Jonathan Chait thinks Senator McConnell has delivered a “dog-whistle message to the far right” by saying “the president says he’s a Christian, I take him at his word.” Chait comments, “To say that you ‘take him at his word’ means two things. First of all, it suggests that the president’s word is the only information we have to go on here. Of course, that is absurd. Second, if further suggests that, the evidence being weak or inconclusive, McConnell is taking the high road by accepting Obama’s testimony.”
If I were asked the same question as McConnell, I would have given a very similar answer, and I think many other Christians would too. Alan Jacobs put it this way some time ago: “[T]he President-elect claims to be a Christian, and I take him — I think I have to take him — at his word. Could he be lying? Could he be self-deceived? Could he have a limited or erroneous understanding of what Christianity is? Yes to all three. But then, the same doubts could be directed at anyone who claims to be a Christian, including me.” A Christian may reasonably take the view that someone’s calling himself a Christian is the “information” that settles the issue. For all I know McConnell is making the same assumption.