Obama’s new church: St. Elsewhere’s?

posted by David Gibson

Evergeen Chapel.jpgOr St. Nowhere’s?

In a report disputed by the White House, TIME’s Amy Sullivan writes that the much-anticipated decision on where the Obama’s would worship has been settled, and instead of joining a congregation in Washington, Obama will do like W. and worship at Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational church at Camp David. This ends a long church hunt familiar to many who move, especially with young children. But of course, few of us happen to be the POTUS. Sullivan writes:

“A number of factors drove the decision — financial, political, personal — but chief among them was the desire to worship without being on display. Obama was reportedly taken aback by the circus stirred up by his visit to 19th Street Baptist in January. Lines started forming three hours before the morning service, and many longtime members were literally left out in the cold as the church filled with outsiders eager to see the new President. Even at St. John’s, which is so accustomed to presidential visitors that it is known as the “Church of the Presidents,” worshippers couldn’t help themselves from snapping photos of Obama on their camera phones as they walked down the aisle past him to take communion.”

But at USNews, Dan Gilgoff reports the White House as saying no way, the search is still on:

The President and First Family continue to look for a church home. They have enjoyed worshipping at Camp David and several other congregations over the months, and will choose a church at the time that is best for their family.

The decision is fraught, and the Camp David choice wouldn’t seem as isolating as I imagined. The chapel draws upwards of 70 people each Sunday to its “nondenominational Christian services,” which are open to the nearly 400 military personnel and staff at Camp David and their families. A Navy chaplain and nephew of Johhny Cash–and a Southern Baptist!–is the current pastor. A long ways from Jeremiah Wright. The late Cardinal James Hickey of Washington delivered a sermon calling the chapel a “witness to our common belief that we need to seek divine guidance in the conduct of our national affairs,” Sullivan writes.  

Still…I hope Obama does choose a congregation, embedded in the community and part of a distinct and longstanding tradition, as he did before. There are many understandable factors working against such a choice. As Gilgoff notes:

George W. Bush, who was perceived as intensely religious, could afford to worship quietly at Camp David. Obama, who’s still establishing himself as a Christian in the public eye and who continues to battle false rumors that he’s a Muslim, could afford to flaunt his Sunday-morning habits a bit more.

Sticking with Evergreen Chapel (jeez, what a name) does cut a president off from the negotiations, as it were, that come from commitment to any larger community. And those negotiations are part of the journey of faith. But they’re young. Maybe after 2016–or 2012?–they’ll be free to choose another church.

For now, conservative Catholics are just happy the Obamas aren’t becoming Catholic, as the White House confirmed last week. And I, for one, hope he doesn’t go the “C Street” route that did so much for Mark Sanford’s personal growth…

BTW, anyone know where the W. Bush’s are worshipping these days? Not much easier for ex-presidents to take a pew anonymously.

Comments read comments(20)
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Mike Sweitzer-Beckman

posted June 29, 2009 at 3:25 pm

It’s interesting to think about Obama trying to go to church somewhere and, while church-hunting is familiar to many who move around, it is true we don’t have the other variable of being the POTUS.
I wonder though – if Obama were looking for a larger congregation and denomination to be a part of – would he be more popular than the pope in DC?
This article indicates he is not.

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posted June 29, 2009 at 3:47 pm

We makes the biggest deals about the smallest things. Who cares where they worship? It is their personal business. I noted that even the U.S. News and World Report faith blog felt the need to report this.

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posted June 29, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I’m sorry but I think this quote by Gilgoff:
“George W. Bush, who was perceived as intensely religious, could afford to worship quietly at Camp David. Obama, who’s still establishing himself as a Christian in the public eye and who continues to battle false rumors that he’s a Muslim, could afford to flaunt his Sunday-morning habits a bit more”
is beyond stupid.
I think it is insulting, especially to the public but also to the Obamas, to George Bush (who I normally don’t care if people insult) and actually I think it is insulting to the whole idea of worship.
And religion. And faith.
As if it is all about what it looks like and what others who are watching me need to feel comfortable with, or believe, my faith and belief.

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posted June 29, 2009 at 4:33 pm

That last sentence should read:
As if it is all about what it looks like and what others who are watching me need to feel comfortable with, or believe about, my faith and beliefs.
(I left out “about”)

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Frank Clyburn

posted June 29, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I feel that Mrs. Obama may be a Christian, but I think that Mr. Obama has no real desire to be so described……with his early training as a Muslum he may or may not be confused as to his faith, if any, but in this country, he must have an appearance of being Christian….must be hard on him!

