Last week a Pew Research poll showed that an alarming number of Americans believe President Obama to be a Muslim. An even more alarming number question his Christianity. Now, this commentator finds it offensive that this story is picked up by the mainstream media with no examination at all as to why it remains acceptable to equate non-Christianity with a lack of basic decency or why it is okay to demand things of our elected president that it would be illegal to ask in a private job interview. Nonetheless, let us set aside this commentator's issues for a moment and just deal with that Pew poll and its direct implications.
That there is widening belief in erroneous information is deeply disheartening. It reveals a widespread willingness to take as sacrosanct that which is implied by celebrities even when it contradicts a personal memory of events. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the folks at Fox News are the primary forces dropping hints that our president's commitment to Christianity is in doubt. Surely the same audience taken in by Rush calling our president "Imam Obama" were also watching when that source of mis-infotainment attacked then Senator Obama's Christian pastor Jeremiah Wright as being anti-white. Not only is Obama a Muslim, according to Limbaugh, but the pastor of his Christian church is a racist, too. In fairness, let me say that when Limbaugh attacked Jeremiah Wright he made comments that suggested his form of Christianity was not proper Christianity and might even be disguised Islamic practice. It was just a suggestion, though. As always, he worked through innuendo. Rush implies what he is too cowardly to say, not because he values the truth, but because he values deniability when it comes to his perpetuation of falsehoods.
Is it legal to shout "People have suggested that there's a fire!" in a crowded theater?
When the location of Obama's birth was questioned, the Hawaiian hospital at which he was born happily provided a scan of the certificate. Those who questioned Obama's place of birth demanded to know why the original was not produced and, apparently, passed from hand to hand across the country for all to examine. Some of the people who aren't entirely convinced about evolution have some suspicions about the dangerous new technology of photo-imaging.
We all like to think that humanity is constantly learning, moving forward toward greater understanding of our world and our place in it. This is not the case. The ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations almost certainly knew that the world was round and that the Earth traveled around the sun. During the dark ages, though, humanity returned to a Terracentric world-view in which the sun moved about an Earth presumed to be flat. Not only did progress cease, ground that had already been covered was lost to a populist commitment to willful ignorance. Those who dared to question this world view, wrong though it was, were ridiculed, discredited by the church, and sometimes burned for witchcraft. Such treatment was perfectly acceptable as the victims were, sometimes by their own tortured admissions, not proper Christians. I sometimes wonder whether many Americans are troubled by our own history of witch-burning or merely by the idea that some of the humans burned might not actually have been witches.
Obama is a Christian. I don't actually care that Obama is a Christian. I care that people who are bright enough to know otherwise are misled into believing that he's not. I care that a country that guarantees freedom of religion thinks it's okay to treat this question as an issue. I care that a portion of the nation has so given up on the basic tenets of Democracy that they would rather see their party win based on lies than lose based on the facts.
If those servants of the Christian right who seek to manipulate the political system really believed any of the claptrap they spout, clearly they would just be getting down to the business of finding out the truth of what is in Obama's heart the only way truly possible, the only way their torch-carrying followers will find credible. They need to find out if he floats.