The Faith of Barack Obama

(Disclaimer: This book review is not intended as an endorsement of any political candidate)

We are coming to the end of the Democratic National Convention and Denver.  And no matter what you might think and believe politically, the fact is that we have witnessed a historic event.  For the first time in the history of our country, a major political party has nominated an African-American as their party’s candidate

Even though Barack Obama has received overwhelming acclamation and support, many people are still wondering, who is this man?  And one of the key issues being asked is Barack’s faith.  Stephen Mansfield in his newly released book, The Faith of Barack Obama, attempts to address that question.  Mansfield has written an honest and balanced account of Barack’s faith addressing the many questions and concerns people have about Barack’s life and faith.

Knowing a candidate’s faith is essential.  According to Mansfield, the book is written in the belief “that if a man’s faith is sincere, it is the most important thing about him, and that it is impossible to understand who he is and how he will lead without first understanding the religious vision that informs his life.”

Barack’s story of faith isn’t typical of the American experience. For instance, if Barack ascends to the presidency he will be the first American president to do so having not been raised in a Christian home.  Instead, he spent his early years under the influence of an atheist mother, a step-father’s folk Islam, praying at the feet of a Catholic Jesus, and influenced with a humanist’s understanding of the world that sees religion merely as a man-made thing. 

In Barack’s adult life, his spiritual journey toward Christianity also defies pattern and refuses to fit in a clean theological box.  Although his coming to faith typifies the pattern and process that many Americans have journeyed.    He came to faith not so much to join a religious tradition, but rather to find belonging among a people.  In Barack’s memoir, Audacity of Hope, he describes his religious conversion as such, “it came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear.  But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me.  I submitted myself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

Barack’s beliefs are tailored to and reflect the diverse religious experience of America.  For Barack, “Christianity is but One religious tree rooted in the common ethical soil of all human experience.”

Within the book, Mansfield effectively addresses the lingering questions of Barack’s brush with Islam and whether or not he is a secret Muslim.  Mansfield’s answer is a unequivocal NO.  Also Mansfield dissects and seeks to understand the religious soil of Trinity United Church of Christ and Jeremiah Wright, the environment where Barack’s faith first took root.  Mansfield discovered from first hand experiences Trinity’s a mixture of both good and bad.  According to Mansfield, his experience transcended more than just the couple of Jeremiah Wright bombastic video clips on YouTube that have come to define the religious culture at Trinity.

Barack not only forged and developed his faith during his adult years, but he also allowed his faith to intersect his political life.  What became distinct of Barack Obama was that he unapologetically brought his faith into the public square and within Democratic politics.  Mansfield writes about Obama’s speech to Jim Wallis’s progressive Sojourners organization, “With the speech’s tone of moderation, its welcome of faith into the public square, and yet its insistence that people of faith conduct themselves in public debate according to democratic values, it became what Obama had intended: a call to reform, a redefinition of religion’s role in American political life. Soon, his words were debated on cable news programs, heard by tens of thousands on YouTube, and argued fiercely on Web sites from every political perspective.”

Mansfield’s book takes a fair and balanced tone to the discussion of Barack’s faith.  Mansfield is honest with some of the lingering questions and concerns that still swirl around Barack, especially concerning Barack’s view of abortion and his voting record on partial birth abortion.

As you take the time examine both candidates this election year, I would encourage you to pick of a copy of The Faith of Barack Obama, and take the time to get to know a facet of a man that you may have not have already known.

Bill Reichart is a pastor at The Vine Community Church in Forsyth County, GA. He blogs at his personal blog, Provocative Church and his ministry blog, Ministry Best Practices.

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13 thoughts on “The Faith of Barack Obama

  1. Is this really a relevant topic for this site? I mean, are we going to see a “fair and balanced” review of McCain next? Leave the political stuff to other blogs. You guys do what you do–which to this point hasn’t had anything to with politics.

  2. Of course it is a relevant topic…all of life comes under the Lordship of Christ, and to have a discussion about the next possible leader of the free world’s life and faith is very appropriate. No one is cheer leading for Obama or McCain…at least I’m not. I am very much conflicted over the candidates. But it is relevant to talk about how politics intersects faith and life, no matter who you are rooting for.

