Thursday, February 28, 2008

Barack Obama and Faith in Politics

Here's an excerpt of a column in Sojomail, a faith and spirituality e-zine, written by Jim Wallis about Barack Obama and the rumors and inuendos that have been circulated about Obama's faith stance.  I found, unsurprisingly, that when I read his first book, my faith resonated with Obama's.  I belong to First Salem UCC and Trinity is also a UCC church.  It grieves me to see someone attacked on the basis of the religion of their parents (what happened to no corruption of blood in the constitution -- oh yeah, and that freedom of religion stuff).  So, I found Wallis' remarks particularly compelling.

So let's set the record straight. I have known Barack Obama for more than 10 years, and we have been talking about his Christian faith for a decade. Like me and many other Christians, he agrees with the need to reach out to Muslims around the world, especially if we are ever to defeat Islamic fundamentalism. But he is not a Muslim, never has been, never attended a Muslim madrassa, and does not attend a black "separatist" church. Rather, he has told me the story of his coming from an agnostic household, becoming a community organizer on Chicago's South Side who worked with the churches, and how he began attending one of them. Trinity Church is one of the most prominent and respected churches in Chicago and the nation, and its pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is one of the leading revival preachers in the black church. Ebony magazine once named him one of the U.S.'s 15 best Black preachers. The church says it is "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian," like any good black church would, but is decidedly not "separatist," as its white members and friends would attest. 

And one Sunday, as Obama has related to me and written in his book, The Audacity of Hope, the young community organizer walked down the aisle and gave his life to Christ in a very personal and very real Christian conversion experience. We have talked about our faith and its relationship to politics many times since. And after he gave his speech at a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference in June of 2006, E.J. Dionne said that it may have been "the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican."

 Like his politics or not, support his candidacy or not - but don't disparage Barack Obama's faith, his church, his minister, or his credibility as an articulate Christian layman who feels a vocation in politics. Those falsehoods are simply vicious lies and should be denounced by people of faith from across the political spectrum.

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