Time: Obama Decides to Declare No D.C. Church Home

June 29th, 2009 8:24 AM

Time’s Amy Sullivan, who worked tirelessly to sell Barack Obama as an acceptable choice for Bible-toting Evangelicals -- a choice that most evangelicals didn't accept -- reported Obama has refused to pick a D.C. church as his religious home. In his latest move copying George W. Bush, he’s going to designate the Evergreen Chapel at Camp David as his official church. Now go away, she insists to people still disturbed by his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright.

She quotes Obama religion adviser Vashti McKenzie: "Everybody needs to just back off and settle down. Let him choose where he's comfortable, choose where he and his family are going to be spiritually fed, and then let it be his choice." Sullivan added her own "Amen."

Between the lines, a cynic can see all the political convenience on display: no flashy minister, and not much ministerial contact either:

Camp David's current chaplain, Lieut. Carey Cash, leads the services at Evergreen. If the White House had custom-ordered a pastor to be the polar opposite of Jeremiah Wright, they could not have come as close as Cash. (As it is, the White House had no hand in selecting Cash. The Navy rotates chaplains through Camp David every three years; Cash began his tour this past January.) The 38-year-old Memphis native is a graduate of the Citadel and the great-nephew of Johnny Cash. He served a tour as chaplain with a Marine battalion in Iraq and baptized nearly 60 Marines during that time. Cash earned his theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth — and, yes, that means Obama's new pastor is a Southern Baptist.

Cash and his wife also have five children, some of whom may find themselves acting opposite Sasha and Malia in the Christmas pageant. But if the experience of past Camp David chaplains is any guide, Cash won't necessarily have the opportunity to form a pastoral relationship with Obama. "We used to tell people our job was to run like a five-star resort," said Patrick McLaughlin, who was chaplain at Camp David from 2002 to 2005, in an interview with Religion News Service. "One of the things you value when you go on vacation is peace and quiet." His contact with Bush outside worship services, McLaughlin said, was "very little."

Obama clearly figured it would be hard for Republicans to attack him for making the same spiritual choice as President Bush. Republicans haven't made a big deal out of their presidents holding a church membership, although Democrats would snap a bit at Ronald Reagan not going out to church when the Moral Majority was in vogue.

The difference here is the same one the Amy Sullivans have always tried to obscure, regardless of the noxious Wright association: evangelicals and conservative Catholics can easily see that Obama's social liberalism on sexual issues, everything from abortion to transgender rights, is dramatically at odds with traditional religious values.