Obama brushes off critics who question his faith
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
February 04, 2011

Obama brushes off critics who question his faith

Obama brushes off critics who question his faith
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
February 04, 2011

WASHINGTON — President Obama spoke at length Feb. 3 about

the daily contours of his Christian faith, brushing off the skeptics who

question the authenticity of his beliefs.

“My Christian faith … has been a sustaining force for me

over these last few years, all the more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned

from time to time,” Obama told thousands of political leaders, diplomats and

religious officials at the National Prayer Breakfast.

“We are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what

other people say about us but whether we are being true to our conscience and true

to our God.”

The president’s remarks come in the wake of polls that

showed Americans harbor persistent questions about Obama’s faith, with one in four

thinking he is a Muslim, and 43 percent unable to say which faith he follows.

His Feb. 3 speech reflects a renewed emphasis on faith in

the president’s public remarks, as when he spoke at Christmas of the birth of

Christ being “a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians,” and said

the Christmas story “guides my Christian faith.”

As the son of parents who largely shunned organized

religion, Obama said he was influenced by clergy of the civil rights movement,

including the late Martin Luther King Jr., and leaders of the Jewish, Muslim and

Hindu faiths.

As a community organizer working with churches on Chicago’s

South Side, Obama said, “I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him

as my Lord and Savior.”

Obama said he is supported by the prayers of well-known

religious leaders and countless unknown grass-roots supporters. He has prayed

in the Oval Office with “pastor friends” like megachurch leaders Joel Hunter of

Florida and Bishop T.D. Jakes of Dallas, and enjoys “consistent respite and

fellowship” in the chapel at the Camp David presidential retreat.

White House photo by Pete Souza

President Obama gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 27, 2010. Since polls have questioned his faith, Obama has been more vocal about his Christian beliefs.

He said his children’s godmother has organized prayer

circles across the nation to pray for him.

“Once I started running for president and she heard what

they were saying about me on cable, she felt the need to pray harder,” he said.

“By the time I was elected president, she says, ‘I just couldn’t keep up on my

own. I was having to pray eight, nine times a day just for you.’ So she

enlisted help from around the country.”

Obama said he prays in the morning for “strength to do right”

and at bedtime, “I wait on the Lord and I ask him to forgive me my sins.”

He also joked that his prayers have shaped his life as a

father and husband.

“Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first

dance, where there will be boys,” he said of his older daughter. “Lord, have that

skirt get longer as she travels to that dance.”

Obama was greeted outside the Washington Hilton by a small

group of protesters who claim that some members of the evangelical organization

that sponsors the annual breakfast support harsh anti-gay laws in Uganda.

Obama did not mention the controversy, as he did at last

year’s breakfast when he condemned as “odious” proposed legislation in Uganda to

impose the death penalty on HIV-positive gays and lesbians.

The bill, which has not been voted on, was drafted by a

Ugandan lawmaker with ties to The Family, the evangelical organization that sponsors

the breakfast. On Jan. 26, prominent gay-rights activist David Kato was

murdered in his Kampala home after he and other “known homos” were displayed on

the front pages of a Ugandan newspaper.

“It is an absolute affront to my faith to say they stand for

Christianity and then to stand for hate and bigotry as well,” said one of the

protesters, Joey Heath, a second-year student at Wesley Theological Seminary in


(Richard Yeakley contributed to this report.)

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