By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
In reporting on Obama's Cairo speech last week, two influential evangelical figures told me that it was very important that the president trumpeted his religious identity early on in the address, saying, "I'm a Christian." In engaging the Muslim world, these leaders said, American Christians want their leaders to reaffirm their Christianity.
This morning, Politico reports on President Obama's willingness to invoke Jesus and his Christian faith, juxtaposing it with George W. Bush's relative reluctance to do so:
As president, Barack Obama has mentioned Jesus Christ in a number of high-profile public speeches—something his predecessor George W. Bush rarely did in such settings, even though Bush's Christian faith was at the core of his political identity.
In his speech Thursday in Cairo, Obama told the crowd that he is a Christian and mentioned the Islamic story of Isra, in which Moses, Jesus and Mohammed joined in prayer.
....Obama's invocation of the Christian Messiah is more overt than Americans heard in the public rhetoric of Bush in his time in the White House—even though Bush's victories were powered in part by evangelical voters.
That's all true. But it's important to note that Obama also recognizes other religious traditions—and actively recognizes nonbelievers—more than Bush.
Last week's Cairo speech was a good example. Bush never engaged the world's ordinary Muslims so directly.
At his inauguration, meanwhile, Obama described the United States as "a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and nonbelievers."
In his remarks at February's National Prayer Breakfast, the president again touted America's religious diversity: "We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we're going next—and some subscribe to no faith at all."
Obama is both more overtly Christian and more outwardly appreciative of the nation's religious diversity.