NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) – The Southern Baptist Convention’s top public-policy expert says that Christians who still support President Obama are not using their heads.
Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said on the Jan. 28 broadcast of Richard Land Live that while he believes Obama faces an uphill battle for re-election, he is surprised that so many Christians still back the president.
“I know Christians who support Obama,” Land said. “I don’t question their faith, but I do question their judgment.”
Land said the Obama administration has waged a “full-fledged war to move us from freedom of religion to merely freedom of worship, implying that one’s faith is only a private matter and that exercising that faith in public is not a protected right.”
Land called a new rule requiring insurance plans to cover birth control — including those paid for by religious employers that believe artificial birth control is a sin — a “horrible decision” that poses a problem not just for faiths that object to birth control.
“Will our religious affiliated groups be forced to hire people who oppose our faith?” he asked. “Will the government force a curriculum on our schools and our homeschoolers? Just a few years ago these possibilities seemed beyond the realm of possibility. Now they seem very real.”
Land said people who claim to be conservative, evangelical Christians “are exercising very poor judgment” if “they continue to support a president who is squelching their religious freedoms.” The reason it happens, he said, is that “people are not terribly rational.”
“We have what are called compartmentalized attitude structures,” Land said. “Jimmy Carter is a good example. Jimmy Carter went around campaigning for president in 1976 and said ‘I believe in the basic goodness of the American people,’ and ‘I’m a born-again Christian.’ Well, if you’re a born-again Christian you don’t believe in the basic goodness of anybody, because you believe in original sin. But, you see, he was holding these two contradictory attitudes in the same brain.”
“Many of us of a certain age know people — who when we were children they were adults — who gave every evidence of being really pious Christians but who were racists, and didn’t see any contradiction between their racism and their Christian faith,” he continued.
Land said those people supported candidates like four-time presidential candidate George Wallace and segregationist Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett “because they failed to see the contradiction between what they were voting and what they believed.”
“I don’t question those people’s faith,” Land said. “I knew some of them. Some of them were older men when I was younger, when I was a boy, and they gave every evidence of being Christians, but they had a huge blind spot on race. So I question their judgment, and I would in fact say that their racism was a sin, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t Christian. So I don’t question their faith; I question their faith understanding when it came to certain issues.”
Land said the Obama administration “has shown from the very beginning that it is hostile to free religious expression.”
“There’s no question about that,” he said. “They have done thing after thing after thing after thing.”
“This is really serious,” Land said. “You’ll hear the Obama administration; they are disciplined in their talking about this. They talk about freedom of worship. They talk about freedom of worship overseas and they talk about freedom of worship at home. We do not have a guarantee of freedom of worship. We have a guarantee to freedom of religion.”
Land said the free-exercise of religion protected by the Constitution “will involve us in much more than just worship.”
“And the government under the Obama administration wants to curtail that and to restrict it to the private sector only,” Land said. “There can be no other explanation for what they have done the last three and a half years.”
Land urged Christians concerned about religious liberty to sign the Manhattan Declaration, a 4,700-word manifesto that has garnered nearly 500,000 online signatures. The document, drafted by Catholic scholar Robert George and Southern Baptists Chuck Colson and Timothy George, says Christians are to respect and obey those who are in authority but not required to obey laws that are “gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral.”
Land said a prime example of effective civil disobedience was Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous letter written from the Birmingham, Ala., jail. “That’s what gave it moral stature,” Land said. “If he had written it from an Atlanta hotel room, it wouldn’t have had the impact it had.”
Land said the question of when civil disobedience becomes a moral option hinges on whether other means of protest are available. “The threshold was lower for Dr. King than it is for us, and the reason is that he and most of the people he was seeking to free couldn’t vote,” Land said.
“We have the right to vote. We have the right to file suit in court,” Land said. “I would argue that there are certain means that need to be exhausted before we reach civil disobedience, but that civil disobedience must always remain the ultimate option if the government forces us to choose between obeying God or man.”
“What I’ve argued is that if we all say we’re going to obey God rather than man — we’re going to not allow them to restrict our religious freedom — if we all hang together, then none of us will have to go to jail,” he said. “If we don’t, we may all end up in jail.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.