According to the ever-accurate and impartial Fox News, nearly one in five Americans hold this opinion.
Is this just a conspiracy theory invented by Republicans, or could there be some truth in such a claim? Before examining the evidence, I am aware some people will be thinking “so what?”
Like most people I believe in freedom of religion and think that Obama should be able to practise whatever religion he wants!
However, the reason this is such a hot topic is because America has a long Christian tradition. It’s entire constitution is founded on Judeo-Christian ethics and beliefs. As far as I am aware, America has never had a president who has not claimed to be a Christian. Obama is no different. So if somebody produced evidence to say Obama is not a Christian, it would be a huge deal.
My photoshop skills are fairly weak so I assure you, this picture is 100% genuine! It’s me on my bike with my camera phone taking a picture of the speedometer.
Was I really going at 123.8 mph? Of course not! You can barely travel 30mph on this clapped out old Apollo.
All that had happened was the censor near the front wheel had come away and the wire had been torn, resulting in some pretty interesting results!
Imagine if I genuinely thought my bike was travelling at over 100mph through Eastbourne town centre. I would have been petrified!
Sometimes things happen in our lives that we are so scared of. We worry that one event may shape our entire future, or fret about how the current recession must mean that none of us university students will ever find jobs.
It would have been easy for me to look at my speedo and instantly freak out without examining the circumstances around me. I think we all do this a lot. We worry and get concerned- often about the smallest of things- when all we need to do is look up for a few seconds and take a look around.
Putting our perceived problems in context helps us realise that oftentimes things really aren’t as bad as they seem.
As a Christian, the wider context of my life provides enormous security for myself and my future. Check out this promise that God makes to all who trust in Him. “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes” (Rom 8:28). It’s a staggering promise, but I believe it!
So whether you are a Christian or not, make the decision to focus on the big picture today. For 99% of us, the big picture should give us immense hope. We’re alive, we have a roof over our head and food on our plates. Everything else is a bonus, right?
This may be a generalisation, but I’d argue the secular world doesn’t do a great job at portraying religious life.
Take Q Magazine’s comment about Christian band delirious, for example: “Without God they could be massive” (talk about missing the point!!) or the BBC’s awful programme “The Heaven and Earth Show” which was about as flaky as dandruff. Secular organisations just don’t seem to understand Christianity. (I guess I shouldn’t be surprised)
So when Hollywood decides to churn out another ‘post-apocalyptic’ film which features Denzel Washington’s character (Eli) carrying a Bible around and killing people, you can’t blame me for thinking ‘here we go again’.
Discovering ‘The Book of Eli’ has a tonne of swearing and some pretty graphic violence doesn’t help either.
Enough speculation though, on with the film. My brother puts the DVD on and I’m drawn into a wonderful tale. The Book of Eli turns out to be one of the best films I’ve seen all year.
I cannot tell you how good it is to see the message of the Bible portrayed not only truthfully, but also in a non judgemental, non cynical and non offensive way. Not only that, but the special effects, plot and characters are all well thought out and portrayed on screen.
Here are some quotes from the film that I particularly enjoyed…
Eli talking about a time before ‘the flash’ (the end of the world)… “People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other now.”
How true is that? In today’s society we have no idea what is of value and what isn’t. We think accumulating possessions will give us fulfilment, it’s what we live for, yet it never brings satisfaction. The Bible says in 1 Timothy: ”Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble.” If the recent economic crash doesn’t prove that I don’t know what does!?
The simpleness of how Eli prays is a beautiful thing as he recognises that despite his troubles, God has provided for him. “Thank you Lord for a warm bed to sleep on, thank you for the food we are about to eat, thank you for a roof over our heads on cold nights such as this, thank you for companionship in hard times like these, Amen.
There is a great exchange between the two main characters about the nature of faith. Eli has read the book so he knows what faith is like. Solara has not read the book, so how could she understand faith?
Solara: Have you ever thought that maybe you were lost?
Solara: Well, how do you know that you’re walking in the right direction?
Eli: I walk by faith, not by sight.
Solara: [sighs] What does that mean?
Eli: It means that you know something even if you don’t know something.
Solara: That doesn’t make any sense.
Eli: It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s faith, it’s faith. It’s the flower of light in the field of darkness that’s giving me the strength to carry on. You understand?
Sure, it’s not the most theological sound definition of faith, but the sentiment is there.
Why is Eli walking across America with this book? God spoke to him. Again, I’m so pleased the writer of this film did his research and talked to alteast some of the millions of people who claim to hear God speak to them. It would have been so much easier to make the following quote sound ridiculous and dis-credit Washington’s character. But the writer, Gary Whitta doesn’t do that.
“And then one day I heard this voice. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like it was coming from inside me. But I could hear it clear as day. Clear as I can hear you talking to me now. It told me to carry the book west, it told me that a path would be laid out before me, that I’d be led to a place where the book would be safe it told me I’d be protected, against anyone or anything that tried to stand in my way. If only I would have faith. That was thirty years ago and I’ve been walking ever since
Solara: And you did all this because a voice told you to?
Eli: I know what I hear, I know what I heard, I know I’m not crazy, I didn’t imagine it”
Now, before the agnostics, atheists and people of other faiths think this film is blatent Christian propoganda…check out this quote about one character’s perception of the book.
“[The book is...]A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they’ll do exactly what I tell ‘em if the words are from the book. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. All we need is that book.“
I’ll end by quoting Eli’s warning for today’s “people of the book”. “In all these years I’ve been carrying it and reading it every day, I got so caught up in keeping it safe that I forgot to live by what I learned from it…do to others what you would have them do to you”
Like many Christians I see little or no clash between many scientific issues and faith. The levels of understanding science has reached recently has been amazing. But where there appears to be a clash I put the Bible’s authority first, because I believe God inspired it- and he knows a lot more than any scientist.
