Obama and the Gospel of Cal Thomas

By Art Remillard

When Cal Thomas had this picture taken, he must have told the photographer, “OK, I want something that just screams, ‘I am a self-righteous [fill in the blank].’’” Think I’m wrong? Then read his recent article, “Barack Obama is Not a Christian.” No, Thomas doesn’t run with the “Obama is a Muslim” canard. Rather, he references a 2004 interview Obama gave with Chicago Sun-Times columnist “God Girl” Cathleen Falsani (read the entire interview here). After his set-up, Thomas mentions an exchange on salvation...

Falsani correctly brings up John 14:6 (and how many journalists would know such a verse, much less ask a question based on it?) in which Jesus says of Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That sounds pretty exclusive, but Obama says it depends on how this verse is heard. According to Falsani, Obama thinks that “all people of faith — Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone — know the same God.” (her words)

If that is so, Jesus wasted his time coming to Earth and he certainly did not have to suffer the pain of rejection and crucifixion if there are ways to God other than through Himself.

Perhaps I have a different interview, but I couldn’t locate where, exactly, Obama said this. But I suspect Thomas was pointing to where Obama reasoned...

I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.

The Horor! Indeed, depicting a companionate God sounds pretty darn scandalous. This led Thomas to conclude…

Obama can call himself anything he likes, but there is a clear requirement for one to qualify as a Christian and Obama doesn’t meet that requirement. One cannot deny central tenets of the Christian faith, including the deity and uniqueness of Christ as the sole mediator between God and Man and be a Christian. Such people do have a label applied to them in Scripture. They are called a “false prophet.”

I hope some national journalist or commentator with knowledge of such things asks Obama about this and doesn’t let him get away with re-writing Scripture to suit his political ends.

TAKE THAT LIBERAL MEDIA!!!! But wait, I’m confused? Why does the esteemed columnist Thomas only want “the media” (boooo) to press Obama? Why not John McCain? Imagine this question in a press conference: “Senator McCain, do you find it unfortunate that your potential running mate, Governor Romney, will be burning in the fiery pits of hell for all eternity after he dies?” I mean, fair is fair, right?


John G. Turner said…
At least Romney could talk about how even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would go into the terrestrial kingdom in the next world. Then he could denounce bin Laden as a "son of perdition."

I didn't read the article, but it sounds awful. Surely one could be a Christian and believe in some sort of more inclusive salvation.
rjc said…
Excellent, Art!
Anonymous said…
This seems like a major step backward for Cal Thomas. At the local library I skimmed his book co-written with Bob Beckel. It's a decent call to tone down the political and religious rhetoric, and Thomas admits he hasn't always been on board with that.

Too bad he's not practicing what he's lately been preaching.
Art Remillard said…
It surprises me to hear about that book too! But I’m not surprised by his exclusivist litmus test for adopting the Christian label—he obviously holds this position for his own purposes. Imagine if Cal and Mel Gibson (Mr. Pre Vatican II-There Is No Salvation Outside the Church) were locked in a room together? It would make Mad Max look like a disney movie.

Anyway, perhaps I’m naïve, but I can’t see the exclusivist line selling in presidential politics, no matter the candidate. Did Jimmy Carter even venture into this territory? I can't recall G.W. Bush mentioning the subject. I do remember a PBS documentary that relayed a story where he and his mother were debating the salvation question. They called Billy Graham, who was far more inclusive than W. had expected.
John G. Turner said…
I use that PBS documentary in class, and I'm very suspicious of how the reporter telling the anecdote about GWB represents both Bush's position and that of Billy Graham. If you look carefully at the photograph on the screen, Graham outlined a typically "exclusivist" position. I'd be shocked if Bush was as much of a hardliner as that video made him out to be.
Anonymous said…
As always with this particular discussion, we need to define what we mean by exclusivism (or inclusivism). Does exclusivism mean that Jesus is the only way of salvation, or does it mean that only those who explicity profess faith (assuming they're mentally able) in Christ will be saved? The Roman Catholic Church, for example, is exclusive by the former definition but not by the latter.

I understand if no one wants to tackle this question here, but I think the distinction should be noted. (And I would bet that's it's a distinction Cal Thomas doesn't recognize).
Anonymous said…
Great post. I've linked to it on my blog. I'm so very sick of the wingnuttery of folks like Thomas who preach a game they don't exactly practice. Nice job of giving him a good jab.
Jonathan Rowe said…
After spending the last few years investigating and debating the issue of Christianity and the American Founding, I've become somewhat sympathetic to the strict definition of Christianity folks like Thomas peddle. "Orthodox Trinitarian" is a fair standard and represents common ground between traditional evangelical Protestants like Thomas and Roman Catholicism.

If we embrace this standard of Christianity, then it's clear that America's key Founders -- Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and some others -- were not "Christians."

It's the evangelical right who are most zealous in trying to claim them as "Christian." Understanding their strict standard can help show them that no, these Founders really weren't "Christian."

The problem is, as with Obama, these Founders tended to call their system "Christianity" not "Deism." So "Christian America" apologist can offer quotations out of context where these Founders seem to identify as "Christian," but if you read further and see what they mean by "Christianity," it rejects, in most cases, every single tenet of orthodoxy and is further removed from what evangelicals consider "real Christianity" than Obama's faith. For instance, I've never seen Obama reject the Trinity as vehemently as Jefferson, Franklin and John Adams did.

Here's a post of mine where I show evidence of George Washington praising a Universalist Church that denied eternal damnation. GW's specific religious tenets are hard to pin down. I've concluded, like the Church he praised, he too disbelieved eternal damnation and like Obama, thought most or all roads lead to God.

It's useful to remind folks like Thomas, "okay, Obama may not be a 'Christian' even if he calls himself one, but we can say the same about America's Founding Fathers."

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