I was working in The White House when the press release arrived: “Pew Survey Finds Almost 1/5 of Americans Believe President Obama Is a Muslim.”

I spent years having to talk to reporters and draft statements to counter this curious belief. It’s now clear to me that, while the belief persisted for many reasons (including the way faith is used as a political weapon), a major reason was that media, racists, and liberal elites alike tend to treat African American Christianity as a cultural, not a theological, phenomenon.

I have never said this publicly, but it is one reason I believe President Obama has “gotten away with” explicitly religious language that, coming from a white President, would earn him screeds on liberal websites accusing him of violating the separation of church and state. But with a black President, many media pundits, racists, and white secular elites seem to shrug off his faith statements as arising from cultural baggage, not sincerely held beliefs.

I thought of this as I watched Charleston family members publicly forgive the man who killed nine of their loved ones during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church.

I do not know if I could be like Nadine Collier, who told Dylann Roof, “You took something very precious from me, but I forgive you. It hurts me. You hurt a lot of people, but may God forgive you.” I do not know if I could have had the compassion of Anthony Thompson, who exhorted Roof to “repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so he can change your ways no matter what happens to you and you’ll be okay.” Roof will be okay? Why should his future be hopeful when he snuffed out nine precious lives? These ...

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