the Middle East. The moment we abandon our secular democracy so we can call ourselves “Christian America” is the moment we lose any moral higher ground we might have on the world stage when it comes to negotiating with or combating theocracy. In India, where the president just visited, some want to officially make the country a “Hindu Nation” a prospect that worries many Christians and Muslims living there. If we cast off our secular robes, whats to stop India, or Turkey for that matter, from following suit?”

I hope you’ll head over to the site and read my full response, and the other panelist responses, and share your thoughts.

Jason Pitzl-Waters