The unexplained shift in Obama’s religious worldview — and its neat tracking of public opinion polls — has led many to see his election-year marriage equality endorsement as a cynical flip-flop — a political calculation on an issue that, for him, never really had anything to do with faith.

The White House declined to speak on the record about the religious element to the president’s evolution on this issue. But in a range of interviews with BuzzFeed, Christian leaders said that Obama’s journey is not unique, and that a growing number of believers are successfully reconciling Biblical teachings with modern-day acceptance of homosexuality and marriage rights for gay couples. And sincere or not, the president’s evolution represents a faith journey being taken by millions of Christians across the country, as a broad section of American Protestantism move from Old Testament stringency to New Testament tolerance…

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri, is a practicing pastor, former leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, and supporter of same sex marriage. His position astride both the political and faith worlds has given him unique insight into how Christian politicians can cite the Bible when opposing same-sex marriage and then turn around and cite it again after changing their minds.

“Actually, they’re right on both counts,” Cleaver told BuzzFeed when asked how a politician can cite the Bible to defend both sides of the marriage equality argument. “And I say that because it is important when discussing or considering same-sex marriage to acknowledge that it is as complex a theological and Bible issue as there is in at least two of the monotheistic religions, Christianity and Judaism.”