Here’s one recent scientific discovery that appeared in The Times science supplement today. I can’t find the actual article online, but here is a similar one…
According to The Times, this has been and will be incredibly useful in countries where clean water is hard to find. All you need to do is add these seeds and the water will be clean enough to drink!
Such news just makes me in awe of God. But check this out from Exodus 15…
“Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. [a] ) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
Many times in the Bible we read things that are completely miraculous. Whether it’s the virgin birth, parting of the Red Sea or the ressurection, sometimes things are hard to believe. But for those who do believe- it’s called faith. And it’s a wonderful thing. As Jesus said “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”
But recently, science has allowed us to see just a glimpse of how God may have worked in some situations.
So I end with a question. Is it possible that God used this drumstick tree to purify the water as it says in Exodus? Could there have been another substance on this piece of wood?
Welcome to part two of my attempt to sum up some of the differences between American and English culture. I have done my best not to stereotype, and would ask you keep in mind that this only my experience of one small town, in one state! America is a huge place and much of the above and below will change depending on where you are.
Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy reading these posts and learning about our two magnificent nations! Let’s make a start with healthcare.
The American government decided to pass Obama’s healthcare plan while I was in America. As with every issue there was a mix of opinions, but being in a largely Republican part of the country- most people were opposed to the plan.
For a generation growing up with free healthcare under the NHS, we Brits tend to take it for granted. I can’t imagine having to have health insurance and/or paying money if I broke my arm or had to have a big operation! So why do so many Americans oppose the plan?
The first reason is simple. Free healthcare isn’t free! Tax rises are not popular- no matter which country you live in! Many people would rather choose to have insurance or no insurance- rather than everyone being forced into paying more taxes.
There is a common misconception about American healthcare under the insurance system. This is that those who are dying will be denied healthcare unless they are insured. Such a statement is completely untrue. When it comes to emergencies you WILL be treated- no matter how much money you have.
To sum up their disappointment with the new bill, one person put it this way: “It’s not that I’m against people getting health care. I just disagree with the government’s view of how that should happen”.
Personally, I cannot agree. Like most Brits I think free healthcare is a wonderful thing- even if it does result in increased taxes because it means everyone is on the same level. There’s still the option to pay for private healthcare but it’s comforting to know that no matter what happens, there’s a system in place for everyone that will save lives.
However, like many of these issues it is much easier to see where people are coming from when you go to the country and listen to people’s opinions no matter how different they are to your own! So it’s good to come back and be able to explain the opposite view, which I think is perfectly valid when understood correctly.
The first film I watched after landing was ‘Air Force One’. To summarise the plot- Terrorists hijack the President’s plane (know as Air Force One…obviously!), loads of people die but the President saves all the important people i.e him and his family. So it’s a happy ending
You can’t get more “American” or patriotic than Air Force One. (By the way it’s a classic film so do watch it if you haven’t already!)
I actually like the patriotism in America. My American friends found it difficult to understand why so many people in the UK don’t appreciate the Queen. Sometimes I wish we took more pride in our country.
I’m not about to stand to attention every time I hear “God save the Queen” or hang a gigantic English flag up (you don’t see them here unless it’s the World Cup! What does that say about our country?) but there’s nothing wrong with loving the place you’re living in!
Cause if you don’t love your country, you’re probably in the wrong one!!
FAITH Living in a secular society, sometimes you feel a little ‘attacked’. I guess it comes from being in a minority. Saying you believe in Jesus isn’t the most popular thing to do in this part of the world (not that such a thing stops me!!)
The (not so) great English professor Richard Dawkins has launched many TV programmes and books against God making statements such as:
“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.”
“You cannot be both sane and well educated and disbelieve in evolution. The evidence is so strong that any sane, educated person has got to believe in evolution.”
“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”
I make no comment, only to say it was lovely to be in a part of the world where so many intelligent people love the God I worship. Just incase you were wondering, yes- I met a number of ”creationists”. And yes they were sane and well educated…don’t worry, I checked!!!
Is Christian radio an intrinsically good thing? Is America a safe haven for Bible believing Christians? Is evolution is obviously wrong? Do I wish every part of the world was like Joplin, Missouri?
I’m not sure about any of those questions, but I do know that it was incredibly refreshing to step out of a country that seems to laugh whenever God is mentioned and step into a place where, when it comes to faith- it feels like the culture has been turned upside down!
Well ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming on this journey with me. It’s been fun to write and I hope you’ve learnt something whether you’re British or American……or something else!
I must just again type my appreciation to everyone from CCOJ- you guys are all so inspirational. It was a pleasure meeting each one of you.
Talking about cultural differences isn’t easy. I’ve done my best to word things appropriately. Do let me know if I’ve over stepped the mark or haven’t explained something properly! The last thing I’d want to do is offend people of either nation.
But the final words of this 2 part series must go to one very special lady! Stacey Tonks, I love you. Spending every day with you for 3 weeks was so wonderful, I love being a part of your life and meeting all your American friends. It’s no secret that the one reason I went to America was to see you and you alone! I’d travel any distance around the world just to see your cute face! Thanks for an incredible holiday. I love you.
In it, the pastor says…”If I had enough money, resources, or even enough guts…I’d put a big sign on the side of the building saying ‘God loves gay people’ or ‘Kings Church loves gay people…”
The most important commandment for Christians is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and spirit. AND love your neighbour as yourself’
If Christians were to do that, would so many of them be labled ‘homophobic’?
There’s a difference between agreeing with what people do and loving them as people. A huge difference.