Basing his comments on "my own Christian faith," President Obama told the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit that churches should spend less time focusing on abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
During a panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University last Tuesday, Obama criticized churches for how they engage politically, focusing on "divisive issues" such as protecting life and preserving marriage.
The president said, "When it comes to what are you really going to the mat for, what’s the defining issue, when you’re talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, or what have you, [poverty] is oftentimes viewed as a 'nice to have' relative to an issue like abortion."
While the Christian religion has rejected abortion since its founding, and always considered homosexuality a grave sin, traditionally no welfare state economic theory has been endorsed by the Christian Church.
While campaigning for president, Obama lightly dismissed the question of abortion, telling megachurch pastor Rick Warren that knowing when human life begins was “above my pay grade.”
In contrast, the president argued last week that churches would gain more followers if they embraced the “powerful” idea of helping those in poverty. “I think it would be powerful for our faith-based organizations to speak out on [poverty] in a more forceful fashion,” he said.
The president also said that advocating the redistribution of wealth is “vital to following what Jesus Christ, our Savior, talked about.”
"I reject his premise,” blogger Stan Guthrie, an editor at large at Christianity Today, commented. “People of faith already do far more for the poor than secular leftists.”
President Obama's comments, he said, exemplified “unbelievable ignorance on display."
The unusual scene of a sitting president criticizing churches for emphasizing traditional doctrines opened the question of whether the president and others on the Left intend to influence, cajole, or bully Christians into altering their fundamental moral beliefs. Obama's remarks came shortly after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton declared that religious beliefs against abortion "have to be changed."
She had previously likened beliefs that homosexuality is immoral to “honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”
At the Georgetown forum, Obama admitted that focusing on poverty to the exclusion of moral issues such as abortion would be politically advantageous to Democrats In the next election. Clinton is the front-runner to become the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
Those churches which have emphasized issues like economic redistribution or climate change have had the most precipitous loss of members, according to a new Pew Research Center report on the decline of Christianity in America.
In his remarks at Georgetown, Obama also criticized Fox News for its reporting on welfare and government aid recipients, declaring, "We're going to have to change how the media reports on these issues."
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said it was unacceptable that “the biggest class warrior to ever occupy the White House” spent his time blaming cable news outlets and churches for the nation's sour economic climate.
“It's not at all his fault. It has nothing to do with his [fiscal] policies,” he said. “It's the churches' fault."