Five Reasons You SHOULD Care If President Obama Goes To Church

President Obama attending church for the first time publicly should be of interest to all Americans, and not necessarily for the reasons some would think.

How interesting on a Sunday when I was not able to attend church, the President of United States does.

It’s a “Trending Topic” on the Web this Sunday– President Obama attends church publicly.

Was it just PR?   Or, did the President wake up this morning and decide he needed to have a spiritual encounter today?  Well only Mr. Obama, or perhaps his press secretary, could answer that.   (I’m sure someone will ask it about it at Monday’s White House briefing)

Back when I worked as television news producer in 1990s,  there was the video that the White House press corps would shoot and uplink via satellite news feed to all the local stations of “Presidential Arrivals” and “Presidential Departures” for church.

At the time, it was former Presidents Bill Clinton and his family who were going and coming from church.

When I was assembling early morning news on Sundays (and some Mondays), we would have those pieces for “fresh video” of the leader of the free world to use in our newscasts.

Some might ask– SO WHAT– WHY SHOULD WE CARE if President Obama Goes To Church?   Does This Prove He’s Not Muslim?

The question is much broader than that.   Besides the obvious reason that it’s newsworthy that President Obama attended church publicly for the first time in six months, there are FIVE REASONS why WE SHOULD CARE If President Obama Goes To Church.

I’m not talking about him going to church to make a speech or do something “presidential.”  I’m talking about President Obama, the man of faith (that I personally believe he is) sitting in the pew to receive what the man or woman of God in the pulpit has to say to him and other parishioners or members gathered.

We should care about that.. and HERE’s WHY:

1.  We should know how much faith plays into the thinking of our elected officials

It would be irresponsible for us journalists not to take note of this trend and draw a connection between the incident and the political polls that reflect voter unclarity about the President’s faith.    Still more important,  it’s how much faith plays into the thinking of those who we elect.

I tend to agree with Damon Linker, who wrote in today’ Washington Post about a “Religious Test Political Candidates Should Take.”

“Depending on where believers come down on such issues, their faith may or may not clash with the requirements of democratic politics,” Linker said. ” To help us make that determination, all candidates for high office should have to take the religious test.”

As the saying goes, “Actions Speak Louder.”

President Obama has set up an Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and appointed 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor Joshua DuBois as what TIME  Magazine “Pastor-in-Chief” to head that office.

DuBois served as director of religious affairs for Obama’s Presidential campaign.  The Boston Globe did an interesting profile on DuBois.

This interest in faith-based initiatives extends beyond our U.S. borders.

Earlier this year, the White House sent its deputy director Mara Vanderslice to participate in a half-day conference on “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad.”

2. President Obama’s church affiliation is NEWS.  It’s that simple.

I recall weeks before his inauguration, there was a lot of speculation about which church President Obama would make his new church home.  (Seems like THAT should have quelled the rumors about his spiritual background)

He is said to have visited more than one church, including my own DC church, Metropolitan Baptist Church in NW Washington.  ( As a Baptist believer, I was an active member of Metropolitan while a student at Howard University in early 90s)

Down the street from Metropolitan’s former R Street location, at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, President Obama  made a passionate address earlier this year around the holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But, to my knowledge, he’s not a member of either congregation.    His membership in Trinity United Church of Christ back in Chicago would lead one to believe he might choose a unit of that denomination in Washington, DC area.

When and if a decision is made, it will be MAJOR news.     That’s just a fact and I think we should embrace this step that the President may take in spite all of all the questions about his faith.

3. It’s not about whether or not he’s Muslim.

Some would shine the focus on the naysayers or critics who want to make President Obama a Muslim simply because of the way his name sounds on where he grew up or his family background.

But, let’s advance our understanding from a media standpoint beyond that.

Moreover, understand how important it is for the President of the United States to celebrate those of all religions.

As was the case with a recent celebration of Ramadan at the White House, religious celebrations create an opportunity for the President of the United States to go “ON THE RECORD” on issues of religious freedom.

The President’s remarks made a lot of news (some reports of which were terribly misleading) and reminded us of how statements at such celebrations can create national debates, discussions and dialogues.

4.It’s good to know how much the President is or is not like the rest of us.

Like or it or not, we all like to have elected officials who are like us.  The latest data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life show 78 percent of Americans are classified as Christian. Only 16 percent of the 35,000 Americans interviewed for U.S. Religious Landscape survey were called as having “no religion.”

I would say this underscores that we are still “One Nation Under God” even if we also have a right to freedom of religion.

It’s good for us as American to know the President falls in that same “nation under God” based on his own personal choices of worship and congregational affiliation.

5. I want to know where my president is on Sunday morning

If all the aforementioned reasons aren’t good enough, there’s the matter of as a citizen, I just want to know what the President does on Sunday morning if he’s not traveling out of the country or doing something “presidential.”

When you’re a public official, it goes with the territory.

So, I would tell the White House Press Corp. — GET READY to shoot a lot more Obama Sunday Church Arrivals and Departures.    I have a feeling we may be seeing a lot more of what we saw today.

When we see those pictures again, we shouldn’t be shocked.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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