A group of mostly mainline and evangelical left leaders and academics has published an open letter on the matter of President Obama’s Christian faith. Though it is signed mostly by a collection of people with whom I rarely agree, in this instance I think they are right on target, and I’ve added my own inconsequential name to it. This is the letter in its entirety:

As Christian leaders— whose primary responsibility is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with our congregations, our communities, and our world— we are deeply troubled by the recent questioning of President Obama’s faith. We understand that these are contentious times, but the personal faith of our leaders should not be up for public debate.

President Obama has been unwavering in confessing Christ as Lord and has spoken often about the importance of his Christian faith.  Many of the signees on this letter have prayed and worshipped with this President.  We believe that questioning, and especially misrepresenting, the faith of a confessing believer goes too far.

This is not a political issue. The signers of this letter come from different political and ideological backgrounds, but we are unified in our belief in Jesus Christ.  As Christian pastors and leaders, we believe that fellow Christians need to be an encouragement to those who call Christ their savior, not question the veracity of their faith.

Therefore, we urge public officials, faith leaders, and the media to offer no further support or airtime to those who misrepresent and call into question the President’s Christian faith.  And we join with the President in praying that God will continue to bless the United States of America.

I don’t know anything about the depth of the president’s faith, or the sincerity with which he holds to it. I have no idea what kind of theological notions he harbors, though after twenty years at Trinity UCC in Chicago there’s probably more than his fair share of nonsense. I also know that it doesn’t really matter. The question of presidential faith mostly tells us, if anything, what motivates him to pursue the policies he prefers. And Barack Obama has been pretty clear that he’s a liberal mainline Christian, the evidence for which may, I think, be found in almost every consequential stance he’s taken.

The continuing insinuation from some corners that he is a secret Muslim is simply ridiculous, up there with the conspiracy theory regarding his birth certificate. It’s every bit as unseemly as the repeated attacks from the left on George Bush’s evangelicalism, or the whispers that sometimes swirled around Ronald Reagan because he rarely went to church. I have no problem with people disagreeing in the most vociferous terms with Obama’s politics and policies, or even disliking him personally. But folks really should leave it at that. Anything more is adding poison to a civic environment that is already toxic enough.