A radical for the ages.
Scott Walker is, famously, the son of a preacher man.
A Baptist preacher man, to be exact. He continued that faith well into adulthood and was even a deacon of his local church, Underwood Memorial Baptist in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Apparently everything was going swimmingly until around 2003, when a liberal female pastor named Jamie Washam showed up. Washam opposed the war in Iraq and thought that gay couples should be able to see each other in the hospital—truly unChristian stuff.
So Walker left the church and joined the Meadowbrook Church—close to his old church, geographically speaking, but a world apart in its beliefs.
Meadowbrook is one of nine churches in the Milwaukee area that end in "brook," which sprung out of the Elmbrook megachurch in nearby Brookfield, Wisconsin. The church is not affiliated with any organized religion and was started by an Englishman named D. Stuart Briscoe, who came to Wisconsin in 1970 and had no formal religious training.
A 1988 Milwaukee Journal profile of the church said the congregation is "almost all white, young, and affluent." And that "its critics say its emphasis is on saving souls while ignoring more earthly social issues, and its theology reinforces—even blesses the lifestyle of many of its members."
Although these churches advertise themselves as nondenominational, their beliefs mirror that of most uber-conservative Pentecostal churches, "a form of religion that is more conservative in its religious philosophy but also in the social and political philosophy that characterizes the majority of the church." In addition, "although Elmbrook calls itself nondenominational, couples cannot be married in the church unless they've had 'born-again' experiences."
"Many of those attending the church espouse an attitude that anyone that does not accept their born-again theology is not Christian," the Milwaukee Journal article also states.
Walker's branch, Meadowbrook, doesn't have any female pastors or "Elders," which are the governing body of the church. According to same Milwaukee Journal article, "the church has ordained female pastors, but cannot elect women to their Council of Elders because its constitution forbids it." On the church's website, a similar note is struck when it states that women are the "weaker" partner and should obey the Bible’s teachings on submission to their husbands.
They also speak in tongues. If you're not familiar with speaking in tongues, it’s when God supposedly speaks through a person. But God apparently doesn't speak any of the human languages, so it all comes out as gibberish. Luckily, if a trained man of God is nearby, he can translate it all for you.
So, when Scott Walker seemed to feign ignorance on the question of whether or not President Obama was a Christian, maybe he's being sincere. Maybe President Obama's mainstream brand of Christianity is so foreign to Walker that he doesn't even recognize it.
Or, more likely, Walker doesn't believe Obama is a real Christian because Walker’s church teaches that a real Christian has to be born-again, and Obama has never identified himself as a “born-again” Christian.
Funnily, even conservative televangelist Pastor John MacArthur, host of the radio program Grace to You, doesn't recognize people who speak in tongues as Christians. MacArthur believes that those who participate in speaking in tongues are blasphemous, condemning it as "all false, all lies, all deceptions—attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit."
MacArthur also says President Obama is not a Christian.
For the far-right religious community, identifying real Christians is no easy task.
Jud Lounsbury is a political reporter based in Madison, Wisconsin. Previously, Lounsbury served as a press secretary for several politicians and organizations, including Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, and Al Gore's Iowa campaign.