The Winchester Sun, a central Kentucky newspaper, picked up an article that caught my eye when visiting there recently. Written by AP reporter Josh Lederman, the article was entitled “Obama nurtures his faith away from the spotlight.” The story featured a photo of Joshua DuBois, the President’s informal spiritual advisor. The article grabbed my attention because of persistent claims by well-intended but poorly informed individuals trying diligently to denigrate our highest elected official by portraying him as a closet Muslim, a dangerous subversive, a faithless socialist.
Dubois, I noted, administered the President’s faith-based office until earlier this year. He continues to write-and-supply the President with Blackberry devotionals that weave Scriptures with reflections from well-known literary figures as Maya Angelou and C. S. Lewis. Consequently, DuBoise reports he has “certainly seen the president’s faith grow in his time in office,” adding, “When you cultivate your faith it grows.”
DuBoise’s digital dailies have been compiled and will be published in a forthcoming volume titled, “The President’s Devotional.” A typical response from Mr. Obama says, “A snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on. And it has meant the world to me.” The President admittedly plans to continue with the morning meditations, the birthday call with pastors and ad hoc prayer circles” according to a senior advisor not authorized to comment by name.
“This office tends to make a person pray more,” Obama told a reporter in an interview with Cathedral Age magazine. “And as President Lincoln once said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”
From early on, as when Obama announced his candidacy from the Lincoln Memorial in Illinois, I have followed his interest in our sixteenth president, which parallels my own. One cannot miss the parallels, such as similarities in leadership style, between Presidents Lincoln and Obama. Doris Kerns Goodwin described it well in her magnificient masterpiece, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
I have also observed some of the spiritual advisors Mr.Obama retains in his inner circle. I know he distanced himself from Jeremiah Wright, proclaimer of the “God Damn America” sermon. But as I have frequently observed after researching that sermon and carefully reading the verbatim: “I’d have to confess that in proper context I could easily have preached that sermon myself!” The problem was people read it totally out of context.
On the other hand, Dr. Joel Hunter, pastor of Orlando’s 15,000-member Northland Church is a solid white theological conservative, although I must admit, he does have a social conscience that many conservatives lack. Vashti McKenzie is a venerable bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a highly respected and historic black denomination dating back to the slave days of Richard Allen. Dr. Joseph Lowery remains as one of the stalwarts of the Civil Rights Movement and a respected religious figure among black Baptist clergy.
It interested me to note that when young Obama’s Chicago friends noted his social concience, it was the young Chicago black Baptist pastor Alvin Love that referred him to Jeremiah Wright, because Wright was the social activist in Chicago church circles. Love, however, remained Obama’s influence.
Maranis further reported young Obama’s experiences in Chicago, after arriving in the city to work for a faith-based group as a community organizer. Obama later admitted this “forced me to confront a dilemma that my mother never fully resolved in her own life: the fact that I had no community or shared traditions in which to ground my deeply held beliefs. The Christians whom I worked recognized themselves in me; they saw that I knew their Book and shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me remained removed, detached, an observer among them.
"I came to realize that without a vessel for my beliefs, without an unequivocal commitment to a particular community of faith, I would be consigned at some level to always remain apart, free in a way that my mother was free, but also along in the same ways she was ultimately alone.’” (Maranis/556, italics mine).
Wright became Obama’s pastor/friend but Obama left organizing because he began to see the ultimate limitations of it. A couple of quotes from Maranis are highly suggestive.
From Kenya, Maranis reported: “After the story was finished, and after Barack had been shown some of the tangible remnants of the lives of his forebears, the registration book that his grandfather had to carry as a native servant, a letter that Betty Mooney had written trying to get his father admitted to an American college, he stepped out of Mama Sarah’s hut and into the yard, walked to the corner by the mango tree, fell to his knees between the graves of Hussein Onyango and Barack Hussein Obama, and wept” (570).
Following Kenya, Maranis noted: “A life of leaving and being left had come full circle. He would be leaving soon, but never again in the same way. ‘I made these enormous attachments, much deeper attachments than I would have expected,’ he said later of that time. This made leaving difficult in one sense, but easier in another. ‘I knew that I would come back … I had relationships there, people who cared deeply about me and that I cared deeply about’” (570-71).
However, adds Maranis, it was “In Chicago he had found the place to which he could always return.” The life of Barack Obama has been a long journey filled with the void of atheism, religion, social values, but it was in Chicago that he found Christian friends, values he deeply cared about, and the love of Michelle Robinson and her family of faith, that ultimately brought the future President to a deeply personal--be it private--faith in the Bible and Jesus Christ.
I, for one, prefer that he quietly nurture it away from the spotlight, rather than parade it frivolously for political gain. From Warner’s World, I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com …