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Emily Jane

posted June 29, 2009 at 7:47 pm

What this nation needs is a good Episcopalian president, one who supports gay marriage, women in authority, and free thinking in faith.
Mr Obama shouldn’t be afraid to assert his faith in public, and from what I’ve seen, I think he’d make a great Episcopalian.

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David Gibson

posted June 29, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Emily Jane: Not to cast stones, but Mark Sanford is an Episcopalian.

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posted June 29, 2009 at 10:15 pm

What would make somebody honestly question Mr.Obama’s belief in Jesus and what right would we have to do so? IS it because he professes to believe in Jesus as Christ and tries to live accordingly? One can disagree with him on issues but to cast such an unjust statement his way is beyond arrogant not to mention unkind.
Aren’t they suppose to know we are Christians by our love?

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posted June 29, 2009 at 10:27 pm

What is the “C Street” route. Is Mark Sanford an Episcopalian? I read somewhere that Mrs. Sanford is Catholic. Is this true? I think where the Obamas worship is their decision but I can see the hardship in joining a church in Washington, DC.

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posted June 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

The Obama family should certainly go where they feel comfortable. It appears they have chosen a place to do their worshiping. No problems with me if they didn’t go anywhere.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 7:17 am

“C” street is a reference to “The Fellowship” isn’t it? That renowned powerful Evangelical secret society that helps fallen congressmen and presidents recover their power base after they slide into sexual sin?
There doesn’t seem to be a reason for President Obama to attend.
But perhaps once his evil Muslim roots reassert themselves, and his agenda to overthrow the country in favor of becoming an African satellite of Mugabwe’s dictatorship come to fruition then he may need to avail himself of such. I imagine all his nefarious intentions do include infidelity to his wife but that is so tame considering just how perfectly evil he truly is.
/irony off.

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Your Name

posted June 30, 2009 at 8:36 am

It is none of our business where Mr. Obama worships, but of course being in public office it is made our business. How great the burden placed on any public figure when he is not permitted his own personal expression of faith.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 9:10 am

well done Cindy!

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posted June 30, 2009 at 11:02 am

Little lack of trust there, Cindy? Even if President Obama was Muslim (and he’s not) what would be the problem? Christianity is better? Not necessarily. An understanding of other faiths might make the world a better place, but most folks keep insisting their’s in the only ones. No wonder there are religious arguments. No one faith is the best.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Pagan Sister — you did see the /irony off at the end of my post, right?
I don’t care a whit if President Obama was Muslim, Hindu, Atheist or even (gasp) Catholic.
I do tend toward belief of the person professing the faith, so since he says he is Christian then I tend to say he is a Christian. Not because I think Christianity is better, but because it is his choice to believe and to name that belief.
It has always amazed me, throughout the entire election cycle (wasn’t it a 100 year cycle toward the 2008 election?) that an “accusation” of Muslim faith would be so odious as to require some proof of its falsehood.
What? Don’t we actually protect and value freedom of religion in this country? Well, if not in the country at least in our Constitution?
But, I digress.
I was simply poking fun at the ubiquitous Muslim-scare tactics that continue to be thrown at the President.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Sorry, Cindy. My mistake. However there are some who post who would be serious about what you wrote as you know,…still being convinced Obama is a Muslim and all the “evil” that conjures up in some folks.
Yes, it is amazing that in 2009 that as “accusation” of Mulsim faith would be so odious as to require proof of it’s falsehood.
Having reread your post..’tis well done, as expressed by ann.

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on the journey

posted June 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm

it should not matter where he prays, but that he prays
surely there are more serious matters facing us
but this sure is fun!

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Jasmine Jones

posted July 1, 2009 at 8:02 pm

How can you really believe in God and practice his beliefs, and say you are a true believer in God,if you believe in Gay Rights. Same sex marriage is wrong and the United States will fall like the Roman Empire.

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posted July 1, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Jasmine Jones:
How is it any of your business and how does it affect you if homosexuals marry? It doesn’t. It’s called equality for all. Not to worry, the USA isn’t going anywhere. BTW, there are many true Christians who know that their creator loves all his/her creations and accepts hetetosexuals and homosexuals. What is the expression I’ve heard many Christians say? “God doesn’t make mistakes.”

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God is the only God

posted July 6, 2009 at 11:22 am

God does love all of his creations more than anything, and he accept them all, but only after they repent of their sins.

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