He is a ‘Chris­tian by choice,’ he says, and the teach­ings of Je­sus ‘spoke to me.’

Los Angeles Times - - The Nation - Christi Par­sons and Peter Ni­cholas re­port­ing from al­bu­querque

Pres­i­dent Obama said Tues­day that he is a “Chris­tian by choice” and that his de­ci­sion was in­flu­enced by gospel teach­ings about sal­va­tion and the im­por­tance of lov­ing one an­other.

His mother and the grand­par­ents who helped raised him weren’t reg­u­lar church­go­ers, Obama told a group here. But he be­came a Chris­tian later in life be­cause of the re­li­gion’s ba­sic prin­ci­ples, he said.

“It was be­cause the pre­cepts of Je­sus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead,” Obama said. “Be­ing my brother’s and sis­ter’s keeper. Treat­ing oth­ers as they would treat me.”

Obama also spoke of the doc­trine of sal­va­tion and of Je­sus Christ “dy­ing for my sins,” a set of be­liefs many Chris­tians con­sider fun­da­men­tal to the pro­fes­sion of faith.

The re­marks came in re­sponse to a ques­tion from some­one in the crowd who veered away from eco­nom­ics, the sub­ject mat­ter dom­i­nat­ing the meet­ing.

The is­sue of Obama’s re­li­gious be­liefs is a pop­u­lar sub­ject of de­bate on cable talk shows and the In­ter­net. Re­cent polling data sug­gest that a grow­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans think Obama is Mus­lim.

A na­tional sur­vey by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter in Au­gust found that nearly 1 in 5 Amer­i­cans (18%) said Obama is a Mus­lim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about a third of adults (34%) said Obama is a Chris­tian, down from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% said they do not know what Obama’s re­li­gion is.

Un­til re­cently, the pres­i­dent had kept the sub­ject of re­li­gion al­most en­tirely pri­vate since he took of­fice. But he weighed in force­fully to de­fend the right of a Mus­lim group to build a mosque and com­mu­nity cen­ter near the World Trade Cen­ter site, and one re­cent Sun­day at­tended church near the White House with his fam­ily.

Obama’s com­ments Tues­day con­sti­tuted the most in­ti­mate per­sonal ac­count­ing of his faith since he pub­lished a 1999 mem­oir.

“Un­der­stand­ing that Je­sus Christ dy­ing for my sins spoke to the hu­mil­ity we all have to have as hu­man be­ings, that we’re sin­ful and we’re flawed, we make mis­takes,” Obama said. “And that we achieve sal­va­tion through the grace of God.”

Al­though flawed, in­di­vid­u­als can “still see God in other peo­ple” and help oth­ers to find “their own grace.”

“So that’s what I strive to do. That’s what I pray to do ev­ery day,” Obama said.

Mean­while, Obama said in an in­ter­view with Rolling Stone re­leased Tues­day that he’s cho­sen progress on key pri­or­i­ties over ide­o­log­i­cal bat­tles that may have mo­ti­vated his party’s base, and again urged Democrats to get off the side­lines in Novem­ber.

De­fend­ing his record as pres­i­dent, he said he’s ended one of two wars he in­her­ited and passed “his­toric” health­care and reg­u­la­tory re­forms, plus “a huge num­ber of leg­isla­tive vic­to­ries that peo­ple don’t even no­tice.”

“I keep in my pocket a check­list of the prom­ises I made … and we’ve prob­a­bly ac­com­plished 70%” of them, he said.

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