Is President Barak Obama a Christian or a Muslim? Is Glenn Beck a Christian or a Mormon? Is this columnist born again or just boring again?
In a Time Magazine poll conducted last month, 24 percent answered my first question saying they believe Obama is Muslim. Another 24 percent say they don’t know because they hear ambiguity in his faith. Many will quote his Chicago Sun Times interview where he generically declared, “I believe that there are many paths to the same place . . .”
In considering the second question, I hope Beck appreciates the idiom that “turnabout is fair play,” because even he is getting his faith pedigree questioned. In her posting on renewamerica .com, Beck supporter Marsha West poses the assertion of some fundamentalist groups that Beck is only “passing himself off as a Christian” and says her support for Beck is waning.
Ms. West continues her rant in saying that Beck “was baptized into . . . Mormonism, (and) is a member in good standing . . ., yet his focus is not on Mormonism but on Christianity. Mostly he uses Christian terminology, which is misleading. It would seem that Beck is a Christian. But how can that be?”
Like Obama and Beck, I, too, have had my faith questioned.
Years ago, during my days as a Baptist seminary student, I worked at a newspaper with a conservative Christian woman. I’ll not mention her abomination . . . whoops, I mean her denomination . . . but her church believes they have the only ticket to heaven.
For weeks this woman would whisk past me taking shots at me for not being born again. I called it drive-by evangelism because it was a bit like drive-by shootings except her shots didn’t leave a visible mark.
I tried to politely encourage her to agree to disagree, but she continued to spew her toxic theology in a way that caused me to finally say, “Look, I most certainly am a Christian. And short of a spiritual autopsy, you can’t
say that I’m not. So knock it off.”
That day I did what Obama and Beck have done on numerous occasions. I gave a testimony of my faith. And when someone gives their testimony, you have to accept their definitions of faith. The Bible gives some guidelines in helping us identify the genuineness of those testimonies when it says, “You shall know them by their fruits.”
The Scripture, however, doesn’t appoint any of us as fruit inspectors. The real issue is not what you are, but who are you.
Fortunately, 47 percent of those surveyed by Time take Obama at his word that he is Christian. And judging by the crowd in Washington last month, thousands of people accept that Beck also is a Christian.
Neither of these men are my personal flavor of faith. But that’s OK, because I recognize there’s a danger in proclaiming your faith is the only one that will pass eternal muster. The danger is that your faith becomes a joke.
We become the subject of the old joke about a tour group passing through heaven. Suddenly, the group stopped at the sound of beautiful music coming from the opposite side of a partitioned wall. “Hey! Who’s that we hear singing behind the wall?” yelled someone from the back of the group.
In a strong, breathy whisper, the tour leader yelled, “Shhh. That’s the Baptists and they think they are the only ones here.”
I suppose that goes to show you that some people’s idea of heaven is that they’ll be alone.
Not me. I want a variety of heavenly company. After all, wouldn’t you pay good money to see Obama and Beck go at it in heaven?
Oh, wait, never mind. I think political debates are housed in the hot place.
Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National Guard chaplain. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the chaplain.net. You also can follow him on Twitter, username is “chaplain,” or on Facebook at facebook.com/norrisburkes.