Most U.S. Protestant pastors doubt Beck, Obama are Christians-poll

December 7, 2010

What do conservative TV and radio personality Glenn Beck and U.S. President Barack Obama have in common? Most U.S. Protestant pastors doubt their Christian credentials.

These are among  the findings of a survey released this week by LifeWay Research, the number-crunching  arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, which sometimes does interesting pastor polls.

The poll in question, of 1,000 U.S. Protestant pastors, asked: “Which, if any, of the following people do you believe are Christians?” It then gave a list of five prominent personalties: TV diva Oprah Winfrey, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Beck, Obama and former Alaska governor and conservative sweetheart Sarah Palin.

USA-POLITICS/RALLY

(Photo: Glenn Beck raises his hands to the crowd as he stands on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial to address supporters at his Restoring Honor rally on the National Mall in Washington, August 28, 2010/Jonathan Ernst)

Only 27 percent of the respondents said they believed Beck, who is a Mormon, was a Christian and only 41 percent — well less than half — answered in the affirmative regarding Obama. Bush scored the highest at 75 percent and Palin was second at 66 percent. Oprah came in rock bottom at 19 percent. The national telephone survey took place Oct. 7-14.

It all raises some interesting questions and may raise a few eyebrows.

Let’s start with Beck, who often speaks the political and even spiritual language of conservative evangelical Christians– and counts many as his fans – but cannot score theological points with them because of his Mormon faith. Many evangelicals regard The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an oddball cult and the survey’s results show it may be as much a political liability for Beck the activist as it is for Mitt Romney the candidate, the former and perhaps future Republican presidential contender.

“… it is likely that Glenn Beck’s Mormonism, widely viewed by Protestants as a different religion rather than a different Christian denomination, probably caused many to indicate he is not a Christian,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

Beck, who is a rising star among U.S. conservatives, tends to hit the religious buttons hardest on his radio broadcasts, where he oftens bemoans things like the  fate of school prayer or interviews evangelical Christian writers about unfolding Biblical prophecy and End Times. He does not hide his Mormonism but he pointedly, and for good reason, seldom draws attention to it.

For Obama, who belongs to a mainline Protestant church, it is revealing that the majority of the polled pastors didn’t believe he is a Christian. One wonders what percentage subscribe to the erroneous view, held by many in the conservative heartland, that he is a Muslim.

TEXAS-SHOOTING/

(First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama bow their heads in prayer at the start of the III Corps and Fort Hood Memorial Ceremony November 10, 2009 held to honor the victims of the shootings on the Fort Hood Army post in Fort Hood, Texas/Kevin Lamarque)

The survey did draw on evangelical as well as mainline Protestant pastors and LifeWay noted partisan and ideolgical differences. LifeWay said “… 88 percent of those who self-identify as liberal or very liberal say Obama is a Christian compared to only 31 percent of those who say they are conservative and 12 percent of those who say they are very conservative.”

With Bush, one has to ask: why did 25 percent either say they did not believe he was a Christian or tick “not sure”? Are there suspicions out there that his self-professed religiosity was a naked political ploy to appeal to the Republican base?

The same could be asked about why only two-thirds said they thought Palin, who wears her faith pretty clearly on her sleeve, was a Christian. As a correspondent who once attended a service at her church in Wasilla, Alaska, I can say that her pastor and congregation seemed to take their faith pretty seriously.

LifeWay said four percent of the respondents said no one on the list made the Christian grade and 15 percent responded only with “not sure.”

One thing is sure: professions of faith alone will never convince some men and women of the cloth. And in the highly politicized environment of American faith, that can have political consequences

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19 comments

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[...] thing. Perhaps more surprisingly is the fact that only 19% think Oprah Winfrey is a Christian. CLICK HERE. Perhaps that’s because she so clearly worships at the House of Oprah, where they sing [...]

By their fruits ye shall know them. Look at what they have done and do. Who lives and promotes Christian values? What they are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear their words.

Posted by Chowell3 | Report as abusive

Mormons’ theology is based on First Century Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ comport more closely with Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormons’ teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:

http://MormonsAreChristian.blogspot.com

Those who would denigrate the Mormon religion, usually are mis-informed.

Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll:

http://www.pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-an d-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Surv ey.aspx

11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were non-Trinitarian Christians. Those who insist on a narrow definition of Christianity are doing our Republic an injustice.

Posted by BotBot | Report as abusive

I think LifeWay has polled the wrong people. Pastors? Since when have they been the source for determining who is christian or not? With major declines in church attendance, pastoral squabblings, corruption, etc., perhaps LifeWay should poll the congregants: Which, if any, of your recent pastors are christian? The results might be surprising.

Posted by clofgreen | Report as abusive

[...] most U.S. pastors don’t think Obama is a Christian…or Glenn Beck, for that [...]

Not that I really care what Protestant pastor think, but I’m assuming their conclusions about Beck and Obama have different foundations. Beck, because he is Mormon and the general protestant/contemporary christian groups don’t think ANY mormon is a Christian, and Obama because of they’re not sure he is telling the truth, professing to be christian yet having been raised under muslim influence and doctrine. Would someone claiming to be muslim have a chance of being elected president of the United States?

