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Glenn Beck's Attacks Prompt White House Defense of Obama's Faith

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White House spokesman Robert Gibbs Thursday pushed back against Fox News host and religious revivalist Glenn Beck by asserting that President Obama is "a committed, mainstream Christian."

The White House has been flummoxed in recent weeks by surveys showing that a growing number of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim and not a Christian -- one in five express that belief, according to a recent Pew survey. A Newsweek poll this week showed that a majority of Republicans believe Obama "sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world."

Obama has been a Christian all his adult life and attended a United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago until criticisms of his fiery pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, forced him to leave that church during the 2008 campaign. Since winning the presidency and moving to Washington, Obama -- like George W. Bush and other presidents before him -- has not joined a church and has largely worshiped at Camp David or in the White House, in part to avoid security nightmares for any prospective host congregation.

That lack of public church attendance has likely fueled rumors about Obama, though it did not for Bush, for example.

The president has tried not to directly engage Beck or the various urban legends about his faith, or whether he was born in the United States. In an interview with NBC earlier this week, the president said he'll trust "in the American people's capacity to get beyond all this nonsense."

Since Beck's religious rally in Washington on Saturday, the talk show host has returned to critiquing Obama's Christianity rather than raising questions about whether the president is a Muslim. Beck has accused Obama of embracing "liberation theology, which is oppressor-and-victim."

"It's a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it," Beck has said.

That led to this exchange at today's White House briefing for reporters:
QUESTION: For the last four days, Glenn Beck has criticized the president for believing in liberation theology, which he calls a Marxist form of Christianity. I have two questions. One, does the president, to your knowledge, even know what liberation theology is?

GIBBS [After pausing for laughter]: I don't know the answer to that. I will say this. I -- a crude paraphrasing of an old quote, and that is, people are entitled to their own opinion, as ill-informed as it may be, but they're not entitled to their own facts. The president is a committed mainstream Christian. I don't -- I have no evidence that would guide me as to what Glenn Beck would have any genuine knowledge as to what the president does or does not believe.

QUESTION: When's he going back to church?

QUESTION: So this Marxist form of Christianity...

GIBBS: Again, I -- I can only imagine where Mr. Beck conjured that from.
Many Christians wonder where Beck conjured his criticisms from, as well.

Liberation theology is a body of thinking that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s in Catholic circles in Latin America (though it had some roots in post-war European thought) as a Christian response to endemic poverty. Liberation theology linked spiritual liberation to liberation from economic suffering. That combination at various points took on Marxist elements that earned condemnation from the Vatican even as Rome embraced the underlying tenets of liberation theology.

For one thing, Obama has actually never espoused liberation theology, and tends more toward the Christian realism of the Cold War-era theology of Reinhold Niebuhr. When Obama does speak of biblical liberation, it is usually from the Old Testament narratives of the Exodus story familiar to Jews and African-Americans, in particular. And as one scholar recently reported, the scriptural passages Obama cites elsewhere are usually the most familiar and mainstream for all Americans.

Moreover, liberation theology is actually a body of teaching widely embraced by Catholic and Protestant leaders, though perhaps less so by Mormons like Glenn Beck.

Jesuit Father James Martin recently parsed the tenets of liberation theology in a widely cited essay at The Huffington post, for example.

As Martin noted, the late Pope John Paul II was a foe of certain Marxist-inflected versions of liberation theology, but he also championed a true Christian theology of liberation.

"[W]e are convinced, we and you, that liberation theology is not only timely but useful and necessary," as John Paul told the bishops of Brazil in 1986.

Or, as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, put it in a Vatican document on liberation theology in 1984:

"In itself, the expression 'theology of liberation' is a thoroughly valid term: it designates a theological reflection centered on the biblical theme of liberation and freedom, and on the urgency of its practical realization."

Then again, Beck has also blasted churches that speak about "social justice," which is an even more familiar, Bible-based teaching of almost every denomination. To Beck, however, "social justice" is code for Nazism and Communism.

Maybe Obama is indeed a "mainstream" Christian, as Gibbs said Thursday -- but maybe that's not good enough for Glenn Beck.

