|Sen. Barack Obama is not a Christian, according to the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, an organization that claims advocacy for Christian religious liberty and opposition to anti-Christian bigotry.
"By any historic or biblical standard, Barack Obama is not a Christian," declared CADC on a Web page that contained seven reasons defending its assessment.
CADC's assertion resembles earlier Religious Right claims about who is inside and outside the Christian community.
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said last year of former Sen. Fred Thompson, "I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression."
"Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise," said Robert Jeffers, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, in a September 2007 sermon. "Even though he talks about Jesus as his Lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult."
The next month, Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Oklahoma Baptist ministers that in a private meeting he tried to bring Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to salvation.
"I shared Christ with him so much that at the end of those two hours I said, 'Rudy, I'm not going to leave this place unless I give you an opportunity to pray with me to receive Jesus as your savior. Would you do that with me Rudy?'" Page said.
Giuliani declined: "He said, 'No, Frank, I'm not ready to do that. My daddy knows Jesus like that, but I'm not ready for that.'"
Christian right leaders said directly that three Republican presidential candidates were not Christians.
Not surprisingly, Christian right leaders have made the same accusation against Obama. CADC's attack is one of the latest such efforts.
"Obama is undermining historic, biblical Christianity while claiming his [sic] is a Christian. In the process, he is defaming the Christian faith," said CADC. "By declaring he is a Christian, yet denying Christianities [sic] most essential truths and traditional morality, Obama is associating Christ with some of the most wicked practices imaginable, all of which are condemned in the Bible."
CADC lists seven reasons via short video clips why Obama is not a Christian:
1. Obama believes there are many paths to heaven.
2. Obama denies the authority of the Bible.
3. Obama supports homosexuality.
4. Obama supports abortion.
5. Obama affirms Muslim prayer.
6. Obama is associated with black liberation theology.
7. Obama has no bona fide Christian testimony.
The video clip narrator ends each segment with some version of these questions: "Who are you going to believe? Jesus Christ or Barack Obama?" or "Who are you going to believe? God and his word, or Barack Obama?"
CADC's seven-point checklist is foreign to the official statement on how to become a Christian on the nation's largest Protestant denomination's Web site which says Christians are those who repent of their sin and confess their faith in Jesus Christ.
If that's what it means to become a Christian, then Obama qualifies as a Christian.
By his own words, Obama admitted that his biological father was a nominal Muslim, his mother was spiritual and she was raised by parents who were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists. He hardly had the benefits of a Christian family, which makes his conversion even more remarkable.
Obama testified that he was introduced to Jesus Christ and learned that his sins could be redeemed. He trusted Jesus, walked the aisle and knelt beneath the cross.
That is a story of personal conversion to Jesus Christ. That doesn't mean he will be a great or even a good president. That doesn't mean he deserves the vote of other Christians.
It does mean that Christian opponents have created a false checklist for what qualifies him as a Christian. Their objective is pure politics, the politics of destruction via theological distortion. Rather than to challenge his positions, their intent is to create doubt about who he is through what speaks deeply to Christians—their faith convictions.
Involved with CADC's smear campaign are a number of Christian right leaders intertwined with the SBC, including Dick Bott, president of Bott Radio, which carries radio shows of a number of Southern Baptists, including Ronnie Floyd, Charles Stanley, the deceased Adrian Rogers, Jack Graham and Ed Young.
Others CADC leaders are Ted Baehr, an oft-quoted official in Baptist Press; Steve Baldwin, executive director of the Council on National Policy; and Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values.
These Christian right leaders and other fundamentalist pastors are doing to Obama what they do to everyone they dislike or disagree with. They distort the truth and demonize their opponents.
We need not question their faith, but the parameters of their definition of Christianity and their misuse of faith for unholy purposes.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.