A Post Christian Vision for Obama

November 26th, 2008 12:00 AM

Since his election, Barack Obama has spent the last three Sunday mornings skipping church and working out in a gym, according to Politico.com.

Well, he could do worse. The president-elect could take Washington Post religion maven Sally Quinn's advice and attend services at Washington National Cathedral. There, he would find so much lukewarm liberal hogwash that it might make him long for the conspiratorial but Biblically spiced rants of his old Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Quinn,  co-moderator of the Newsweek/Post On Faith online column, wrote an op-ed on Nov. 22, “A Church for the Obamas,” calling the National Cathedral “the perfect church for Barack and Michelle Obama to join.”

She's excited because the cathedral is replete with “pluralism” (read: moral relativism), according a place to all the world's religions, from Hinduism to Islam and even atheism.

As Quinn puts it, the cathedral “is at once deeply Christian and deeply interfaith.” There's something deep here, all right.

The National Cathedral, Quinn points out, is where the first female presiding bishop, Katherine Jefforts Schori, was inducted. A longtime practitioner of the faith of radical liberalism, Ms. Jefforts Schori is now busy presiding over the breakup of the Episcopal Church, as more and more Bible-based congregations are fleeing to the Anglicans.

Also on Quinn's all-star list of  cathedral inductions is New Hampshire's Vickie Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop. Robinson left his wife and kids behind for the gay life, which makes him the perfect “finding oneself” role model for what's left of the Episcopal Church.

Later, Quinn finds space in her op-ed to describe the pre-election “Jeremiah Wright episode” as “hopelessly misunderstood by most Americans.”  No, most Americans understood Wright all too well, which is why the media kept him out of sight.

But why stay inside Christianity itself, even with infinitely flexible contours? On Nov. 12, the National Cathedral hosted Deepak Chopra, the Hindu self-help guru. Chopra wrote a searing indictment of politically active conservative Christians in his Nov. 1 On Faith column, “Please Keep God Out of the Voting Booth.” Accusing conservatives of “seizing power,” Chopra gave a cartoon version of their supposed agenda: “God is against Roe v. Wade, God demands that our children pray in school; God condemns homosexuals to hell. It would have been more truthful simply to label themselves as the intolerance faction.”

This is what passes for tolerance in the Post's weekly On Faith corner, which more accurately should be called “Attacks on Faith.”  Only one faith comes in for regular attacks, though. Guess which one?   

On Oct. 25, in “Women Treated Badly in the Name of Religion,” Susan K. Smith, senior pastor of Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio, leveled both barrels against “religion.” Not the religion that denies women in some nations access to education or property rights and forces them under threat of beatings to wear black tents with only an eye slit. No, the real threat, she says, is the chauvinist Christian churches.

“Religion has done a good job of teaching us that a man is the head of house and home and that any good Christian woman will take what her mate gives out and keep her mouth shut,” Smith writes. “Religion has made women feel guilty about sex – a good woman just doesn't think about it (while the men do what they want)… Religion, as it has been taught, has made me wonder at times – just who is this God anyway that he/she would allow, ordain, sanction that women presumably created by him/her as well, be treated so badly in the name of religion?”

Sound like any sermon you've heard lately? Attention, men!  Do what you want and mistreat your wives!  Watch out, ladies! There's a Promise Keeper lurking with a lead pipe!

How about another dose of On Faith? On Nov. 8, Chicago Theological Seminary Prof. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite gave a victory cry in “Obama's Election a Step Toward Getting Back the Nation's Soul.” She concludes that since Obama won, America might be okay after all, even though “gay Americans did not fare well Tuesday in ballot initiatives designed to deny them their civil rights.” 

She's referring to the fact that voters in three more states, including 70 percent of African-American voters, who know a thing or two about “civil rights,” approved constitutional amendments protecting marriage God's way – as the union of a man and a woman.

In her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor explored the absurdity and ultimate tragedy of having a “church of Christ without Christ” -- trappings and religiosity without the core belief in Jesus as The Way, The Truth and The Life.

Getting back to the National Cathedral, it should be said that it is magnificent, right up there with Europe's finest. In addition to soaring heights and gargoyles, it sports a magnificent façade sculpted by the late Christian artist Frederick Hart. It's well worth a visit when the BraveNewChurch is not conducting its séances.

The dean of the National Cathedral, Sam Lloyd, says, “We are a place that welcomes people of all faiths and no faith.”  Post toastie Quinn points out that this echoes what Barack Obama opined two years ago. Here's what he said:

“Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation. At least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation and a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation and a nation of nonbelievers.”

I'm all for religious freedom and tolerance, but I don't think having a few Hindus makes us a “Hindu nation” any more than having some Wiccans around makes us a “Wiccan nation.”  The latest Pew poll, by the way, shows that 78.4 percent of Americans identify as “Christian.”

Perhaps Quinn is right. The Obamas, who sat under the Marxist-inspired black liberation teachings of Rev. Wright for two decades, might feel at home at the National Cathedral.

If they don't, it won't be because it's lacking in unorthodox theology.

 Robert Knight is the director of the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.