9.03.2008

The Faith of Barack Obama

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent this book to me to review on the ol' blog. I have to admit it's a much better book than I anticipated it being. In The Faith of Barack Obama, Stephen Mansfield does an excellent job of detailing the non-traditional childhood that Obama grew up in. While he was raised by his mother to respect all religions, as a child he participated in Muslim worship with his step-father, attended a Catholic school, and was strongly influenced by his atheist mother. Through deep soul-searching in his early adult years, he came to faith in Jesus Christ under the pulpit of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

This book is truly about what its title suggests. While I believe Mansfield is probably an Obama supporter, he pulls no punches in revealing any blemishes in Obama's faith and theology. One of my favorite lines from the introduction is, "This book is instead 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."

Mansfield does an excellent job at choosing to see the positive attributes of the faith of ALL the players. He spends some time discussing the faith journeys of Jeremiah Wright, Hilary Clinton, Jon McCain, and George W. Bush as well. While all of them have differing journeys and even differing theology, they are all portrayed as sincere in their faith.

While I do believe Obama to be a sincere and active participant in his faith, the book brings up a few items that are potential red flags for evangelicals:
  • Obama's view that all faiths lead to God.
  • Obama's reluctance to let his personal faith influence his social/political worldview.
  • Obama's stance on abortion is abysmal (my words, not Mansfield's). "...his radical stance on abortion puts him further left on that issue than even NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) Pro-Choice America." Barack voted against a bill that would allow doctor's to take life-saving measures on babies that were born alive after failed late-term abortion attempts. These are babies, not fetuses or tissue masses. But babies would have survived and been healthy if they had simply been a few weeks premature. Even the NARAL didn't oppose this bill, but Obama did.
I found Mansfield's book thoughtful and fair. I would recommend it to everyone who wants to know how Obama became who he is spiritually.

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As a pastor, I don't believe it's my role to endorse candidates. I have no problem talking issues or propositions, but I keep my views on the candidates more private. While I have occasionally commented on politics on this blog in the past, WIDE OPEN is not really about politics. However in the interest of being "wide open" (i.e. - vulnerable about my journey), I have to admit I am still very undecided in this presidential election. I have my leanings, but I'm trying to spend considerable amounts of time praying about which candidate to vote for. As I'm doing this my mind is flooded with questions like:
  • Is the best Christian necessarily the best leader?
  • Is it more important that the next president's spiritual walk is devout and sincere or that his theology is correct?
  • Is the prospect of hope/greatness more important than the prospect of experience/wisdom?
  • Are Christians being seduced by both parties?
  • As long as the president is a strong protector of freedom of religion, does he/she need to believe the way I believe to earn my vote?
I won't give you my answers to these questions, but have you been asking yourself similar questions? Or do you have answers to any of mine?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice post Jeff. I dig your approach to considering candidates for positions of leadership, whether your ultimate choices are the same as mine or not. More people ought to consider choices like these as carefully as you do.

Also, a website that I've found very helpful is www.ontheissues.org. I've found it to be the single most unbiased source on where each candidate stands, as it simply provides a public record of how each candidate (including independents) has voted on pretty much every issue/bill/etc, as well as including major public statements from each candidate on various issues. I suppose I like it mostly because it's a good look at how each candidates actions speak for them, and not just their words.

Anyway, I'm babbling. Oh, and by the way - your folks have been AWESOME.

- Josh

DeadMule said...

Great post, Jeff. I think it's honest. Neither of these man are the anti-Christ and we aren't going down the moral tubes if wither wins.

I'd add another question, Is it important that the President be a Christian or is being a moral man enough?

I'd also wonder how many (white) people truly understand the Black church (or even want to).

Helen Losse

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