Righteous talk vs. righteous living

By Martha Woodroof Faith, worship and approval ratings . . . There has been a great deal written lately challenging … Continued

By Martha Woodroof

Faith, worship and approval ratings . . .

There has been a great deal written lately challenging President Obama’s faith and his leadership style.

He’s not obvious enough about being a Christian, folks say. How come he doesn’t talk about God more?

He’s not angry and opinionated enough to be president, say others. He’s not decisive. He spends too much time listening, compromising, consensus building to be a true leader.

So what does it mean to be “a Christian president?” Or to be a Christian, for that matter? Or to be “an anything” that makes one a person of faith; someone who tries to live in partnership with God, the great Whatever?

Stripped of religious trappings, faith, to me, and I think to a great many other people, is my relationship with God made visible. It’s who I am and how I live. Surely, to be more meaningful than a club membership, faith has to have transformed me; nudged me toward being kinder and gentler, more open-hearted and open-minded, more curious and tolerant and truthful in my dealings with the world. And if my relationship with the great Whatever hasn’t actually transformed me in such ways, how can I possibly call myself a person of faith?


I watch President Obama sensibly addressing hot-button issues, declining to react to personal attacks, and I wonder if it has occurred to anyone besides me that our president’s leadership style might be his Christianity in action. That even with that great political target, President of the United States, painted on his back, this man chooses to live his faith. And if that, indeed, is what he’s up to, then Barack Obama has taken on what I consider to be the great challenge of anyone’s faith: having it inform how he is in the world. Every minute of every day. No matter what it does to his approval ratings.

I have absolutely no way of knowing, of course, and neither do you. But I do think it’s possible that our president’s measured, non-reactive style means he’s doing his best to live Christian instead of just jive Christian.

I am not a Christian. In fact, I do not participate in any organized religion, but I am a person of faith. For me, faith – living in partnership with God – leads me to look reality right in its confusing, anxiety-provoking eye and try to do the next right thing. I may fail or fall short, but, as a person of faith, I can’t pretend not to notice what the next right thing is or abdicate my personal responsibility for trying to do it.

It seems to me that this is exactly what our president is trying to do. Which is more than I can say for a lot of his critics. Perhaps the pack of shrill Christians barking at Barack Obama’s heels is so angry with him because he sets an example they don’t want to follow. Righteous Christian talk is so much easier than righteous Christian living, don’t you think?

Martha’s note: This is round six of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the website), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.

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  • areyousaying

    My parents raised me as a “love of Jesus” Ten Commandments Christian. I loved the idea and wanted to become a minister until I was 18 and went away to college. There, one division of my religion would not recognize the other I was brought up in and refused me Communion. This and growing up in intolerant and ethnocentric Mormon Christian Utah, being raped by a Catholic priest at 14 and watching a high school friend blow his brains out because his Mormon “Christian” church and family would no accept him being gay all made me start to wonder what Christians really are.Are they followers of the words of Christ or those who cherry-pick their scriptures and the Constitution to impose their “family values” on the rest of us? Claiming to be “Christian” and bashing gays, burning Korans, praying for the death of the President, and hijacking Jesus for political wedge issues don’t seem to be compatible with what Jesus taught me at all.”Christians” who look the other way at Baptist Fred Phelps and the Catholic Church still hiding its known pervert priests from civil prosecution are weak, milk-toast sissies and an anathemas to what Christ taught.Christianity in America has been hijacked by Karl Rove and exploited for political wedge issues while those who claim to be other than Glenn Beck Christians sit silently in their sniveling and convenient complicity.True Christianity in America is almost dead and there are few who would resurrect it.

  • joe_allen_doty

    I was not “raised as a Christian.” My parents being Believers in Jesus didn’t make me a Believer either. In spite of what they claim the “Church of Latter Day Saints,” aka the Mormon church, is not really a “Christian” denomination. They only claim to be one. I don’t know who is on Barack Obama’s speech writing staff; but, both of the Bush presidents and Ronald Reagan had ordained Christian ministers as members of their speech writing staff. Doug Wead, former Assemblies of God missionary, left the ministry to work for Reagan and apparently worked for George H. W. Bush, too. I met Wead while he was still a missionary.