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I believe it is shame that the Fox network would allow Beck to spout all this religious ridiculous to allow him to discuss this chit when there is so much more suitable & important subjects..!!!

September 02 2010 at 10:34 PM

Personally I think they should leave religion out of it, We all believe something different and there is no sense in alienating people. Our government is suppose to be a representation of all the people, after all, we all or most of us anyway pay taxes to keep it up. jjaycedar, I agree with most of what you said. They have blown this whole Christian thing out of control and most don't realize what you just said is true. When they say our country was founded on Christian philosophy, it was not. There were many different religious beliefs. Leave out the religion, a great deal of us don't want to hear it. Those are your beliefs, not all of ours.

September 02 2010 at 10:34 PM

Was AOL always slanted the truth to protect Obama? This article fails to mention that Glenn Beck got his information from the fact that Obama sat in the pew of Trinity United Church. The church of his great friend, pastor and mentor Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and Reverend Wright preaches Black Liberation Theology. Reverend Wright freely discussed his religion in 2007. Here is Reverend Wright in his own words.,2933,256078,00.html Obama even wrote about his great friend, mentor and pastor Reverend Wright in his book. Obama credited Reverend Wright with bringing him to God. I assume Wright brought Obama to Wright's God. So I would think Glenn Beck is not that far wrong. Why this religion is of interest is because it affects Obama's world view. And because this religion is racial in its overtones, it would also affect any policies Obama would think were just and enact. It affects us all.

September 02 2010 at 10:33 PM

I have a question. What does a Christain look like. Since Beck is saying that Pres. Obama is not a Christain, how does he know. I always thought a persons' faith or lack thereof was between God and that person. It actually has nothing to do with whether of not that person attends church on Sunday. Members of the Ku Klux Klan, I'm told were very faithful about attending church and very good at quoting the Bible, but it was their practices that got in the way of all their good intentions. And what about folks who stand on the street corners preaching, but are not welcomed in most mainstream churches. So what determines a Christain? And does a Christian? who prays differently get to be rejected by other Christains. Does that mean that Catholics are not Christains, or Jehovoh's Witnessnes or Mormans. I don't know what Mr. Beck means, but it's obvious he has some understanding of what being a Christian is all about more than most of us, and since he is so good at calling out the President for not being a Christian, then I'm going to assume he has gotten his reasoning from a higher source, and that this higher source has also told him that there is something wrong with Jews, Muslims, the Hindu and the Buddhist. And one other thing. There is nothing in our constitution that said a person had to be Christian or any other religion to be president. I think it's called separation of church and state.

September 02 2010 at 10:33 PM

It said a christian his adult life. How was he raised? What did his father and mother believe? We usually believe like our parents. What did he believe when he was in college? You will get true answer then

September 02 2010 at 10:32 PM

As a Christian, I am not concerned what the President believes. In fact, the early church respected the government even if it was pagan. See my blog for more info,

September 02 2010 at 10:31 PM

Faith is an IMPORTANT part of a persons life, why hide it from the public? Mr. Obama did not attend services at Christmas last year. A true Christian would attend on Christmas day at the very least! This, I think is what leads to the doubts that the public .... and myself is having

September 02 2010 at 10:31 PM

I believe anyone who says they are christian would know there is no such thing as collective salvation. It is based on the relationship between you and God. NOT you and your community.

September 02 2010 at 10:30 PM
Boston Lily

In the words of famous gandmothers and "corner" poets: Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. Don't talk the talk if you are not ready to walk the walk. Words to the wind. Show me the money. Or in a famous movie quote when the wife finds hubby in bed with 2 women, "Are you going to believe your lying eyes or what I am telling you?"

September 02 2010 at 10:28 PM

If you spend 20 years in a church and have no clue what the preacher is preaching you have a bigger problem than not being mainstream. You are only hearing what you want to hear. And that is the President's biggest problem. He only hears what he wants to hear and only does what HE wants to do. What Americans need and want is irrelevant to him because he wants to remake America in his image of what it should be and the image of the people around him. I was raised to consider people not only on what they say but the people around them. I don't find anyone around the President that I

September 02 2010 at 10:26 PM

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