Tom Foreman | BIO
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/19/c1main.obama.church.gi.jpg caption="President Obama speaking in a Washington church earlier this year." width=300 height=169]
President Obama has a problem with faith. Mind you, I did not say a problem with HIS faith. He is a Christian and has made that clear. His trouble lies in the public’s perception of his faith, because steadily growing numbers of voters are buying into the myth that he is a Muslim.
A new study from The Pew Research Center has found that one-in-five Americans now think he worships in a mosque, a sharp increase from Inauguration Day, and the numbers who think he is Christian have declined just as steeply. You don’t have to be a professor of political science to realize in our post 9-11 America, this is not the sort of thing you want echoing over your party’s already difficult midterm election, let alone your own re-election hopes.
The question is why do people believe this?
As much as pundits made of George Bush wearing his Christianity on his sleeve, Barack Obama mentions God and faith more often in his speeches and town meetings than Mr. Bush did. He and his family picked out a church near DC to abundant headlines, and yet questions continue to hover over his faith like gnats at a summer picnic.
My theory is that three things have set up this problem.
First, many voters were never quite sure what kind of Christian he was to begin with. The uproar during the campaign over Rev. Jeremiah Wright (who was more of a flame throwing political activist in the minds of some churchgoers,) coupled with candidate Obama’s crack about people clinging to religion, clearly made even a lot of mainstream Christians a tad queasy.
Second, his outreach to the Muslim world came with a certain coolness toward more traditional allies, like Germany, France, and England, many of which are predominantly Christian.
And third, just like most presidents, he doesn’t actually seem to go to church often. That’s not a problem if you are Ronald Reagan and the Christian Right is standing beside you. But that crowd is not vouching for President Obama, and so he is largely alone in his profession of faith even as the Internet grumbles with rumors, and lies about his supposed secret Muslim identity.
So I’ll say it again. President Obama is Christian, not Muslim. But it might take a miracle to convince the rest of America that it’s true.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with