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Thomas column: Obama is no Joshua

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign plans to strike at the heart of the Republican base by attempting to woo evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics to his side.
The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody first broke the story on his blog “The Brody File.” Obama’s campaign for the conservative Christian vote, which has largely gone to the Republican presidential candidate in recent elections, has been dubbed the “Joshua Generation Project.” Joshua, Moses’ successor, led the Israelites into the Promised Land. It wasn’t the group that fled Egypt in the Exodus, though. They died in the wilderness, lacking faith in God’s promise. It was the next generation that Joshua led into Canaan. Apparently, if we have enough faith in Obama, he will lead us all into a new America, but if we vote for John McCain, we will demonstrate a lack of faith (in Obama) and die in the political badlands.
Obama is better at biblical language and imagery than any Democrat in modern times. He certainly beats Howard Dean, now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who once offered Job as his favorite New Testament book. This is cynical manipulation of the devout and it is no better when Democrats do it than when Republicans use religious language for partisan advantage.
Obama has declared himself a committed Christian. He can call himself anything he likes, but there are certain markers among the evangelicals he is courting that one must meet in order to qualify for that label.
Some insight into Obama’s “Christianity” comes from an interview he gave in 2004 to Chicago Sun-Times religion editor Cathleen Falsani for her book, “The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People.”
“I’m rooted in the Christian tradition,” said Obama. He then adds something most Christians will see as universalism: “I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”
Falsani correctly brings up John 14:6 (and how many journalists would know such a verse, much less ask a question based on it?) in which Jesus says of Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That sounds exclusive, but Obama says it depends on how this verse is heard. According to Falsani, Obama thinks that “all people of faith ó Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone ó know the same God.” (Her words.)
Evangelicals and serious Catholics might ask if this is so, why did Jesus waste His time coming to Earth, suffering pain, rejection and crucifixion? If there are many ways to God, He might have sent down a spiritual version of table manners and avoided the rest.
Here’s Obama telling Falsani, “The difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they’re going to hell.” Falsani adds, “Obama doesn’t believe he, or anyone else, will go to hell. But he’s not sure he’ll be going to heaven, either.” Again, that is contrary to what evangelicals and most Catholics believe.
Here’s Obama again: “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.”
Any first-year seminary student could deconstruct such “works salvation” and wishful thinking. Obama either hasn’t read the Bible, or if he has, doesn’t believe it if he embraces such thin theological wisps.
Obama can call himself anything he likes, but there is a clear requirement for one to qualify as a Christian and Obama doesn’t meet that requirement. One cannot deny central tenets of the Christian faith, including the deity and uniqueness of Christ as the sole mediator between God and Man and be a Christian. Such people do have a label applied to them in Scripture. They are called “false prophets.”
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Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207. Readers may e-mail him at tmseditors@tribune.com.

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