Both of them were/are considered infidels and anti-Christian during their tenure in public life by the religious right of their era.
I started this post when some Christian right leaders went ballistic over Barack Obama’s reference to his religious views at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month. Then, Rick Santorum called Obama’s theology “phony.” And then today I see that my friend at Messiah College John Fea is at the heart of a storm over his statement that Barack Obama is “the most explicitly Christian president in American history.”
Glenn Beck is all over the Messiah history prof because of course one cannot view Barack Obama’s statements in the same way one views the religious statements of other Presidents.
For sure, though, there is a parallel between Obama and Jefferson.
During the campaign of 1800, Rev. Thomas Robbins wrote in his diary:
The Anti-Federalist ticket has prevailed in the city of New York, and they have chosen Democratic members for their assembly. It is said this will make a majority of Democratic electors in their legislature, and bring Jefferson into the Presidential chair. Blessed be God that all things are in His hands, and may He avert such an evil from this country, for His name’s sake. I do not believe that the Most High will permit a howling atheist to sit at the head of this nation.
As we know, the Most High did permit Jefferson to sit at the head of the nation.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Jefferson was very cautious about his correspondence surrounding his Presidential years because he feared the reaction of religious leaders – “genus irritabile vatum” (irritable tribe of priests ) he called them. Many in religious establishment in his day believed that Jefferson was antagonistic toward religion and opposed him politically. Sound familiar?
I am not sure I agree with John, although I am not convinced I disagree with his statement regarding Obama. I am sure though that Jefferson and Obama have at least one thing in common.
Fight the good fight, John.