Some 2,000 people from around the world convened at a Charlotte megachurch over the weekend to hear renowned apologists defend the Christian faith.
While the National Conference on Christian Apologetics addressed the usual topics of intelligent design, evidence of the resurrection and atheism, one of the highlights of this year's event was a talk on President Barack Obama and his ideology. "President Obama is in some ways a mystery man. He was perhaps the most unknown guy to come into the White House," said bestselling author and renowned apologist Dinesh D'Souza.
D'Souza isn't a stranger to the annual apologetics conference, organized by Southern Evangelical Seminary. As one of the most requested speakers, he has previously spoken on the evidence of Christianity, the existence of God, the topic of suffering and life after death.
But with the release of his new book, The Roots of Obama's Rage, the Indian-born scholar turned his attention to the man leading America.
Christians, he said, are called to understand the world so that they can be a positive influence in it.
"We need to be aware of how our leaders think and [be] active in our culture," he told attendees Saturday at Northside Baptist Church as he stressed the importance of engaging the public debate.
So what motivates Obama? he posed.
It's neither the American dream nor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream. Rather, his dreams come from his Kenyan father who was an anticolonialist.
Obama did not follow his father as a man his father had four wives and was often drunk. He also hardly knew his father since he left when the younger Obama was two years old.
But D'Souza concludes, mainly from reading Obama's autobiography, that Obama has chosen to take on his father's mission. Obama Sr. was an economist. He wrote an article titled "Problems Facing Our Socialism" that was published in 1965 in the East Africa Journal. In the article, he proposes eliminating power structures and raising taxes with no upper limit.
The proposals are based on the anticolonial assumption that the rich got rich by ripping off the poor and thus whatever they have is undeserved. This "helps us a little bit to understand our debates now," D'Souza said.
If you plug in the anticolonial assumption, he noted, much of what Obama does makes sense.
D'Souza clarified that his argument is not that Obama is an anticolonialist, but that in some way, "he is frozen in the time machine of his father's anticolonialism."
"My fear is, in some sense, America today is being governed by the dreams of a Luo tribesman from the 1950s who was in a sense locked into a view of the world that is completely irrelevant in the world today," he said.
D'Souza, who was recently named president of The King's College in New York City, emphasized that he isn't trying to bash Obama.
"I'm trying to understand him," he said. "As Christians and as citizens, I think that we always have to look at our leaders and try to understand them.
"When you know a man's compass, you can not only explain what he's doing but you can help to predict what he's going to do in the future."
Alex McFarland, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, also sees the need for Christians to be involved in public life, especially as it relates to government. It's what the Bible says, he underscored.
And to get involved, they must understand the worldview of the people they elect, he said.
"If we didn't present this ... they probably otherwise wouldn't have heard it," McFarland said of D'Souza's talk.
The U.S. preamble starts with "We the people," he added. "In the United States of America, we the people are the authority. So I believe that Christians who aren't informed on the political issues of the day, not only are they not fulfilling their duty as an American, I really think that they're leaving undone some of the responsibilities of what it means to be a disciple of Christ."
The National Conference on Christian Apologetics was held Oct. 15-16. For 17 years, Christians have gathered in North Carolina every year to learn how to defend their faith philosophically, scientifically and evidentially.
But while providing the "intellectual tools" to help Christians engage the public sphere, McFarland provided believers with two important reminders: love and the Holy Spirit.
"I'll tell you what apologetics is not: Apologetics is not a license to be abrasive or to be a jerk," McFarland stated. "Can we blow the doors off an atheist in a debate? Absolutely. But in our walk and in our witness, we are to be winsome and Christ-like and an argument to be won is never more important than a person to be loved."
And the key ingredient to it all is the Holy Spirit.
"All of the great apologetics, the arguments ... would amount to nothing without the Holy Spirit," he stressed.