Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Faith Quiz Not Helping the GOP

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Faith Quiz Not Helping the GOP

Article excerpt

When Scott Walker pronounced himself agnostic about President Obama's patriotism and Christian faith, it must have seemed like a clever formulation. "I've never asked him, so I don't know," he said.

Walker quickly found his pitch unequal to the presidential big leagues.

For Walker, this is more of a paper cut than a chest wound. But it can't be good for the Republican Party, which some Americans associate with religious exclusivity, for a front-runner to sound religiously exclusive.

Walker's Baptist upbringing -- he is the son of a pastor -- does put a particular emphasis on the personal acceptance of Christ. It was another Baptist governor, Jimmy Carter, who elevated the idea of being "born again" into the realm of presidential politics.

For evangelicals, there is no such thing as a birthright Christian. Faith requires a conscious and highly consequential decision -- a choice that some do not make.

But here Obama has been as forthright as anyone could be. "I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian," he said in a 2008 Christianity Today interview. "I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn't 'fall out in church' as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn't want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals."

Questioning this affirmation involves a serious charge -- an accusation of the worst sort of cynicism. And it is simply not the role of a Christian layman to publicly dispute the self- identification of other Christians. …

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