Posted by Sharpster | Report as abusive

Beck’s religion is seen by many as strange. They believe that the Garden of Eden was in America (American ego again), that God was once a man and became a god and dwells on a planet with his wife (wives). Their scriptures, The Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham are only considered authentic history by insiders.Beck’s behaviour makes me doubt he is a christian (He called Obama a racist).

Posted by aussieguy55 | Report as abusive

Today is Pearl Harbor Day, and I remember what happened when I was a teenager in 1941. I remember, too, what a pastor told me about the Mormons back then. My sweetheart was a young Latter Day Saint, stationed in the Pacific — the sweetest, truest young man I had ever known! But a Presbyterian pastor told me all kinds of crazy (false) stuff about the Mormons. I knew much of it wasn’t true, and my nearly 70 years membership in the LDS church has confirmed it. If you want to know about the Mormons, ask an active Mormon, not a pastor who is paid to preach!

Posted by Aimless8 | Report as abusive

Several years ago, I attended a meeting where a man said he was a former Baptist minister who had been hired to help write anti-Mormon literature for the convention.

He said that when he realized they were writing things that weren’t true; innuendo, or truths presented in a way to create rejection, he left the ministry and obtained a more honest and respectable means of earning a living.

I’ve wondered why one religion would put down another like that.

I know they claim that Mormons are not Christian because they interpret some scriptures differently than they do; believing in a living prophet and continuing revelation from God; also believing that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct Beings — rather than all three existing in one body (which, by the way, was decided hundreds of years after Christ, at the council at Nice, France led by Constantine, who was couldn’t decide what the true nature of God is).

If that’s the case, then they must believe that all religions that interpret scripture differently than they do are not Christian. For example, Since Baptists believe baptism by immersion is necessary, then churches that baptize by sprinkling and those who believe that all you have to do is believe and baptism isn’t necessary are also not Christian.

Also, those who believe that the Sabbath is on Saturday (rather than Sunday) by their definition are not Christian. In fact, it seems to boil down to: “If you don’t interpret scripture as I do, you are not Christian.” (I think there are over three thousand Christian denominations that exist because they interpret scriptures differently from one another).

I also know the Mormons believe in unpaid ministry, and perhaps that is a threat to others who make their living in the ministry and would tempt them to oppose the spread of Mormon teachings.

Posted by Moracle | Report as abusive

When it comes to who is or isn’t a “Christian” the ONLY opinion that matters if God’s opinion. There are many “Christian” groups that don’t think other Christian groups are “Christian” because of some minor difference in doctrine or for even less meaningful reasons. For those of us here on planer Earth the only thing that really matters is what people DO; not what church or religions gathering the attend (or don’t attend). Some consider B. Obama’s church “mainline” but I consider it nothing but a crock of hate against America…some consider Mormans (or which I have family that are part of the LDS church) to not be “Christian”; I tend to agree based on my understanding of scripture yet I can also say without equivocation that as a group, Morman’s tend to be the most “moral” and “Christian” people I know when looking at how they live their lives and treat other people.

In any case, when it comes to politics, I care about a person’s actions far more than I can about what religion the claim to be a part of and I care even less about who a bunch of pastors consider to be “Christian”.

Posted by RobertNashville | Report as abusive

The First Council of Nicaea, which was an early attempt by a group of Christian bishops to define the relationship between the Son and the Father, was convened in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day Turkey), not Nice in France.

Posted by Naminoriyaro | Report as abusive

People are often down on what they are not up on. We are often overwhelmed with current political news and personalities. News is readily available. Decisions (judgments) should be and are made. Glen Beck’s messages are readily available and open. His messages are timely and well researched. As usually happens, the message is decided based on the trust of the messenger. He does not hide the situation in his life and conversion to Mormonism nor does he try to force his belief on anyone else.
However, Mormon information, outside of the Church itself, is usually sporadic and limited because of the personal feelings of the presenter. To become “up on” Mormonism, I should think it would be wise to attend some of their worship services (visitors are welcome and no offering plates are are passed), hear the tenets of their belief from those who know and believe and speak with some of the 14,000,000 members to hear of their faith first hand. Those who read the Bible know it is a witness for the Savior, Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is a second witness for Jesus Christ. To have a second witness for Christ may give an indication as to why the youth and adults of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were shown in a non Mormon survey, to be well versed on and believed in Christianity. Perhaps a second witness does increase knowledge and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Father in Heaven.

Posted by Ruel | Report as abusive

The reason many Americans “believe” Obama is a Muslim is largely a self-inflicted wound on Obama’s part. He was the first president to pointed refuse to attend the annual Washington National Prayer Breakfast, saying, “I am the president of all Americans and not all Americans are Christians.” But then he turned right around and hosted a White House dinner for Muslim leaders in celebration of Ramadan (a Muslim holy season). So his own actions give many people pause to wonder.

