Over the past 9 months I've gone from being somewhat of a McCain fan to more of an Obama supporter. I'm convinced a McCain administration will be nothing more than a third term of George W. Bush and, yes, I'm looking for change. I'd like to see more substance behind the "change" Obama always refers to, but I'm also curious about his religious beliefs and the journey that led him to Christianity.
With that in mind, The Faith of Barack Obama, Stephen Mansfield's latest book is right up my alley and it didn't disappoint. As you might imagine, Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a person who pops up frequently throughout this book. Prior to reading Mansfield's work I considered Wright nothing more than an unfortunate footnote from Obama's past who managed to surface at the wrong time. This book caused me to look at Wright and Obama's relationship with him in a completely different light.
I still feel Rev. Wright was an overzealous minister who didn't do the best job of emphasizing the right aspects of the key points he's tried to make over the years. Exhibit A is all across YouTube, for example. And as a white person who's never attended Trinity United my comments are easily dismissed by Wright supporters. Nevertheless, I feel he crossed the line too many times, so shame on Obama for not parting ways with Wright many years ago. I don't plan to run for public office but I'd quickly move on from a church/pastor who regularly expressed such a twisted view of the world. The fact that Obama stuck with Wright for so long really does say a lot about the senator, I'm afraid. But what benefit was Wright expecting when he's spewed that sort of venom anyway? He's so full of anger and lacking in forgiveness....gee, maybe he ought to read The Shack!
The bottom line is Rev. Wright probably pictures himself as a modern day Martin Luther King, Jr. He isn't though, and time will easily prove this point. If Rev. King were in Wright's shoes today I'm quite convinced he'd take a much more diplomatic approach and would be more embracing and far less antagonistic.
The Faith of Barack Obama isn't just about Rev. Wright though, of course. The book does a great job taking the reader through Obama's youth, exposure to multiple religions and how he eventually become a Christian. It also exposes some of the warts in Obama's beliefs, including coverage of how he voted against a bill to protect the lives of babies who managed to survive late-term abortions. Wow, how heartless must you be to vote against something like this?!
One of my favorite parts of the book was chapter 5, Four Faces of Faith. The author uses this chapter to contrast and compare the religious beliefs and paths of Obama, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. At first I felt this was nothing more than filler but I have to admit it's fascinating to look at all four of these political heavyweights through this sort of lens.
Finally, I think Mansfield very effectively captured Obama's critique of George W. Bush with the following excerpt: You rose on the strength of a vicious use of faith. You then baptized a greedy conservative agenda and called it God's will. Along the way, you labeled us Democrats as somehow antifaith. Now, your political faith failing you, your religious base abandoning you, it is time for you to go away. A new faith, based in the genuine compassion of the Religious Left, is waiting in the wings. Step aside, and let us heal what you have broken.
We'll never know if that's really what Obama thinks but it sure sounds right to me, a guy who twice made the mistake of voting for George W. Bush. I'm still leaning towards Obama but I'm not 100% committed as I'm waiting to see who he picks for a VP (please, not Evan Bayh!) and what specific plans he has to fix the limping economy. This book has also helped open my eyes a bit wider as I realize the faith part of the equation isn't as clean and simple as I previously thought.
P.S. -- If you'd like to read an extended sample of The Faith of Barack Obama, click here to download the PDF version the book's publisher (Thomas Nelson) graciously allowed bloggers to post.