Unlike Paul Kengor, I somehow can’t get myself worked up about the president’s religion—or lack thereof:
Balmer and the Times also addressed the remarkable fact that Barack Obama not only lacked a Christmas service this year but lacks a church at all and even a denomination. Yes, that’s correct, the current president of the United States not only has no church but not even a denomination. He no longer has a formal religious affiliation of any sort.
Err, and? Neither Jefferson nor Adams believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Madison and Monroe were deists. John Quincy Adams called his belief in Christ “dark and dubious.” Lincoln probably did not believe in God, and Grant died unbaptized. Rutherford B. Hayes remained unaffiliated with any Christian denomination till the day he died (“I am not a subscriber to any creed. I belong to no church. But in a sense, satisfactory to myself and believed by me to be important, I try to be a Christian, or rather I want to be a Christian and to help do Christian work”). The religious right’s assumption that all or most American presidents have been orthodox Christians, or indeed Christians of any sort, is ahistorical.
Today President Obama, like some 80 percent of Americans, does not go to church on Sundays. Sign o’ the times? Perhaps not. Even fewer Americans attended weekly services in the late 18th century. The Second Great Awakening had to awaken something.
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