Others don’t believe Obama is a Muslim, but think perhaps he might be a “christian” in the vein of his radical former pastor — Jeremiah Wright.

I personally don’t believe the president is a Muslim, I believe he is most likely a Secular person who perhaps simply *believes* he is a Christian. But many of his political advocacies are decidedly anti-Christian. Much of his “fruit” is not that of a Christian.

Posted by Bruce427 | Report as abusive

>> Mormons’ theology is based on First Century Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ comport more closely with Early Christianity than any other denomination.

Posted by Bruce427 | Report as abusive

>> For example, Since Baptists believe baptism by immersion is necessary, then churches that baptize by sprinkling and those who believe that all you have to do is believe and baptism isn’t necessary are also not Christian. > I also know the Mormons believe in unpaid ministry, and perhaps that is a threat to others who make their living in the ministry.

Posted by Bruce427 | Report as abusive

>> [Some believe some are] not Christian because they interpret some scriptures differently than they do; believing in a living prophet and continuing revelation from God; also believing that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct Beings — rather than all three existing in one body (which, by the way, was decided hundreds of years after Christ, at the council at Nice, France led by Constantine, who was couldn’t decide what the true nature of God is).

Posted by Bruce427 | Report as abusive

Statement posted previously: ” …For example, Since Baptists believe baptism by immersion is necessary, then churches that baptize by sprinkling and those who believe that all you have to do is believe and baptism isn’t necessary are also not Christian.”

Response: You failed to note WHAT Baptists believe baptism by immersion is necessary — FOR. You left that dangling and gave the impression that Baptists believe it is necessary for *salvation.* Baptists don’t believe baptism by immersion is necessary for salvation, only that it best symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Greek word “baptizo” (translated – baptize in English Bibles), was used of the dying of cloth where (obviously) the cloth was immersed in the solution and the solution was not simply sprinkled on the cloth.

But Baptists would absolutely affirm that the thief on the cross (next to Christ) was clearly saved, although he had no opportunity to be baptized. Furthermore, Baptists would certainly affirm that Methodists and Presbyterians (both of whom baptize by sprinkling) are their Christian brothers. Apart from different understandings of baptism, *historical* Baptist, and *historical* Presbyterian theology is nearly identical.

The reason I say “historical” is, both Presbyterian and Baptist denominations have liberal “branches” that have embraced the culture and wandered away from the historical teachings of Scripture — and do not represent the foundational and historical views of those denominations. The same is also true with Methodists although they hold to a somewhat different view regarding HOW salvation occurs than do historical Baptist and Presbyterians. Even so, the differing view of Methodists is not a heresy.

So just to set the record straight, Baptist do NOT believe those who baptize by sprinkling are not Christian.

Posted by Bruce427 | Report as abusive

Oprah questioned Christianity when she heard a preacher say in a sermon that, “God is a jealous God,” (Exodus 20:2-5) and she simply rejected that God could be jealous (of her) because He is a God of love. (You can view the video on YouTube.)

But this merely demonstrates Oprah’s misunderstanding of Scripture. That passage, in context, does NOT mean God is jealous in the emotional sinful human sense, but simply the He will not share the worship of His people with any other (false) gods or idols. So Oprah simply misunderstood the meaning of that passage and apparently never bothered to investigate it further.

Oprah also rejected (live on her show) that Christ is the only way to God and believes there are many ways. Oprah: “I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.” (That definition would be the antithesis of a Christian.)

But Christ Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6). So either Oprah is wrong or Christ is wrong.

Furthermore, in 1st. Timothy 2:5 the Apostle Paul states: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Then in Acts 4:12 Luke affirms: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven [other than Christ] that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

So here we have Christ, the Apostle Paul, and Luke lined up explicitly opposing what Oprah wants to believe. You can decide for yourselves whose side you come down on.

Posted by Bruce427 | Report as abusive

Should a president who supports abortion be considered Christian? Just think about that. It is a crucial issue.

Posted by Brazilian1 | Report as abusive

In a similar poll by PEW, it was revealed that conservative Christians had the least knowledge of the Bible & their own religious denomination. For an accurate evaluation of any person; “it says in the Bible”, is a nonstarter. It means nothing. No religious affiliation is a guarantee of good content of ones character. The same holds true for Muslims, who must depend on dubious clerics to tell them what it says in the Qoran, as most do not understand Arabic, & simply mouth the sounds. I can relate to that, in a sense; having grown up Catholic & an altar boy during the final years of the universal use of Latin for the Mass.At the age of 10 or so;I could mouth pages of Latin, & hadn’t a clue what I was saying.But, more to the point; it shouldn’t matter what religion, if any, the president follows. Perhaps this should be kept confidential, & successful candidates should have to abstain from church attendance while in office.

Posted by Bartski | Report as abusive

The First Council of Nicaea, which was an early attempt by a group of Christian bishops to define the relationship between the Son and the Father, was convened in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day Turkey), not Nice in France.
mai hien di dong

Posted by hungba193 | Report as abusive