Not everyone was happy with President Barack Obama's nod to nonbelievers and non-Christians in his inaugural address. And some of the stiff criticism about Obama’s religious inclusiveness is coming from African-American Christians who maintain that no, all faiths were actually not created equal.
"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness," the new president said. "We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth," he also said. Nothing too controversial, proclaiming that America's strength lies in its diversity.
But between those two statements, the new president got specific: "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers."
By mentioning, for the first time in an inaugural address, the 16.1 percent of Americans who check "no"’ when asked about religion, Obama turned it into the most controversial line in his speech -- praised by The New York Times editorial board and cited by some Christians as evidence that he is a heretic, and in his well-spoken way, a serious threat.
With that one line, the president "seems to be trying to redefine American culture, which is distinctively Christian," said’ Bishop E.W. Jackson of the Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, Va. "The overwhelming majority of Americans identify as Christians, and what disturbs me is that he seems to be trying to redefine who we are.’"
Earlier this week, Jackson was a guest on the popular conservative Christian radio show "Janet Parshall's America," where a succession of callers, many of whom identified themselves as African-American, said they shared the concern, and were perplexed and put off by the president’s shout-out to nonbelievers.
Parshall noted that atheists were celebrating the unexpected mention, and indeed they were: "In his inaugural address … President Barack Obama did what many before him should have done, rightly citing the great diversity of America as part of the nation's great strength, and including 'nonbelievers'’ in that mix,’" said Ed Buckner of American Atheists.
"His mother would have been proud," Buckner said, referring to the fact that Obama’s mother was not a church-goer. "And so are we."
Jackson said he and others have no problem acknowledging that "this country is one in which everybody has the freedom to think what they want." Yet Obama crossed the line, in his view, in suggesting that all faiths (and none) were different roads to the same destination: "He made similar remarks in the campaign, and said, 'We are no longer a Christian nation, if we ever were. We are a Jewish, Hindu and non-believing nation.'"
Not so, Jackson says: "Obviously, Jewish heritage is very much a part of Christianity; the Jewish Bible is part of our Bible. But Hindu, Muslim, and nonbelievers? I don't think so. We are not a Muslim nation or a nonbelieving nation."
With all the focus on Obama as the first African-American president, the succession of black callers to Janet Parshall's show was a reminder that the "community" is not a monolith, and that many socially conservative black Americans are at odds with Obama's views, particularly on abortion and gay rights. Nor do they all define civil rights in the same way.
The Rev. Cecil Blye, pastor of More Grace Ministries Church in Louisville, Ky., said the president's reference to nonbelievers also set off major alarm bells for him. "It's important to understand the heritage of our country, and it's a Judeo-Christian tradition," period.
[By MELINDA HENNENBERGER, AOL News]