Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Stephen Mansfield/THE FAITH OF BARACK OBAMA
A fascinating study of the factors that have influenced the faith of the president elect. Mansfield discusses Obama's Muslim stepfather and humanist mother, his radical pastor at Trinity Church, his conversion to Christianity, and his self-proclaimed doubts about some tenets of his religion.
Mansfield illuminates the reason for Obama's skeptical approach to his Christian faith by explaining how Obama's mother taught him to respect all religions--but not subscribe to any. (Obama, however, became a Christian as an adult). Mansfield further shows how Obama's post-modern approach to faith, his "picking and choosing" of which parts of Christianity to embrace, has not only connected with young voters but has also provided a basis for Obama's approach to the intersection of church and state.
Readers will probably be most interested in the chapter about Obama's pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, a church Obama attended for over twenty years. Jeremiah Wright became a controversial figure in the media for condemning his country, and Obama ultimately left the church and spoke out against his pastor's statements. Mansfield takes an in-depth look at the character and teachings of Wright in order to shed light on why Obama first considered Wright a mentor and later left Wright's church.
Vague wording and convoluted sentence structure make some sections of this book difficult to follow, but its study of the many contradictions (belief and doubt, detachment and community) that forged Obama's faith is well-executed.