Jewish Journal

Christianity and politics: Obama discusses salvation and public office

by Brad A. Greenberg

June 3, 2008 | 12:53 pm

I was at a wedding Saturday, and by the time I returned to my computer the next day, Barack Obama’s split from Trinity United Church of Christ was as appetizing as a cup of cold coffee, reported ad nauseum on the cover of the LA Times, on NPR, in the NY Times and everywhere else.

This didn’t come as much of a surprise considering the steady stream of bad news from the church’s pulpit, and it overshadowed a much more interesting story this weekend involving Christianity and Obama. (The fact it has received little attention has a lot more to do with the media’s bloodlust than news judgment.) Toward the end of news conference Saturday a reporter asked, “Can you give us some context of how your spirituality, your practice of religion factors into your decision making process as a leader, as a politician?”

I’ve stated over and over that I believe the marriage between religion and politics is a precarious, insincere affair. But this reporter asked just about the only relevant question on the topic. Here is Obama’s response, courtesy of Time magazine and via the DMN religion blog:

Well, look, obviously as a Christian I believe in the values that are laid out in Scripture. I reflect on them often. I reflect on the lessons of Scripture as I’m going through the day. I pray frequently. I wrestle with doubts and try to figure out whether I’m doing the right thing, am I operating in an honest and moral way that is true to my religious precepts? Sometimes I may falter. So I guess the point is, I approach my work or I guess my faith is part of everything that I do. And I don’t think there’s a clear separation between my faith and how I try to live my life. And I certainly think that part of my motivation in the work that I do is a belief in what I consider the core precept of Christianity in addition to Christ dying for your sins and that is treating your brothers and sisters as you would have them treat you. A sense of empathy and a belief in the golden rule. And that’s what I try to apply to my work and what I do every day.

In this, Obama says very little while saying a lot. But, reading between the lines, it is apparent that while Barack Obama may be a religious man, he is not selling his presidential bid as one ordained by God. Religion to Obama seems to be something you practice, the way to communicate with God, even if you can’t easily explain it to others. And that, rambling and Trinity-related rantings aside, is quite refreshing.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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