The Washington Post published a front page story on Sunday headlined "Obama Addresses His Faith: Senator Describes Spiritual Journey." But it completely ignored Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ. Obama was allowed to declare to audiences how he "let Jesus Christ into his life" on the south side of Chicago, but the Post utterly left out the fact that it was Rev. Wright who was his spiritual mentor.
Post editors might insist that Jonathan Weisman's story was not a biographical or historical piece so much as a campaign trail piece about how Obama hopes to appeal to evangelical voters who aren't thrilled with John McCain. But doesn't Obama's church factor in when those voters try to decide what kind of Christian he is?
"In my own life," he said, "it's been a journey that began decades ago on the South Side of Chicago, when, working as a community organizer, helping to build struggling neighborhoods, I let Jesus Christ into my life. I learned that my sins could be redeemed and that if I placed my trust in Christ, that he could set me on the path to eternal life when I submitted myself to his will and I dedicated myself to discovering his truth and carrying out his works."
He suggested that he would apply the lessons of his faith to the problems he would face if he became president. "The challenges we face today -- war and poverty, joblessness and homelessness, violent streets and crumbling schools -- are not simply technical problems in search of a 10-point plan," he said. "They are moral problems, rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness, in the imperfections of man. And so the values we believe in -- empathy and justice and responsibility to ourselves and our neighbors -- these cannot only be expressed in our churches and our synagogues, but in our policies and in our laws."
Of the two presumptive nominees for president, Obama has been far more outspoken about his religious beliefs than Sen. John McCain. Evangelical Christian leaders have remained skeptical, however, that Obama's faith comports with their own, especially given his support for gay and abortion rights.
The article goes on to describe how Obama's attempting to appeal to evangelical voters by moving "to the center" by suggesting he doesn't believe "feeling blue" is a reason to allow abortions for the "health" of the mother. If Obama didn't have a very staunch legislative record on abortion, this might be interesting. But Weisman also ignores Obama's Planned Parenthood-pleasing state and federal record.
Liberal reporters see evangelical doubts about Obama to be merely political, like abortion and the gay agenda. Those are important illustrations of Obama's extreme social liberalism. But there is also the matter of Obama's actual religious beliefs. Weisman didn't address one reason why leaders like James Dobson question Obama's "confused theology" -- Obama's 2004 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times that will certainly make its way around church circles:
So, I have a deep faith," Obama told Sun-Times reporter Cathleen Falsani. "I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people...
It's perhaps an unlikely theological position for someone who places his faith squarely at the feet of Jesus to take, saying essentially that all people of faith -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone -- know the same God.
That depends, Obama says, on how a particular verse from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me," is heard.
Obama's theological point of view was shaped by his uniquely multicultural upbringing. He was born in 1961 in
Obama describes his father, after whom he is named, as "agnostic." His paternal grandfather was a Muslim. His mother, he says, was a Christian.
"My mother, who I think had as much influence on my values as anybody, was not someone who wore her religion on her sleeve," he says. "We'd go to church for Easter. She wasn't a 'church lady.' "
In his 1993 memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama describes his mother as "a lonely witness for secular humanism."
Obama can't even seem to decide whether his mother was a secular humanist or whether he wants to paint her as a "needlepoint values" Christian. Reporters like Weisman can't seem to be skeptical enough to question whether Obama is always telling the same yarn when he talks of faith, or whether it evolves depending on the audience.
If the Chicago reporter, Cathleen Falsani, seems supportive of Obama, you might remember her as the one who rejoiced in Jerry Falwell's death with a "ding dong the witch is dead" reaction, because Falwell was a spiritual bully like...TV gangster Tony Soprano.
Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the