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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God is pursuing you

The Bible is more about God pursuing us than it is about us pursuing God. It makes me wonder why we measure our spiritual journey and more often the spiritual journey of others based on how much they are “pursuing God.” Sounds like religious crap to me.

The Pain Lets You Know It’s Working!

A good friend of mine wrote a great post for his new blog and it is fantastic. Read it below and let me know what you think.

    Anyone who’s ever been to the hospital with an infected cut knows they don’t want to go to the hospital with an infected cut. At least in my experience, hospital attendants will rip it back open and scrub it out with a brush, in order to kill the infection. Presumably, anyone who’s gone through this would take special precautions when first dressing a new wound, in order to prevent infection.
    A commonly employed practice of preventing infection in minor wounds (I don’t know what they do at the hospital) is to use an antiseptic wipe of some sort when first dressing the wound. Though there are antiseptic products that don’t hurt too much when applied, such as hydrogen peroxide or benzalkonium chloride, I prefer the old standard isopropyl alcohol. Being diabetic, I use it all the time for finger sticks and the like, and always have plenty on hand. It hurts like the dickens when applied, but there’s never any question of whether or not it’s doing its job. Due to the intense pain involved, one will certainly be aware if there’s been a thorough application of the product. Thus, one should be fairly confident of their protection from possible infection.

    I’ve never been one to believe that being a Christian would make life easier. I’m thoroughly convinced that an easy life is utterly pointless. One is never forced to grow as a person, to challenge their beliefs or ideas, to seek out information or debate, to take a good hard look in the mirror and assess honestly what they see. It’s when we’re pushed to our limits that we find out who we truly are on the inside. These situations show us our wealth of inner strength, or lack thereof.

    Undoubtedly, men and women who strive to be Christ like will be convicted in their hearts of sins in this or that regard. Christian life will undoubtedly require us to change our lives, inside and out. Anything less suggests some level of self-righteousness, negating the necessity to seek our perfect deity. In some cases, these changes are rather superfluous, affecting our day to day lives in a minimal way. However, some of these changes are much easier said than accomplished. In some cases, these changes can require years of work (mostly on God’s part) and result in drastic changes to our outlook on life, attitudes, behaviors, etc. The list goes on and on.

    I grew up amongst a constant deluge of contextually questionable content presented on a nightly basis on the television (not necessarily in my mother’s house, I refer more to the general state of the industry). On a daily basis the radio would sing its message of rampant sexual promiscuity and drug use, with a vocabulary to blanch even the most rugged of sailors. Though the standards of pop culture and the media at large stand in stark contrast to the values I hold dearest to my heart and the standard to which I aspire, nevertheless I experience strong affinity towards even some of the worst of the machinations churned out by the mainstream media. Everyone has a favorite song, or a favorite movie, and somehow I doubt that they would react cheerfully when told that they could never enjoy it again. The cut-and-dry nature of good and evil can make the path toward His righteousness seem fairly clear, but following it can carry a sting of loss in this particular regard. It’s almost like cutting off little pieces of yourself and leaving them along the road of life, leaving behind a bizarro world version of Hansel & Gretel’s bread crumb trail, leading back to a life of darkness and despair.

    Amidst the discomfort of relinquishing joys of days past in anticipation of a brighter future, a strange sense of comfort emerges. While I can’t be completely convinced to enjoy giving up some of my favorite pastimes or long-time musical or movie favorites, ultimately the presence of the Creator and the work He’s doing in my life becomes clearer than at most times. In the midst of personal sacrifice, gratitude wells in my heart for the sacrifice of the Savior, and what He gave to be close to me. Suddenly I am thankful in parting with the baggage of my heart, and making way for the Lord to use me as He sees fit. Like the alcohol burning in a deep cut lets me know I’ll be protected from infections, the burning in my heart lets me know that God is working on me, and that His plan will be much greater than I ever could have hoped for. Thank you, Lord.

    But we all. with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. -2 Corinthians 3:18

    Michael Nelson 2008

A Thought for the Day!

    Aside from fact or fiction
    I put this all behind
    Aside from lies or truth
    I put this in the back of my mind
    And suddenly I’m awake
    I see the sky, the night
    I feel the air around me
    It’s not unpleasant, not quite
    I see everything more clearly
    I see the earth revolve
    I see a new day pass
    As another ones resolved
    Every taste is more potent
    Every feeling more electrified
    Every smile spreads more joy
    Every mean thing is desensitized
    It’s like waking up on Christmas every day
    To find your joy is boxed and wrapped
    It’s not an earthly treasure inside
    But a heart led by a map
    A threaded and tied huge intricate cloth
    You wonder where it’s been 
    When you realize who its from
    Your heart begins to spin
    Its your heart, my dear, its beating still
    Its yours to do with what you wish
    All because you opened your eyes
    From dreaming about him
    Why dream when you can live?
    Why wish when things fall into place?
    Why wait one more second
    To feel God’s loving grace.

Jordan Thomas 2008

Sola Scriptura??

I ran across this interesting article here. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

    “If a teaching isn’t explicit in the Bible, then we don’t accept it as doctrine!” That belief, commonly known as sola scriptura, was a central component of all I believed as a Protestant. This bedrock Protestant teaching claims that Scripture alone is the sole rule of faith and morals for Christians. Diving deeper into its meaning to defend my Protestant faith against Catholicism about twenty years ago, I found that there was no uniform understanding of this teaching among Protestant pastors and no book I could read to get a better understanding of it.What role does tradition play? How explicit does something have to be in Scripture before it can be called doctrine? Does Scripture tell us what is absolutely essential for us to believe as Christians? How can we determine the canon using sola scriptura? All these questions and more pointed to the central question: Where is sola scriptura itself taught in the Bible?Most Protestants find it in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

    All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
    The fact is that this passage (or any other) does not even hint at Scripture being the sole rule of faith. It says that Scripture is inspired and necessary—a rule of faith—but in no way does it teach that Scripture alone is all one needs to determine the truth about faith and morals in the Church. My attempt to defend this bedrock teaching of Protestantism led me to conclude that sola scriptura is unreasonable, unbiblical, and unworkable.(emphasis mine)

Read entire article here!

What Matters Most

    Isn’t the weather outside, its what you put on
    Isn’t the past, its what you do with the future
    Isn’t the people who hurt you, its what you do with yourself
    Isn’t the he-said she-said of now, its the i-will of tomorrow
    Isn’t the sins you’ve committed, it’s the forgiveness you’re given
    Isn’t the tears you may cry, it’s the ones who dry them
    Isn’t the sickness you can endure, it’s the prayer you held to when you were
    Isn’t the next few steps, it’s the next four thousand days
    Isn’t the worries or doubts, it’s the release of going for it anyway
    Isn’t the ones who took you for granted, it’s the ones who saw you through
    Isn’t the strength you have, it’s the strength God can give you
    Isn’t the lowering your standards, it’s God showing you even higher
    Jordan Thomas/2008

    Romans 5:5 (NIV)
    And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us

I just wanted to share this great poem that was written by my 15 year old.