  3. I think it is a relevant topic as well…especially since most christians will blindly vote for McCain simply because he is a Republican…and not on the merits of his qualifications.

    I am not saying that Obama is the right candidate…neither am I saying that McCain is the right one. You have to judge each candidate on their individual qualifications and not on the political party they happen to belong to.

    That being said….I do believe that you can be christian and vote other than Republican…contrary to some opinions floating around on some different Christian sites..

  4. I actually kind of agree with Brian. I’ll say this also, I cannot vote for Obama because faith or no faith the man supports killing babies. I know that statement is going to get me in a lot of trouble but I cannot do it. So help me God.

  5. So Joe…let me ask this….if the only candidate for president that was PRO LIFE was also a Communist…you would vote for him…SIMPLY on the merits that he is anti abortion?

    Just wondering…

  6. No Jimmy,
    I’d probably not vote that time around. Of course, I’m sure we could all sit around and come up with “what if” situations all day long. All I can answer is for the situation I’m in right now. Right now, I cannot separate the fact that one candidate is Pro-Life, the other is for the killing of people that cannot defend themselves. I didn’t say anyone else had to vote the way I do.
    As to your second question, my take on it is unless we take the time to review both candidates, we look like we’re supporting one. Now, I know this post stopped short of that, which is why I said I “kind of agree with Brian.”

  7. Joe
    I know where you are coming from. What comes to my mind is that
    Senator Obama was the only senator to vote AGAINST human rights
    of a baby born alive after it had survived a botched abortion.
    It show me he doesnt value life that much since he called a live
    baby born from a botched abortion..a FETUS. How unbelievable is that?
    My question is..down the line..what would he consider an older person
    who has a terminal illness? A has been thats not worth anything. You
    see, valuing life is valuing life. You either do or you dont…….unless you
    happen to think like Obama that you can call the shots and determine
    who lives or dies at some point in time.

  8. Jimmy: So Joe…let me ask this….if the only candidate for president that was PRO LIFE was also a Communist…you would vote for him…SIMPLY on the merits that he is anti abortion?

    Nick: So you mean the next time a Democrat who runs that is Pro-Life?

  9. I know I’m not a regular contributor to these discussions, but there were a few points discussed that I feel compelled to address. First, and I know this may sound insensitive, the anti-abortion agenda is nowhere to be found in biblical text. Nowhere. In fact, the most prevalant definition of life in the Bible is reserved for those who have breathed the air, which eliminates a fetus of any term from discussion. The name PRO LIFE is a bit of a misnomer to begin with, because it doesn’t come close to encompassing and addressing the totality of human existence. How can one be pro life, yet fail to recognize the sanctity of life for all people? War is not PRO LIFE. The death penalty is not PRO LIFE. Unjust economic systems are not PRO LIFE. Failing to provide healthcare for those who cannot afford it is not PRO LIFE. Ignoring poverty is not PRO LIFE. The NRA is not PRO LIFE. Environmental carelessness is not PRO LIFE. The Bible consistently and repeatedly addresses these issues throughout, which should play a central role in our decision-making and influence in arena of politics.
    Now, please understand, I am not accusing you of any of the aforementioned hypocrisies, and I am not claiming that I am perfect. I have just grown tired of hearing the “PRO LIFE” argument supercede all the other RELEVANT issues, as well as other biblical calls for how we are to engage our world in the name of Christ.
    Also–last point–Communism and Christianity are much more closely related than Captitalism and Christianity. As I’m sure you are aware, the First Century church lived communally…technically making them Christian Communists. Communism (not as it has been interpretted and enacted in the last 200 years) more closely mirrors the economic and social justice laid out in the Bible than the self-worshipping, liberal system of Capitalism. Just thought this may spice up your discussion.

  10. Hi,
    I stumbled upon something really disturbing today. I was looking at the standard computer ASCII table and saw that BARACK OBAMA is represented by the following ASCII decimal numbers B=66, A=65, R=82, A=65, C=67, K=75, O=79, B=66, A=65, M=77, A=65. If you string the numbers together, you will see that 666 appears in both his first and last name.

    B A R A C K O B A M A
    666582656775 7966657765

    Is this what Rev 13:16-18 has warned us about? And what about Luke 10:18, where Jesus says Satan is like lightning, and lightning translated from Hebrew is “barak”.

    I think we have been warned many times.

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