The Faith of Barack Obama, by Stephen Mansfield

Faith of barack obama 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.


"The Faith of Barack Obama"...A Book I Plan to Read

Faith of barack obama I wasn't aware of this new book called The Faith of Barack Obama until I read about it on Michael Hyatt's blog. I read (and reviewed) one of Obama's own books, The Audacity of Hope, earlier this year. I admit it. I'm definitely leaning towards voting for Obama even though I also have a lot of respect for John McCain. I'm curious to read what author Stephen Mansfield has to say about Obama's faith though, so this one just got added to the top of my "must read" list.

P.S. -- See Michael Hyatt's blog post if you're a blogger interested in reading and posting a review about The Faith of Barack Obama. The first 100 bloggers to respond to his offer will be sent a free copy of the book. I just sent my request...

UPDATE: Thanks to CEO Mike Hyatt and the PR team at Thomas Nelson I'm now able to post and share the 48-page sample of The Faith of Barack Obama noted in this post.  I read this sample and am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the book when it arrives.  If you'd like to read the sample as well just click here to download it.


Random Thoughts

Bubble thought

Lots of little things bouncing around in my head today...

First up, my employer, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., just reported outstanding results for the fiscal year we completed on 4/30.  Congrats to the entire Wiley team!

Next up, Don Felder's Heaven and Hell.  Who's he?  The guy from The Eagles who wasn't Don Henley, Glen Frey, Joe Walsh, Randy Meisner or Timothy B. Schmit.  Seriously, every time I watched their Hell Freezes Over DVD I kept asking myself...who is that guy?!  Well, it turns out he's an incredible author with a fascinating story to tell.  Wiley recently published Felder's Heaven and Hell and a copy hit my desk last week.  Bear in mind I was a bit of an Eagles fan, but not a huge one.  I totally love the Hotel California album but that's about it for me.  When I started reading this I thought I'd be bored by the story of Felder's youth and all the pre-Eagles coverage.  Wow, was I wrong.  His story is fascinating from page one and the writing is exceptional.  I'm not quite halfway through it and can't wait to read more.  I'll have a full review shortly but if the rest is half as good as what I've already read this one will quickly become one of my all-time favorites.

Another interesting new book showed up on my front porch yesterday as well.  It's called The PITA Principle: How to Work with and Avoid Becoming a Pain in the Ass and I first heard of it via Lori Cates and her Publishing Careers blog.  She sent me a galley of the book and I can't wait to dig into it.  (Current Wiley colleagues and former colleagues from elsewhere...please hold all your jokes about how much of a PITA I can be from time to time...remember, I'm moderating all comments here.)

Speaking of PITA's, how about that wacky HSE School Board?  They're at it again.  First they blow money right and left on severance packages and now the local paper had to save them from making the incredibly embarassing mistake of offering the superintendent job to a candidate whose previous employer paid a settlement on a sexual harassment lawsuit that he was facing.  Given all the recent gaffes I figured this would be a tough slot to fill.  The new superintendent will either have baggage, like this one did, or they haven't studied the history close enough to know they should run from the opportunity.  And who's the recruiter the Board has working on this?!  Jeez, are they unable to do simple background checks?  Oh, HSE School Board, is their any type of embarssment you're unwilling to bring upon yourselves?


HSE School Board -- Part 2

Dunce corner My personal frustration with our local school board hasn't improved since I made this earlier post.  In short, it's a group of people who somehow feel they're accountable to no one.  They need to be voted out.  I did what I could to vote out the one incumbent who was up for re-election last month but it's clear there are too many cronies who will continue as board members because their terms aren't up...yet.

There's a new development in the district that will give this board a chance to redeem itself.  It seems a group of teachers at one of the junior high schools is unhappy with the management and leadership style of their principal, Shari Switzer.  Just by coincidence, my youngest daughter currently attends that school and I've heard Ms. Switzer speak.  I've also exchanged a bit of e-mail with her over the past year.  Why?  The first time I heard her speak (at an orientation session) I was so impressed that I wanted to thank her for being such a passionate, caring school administrator.  I've never reached out to any other teacher/principal like this in the past, so that should give you an idea of how much she wowed me (and much of the rest of that crowd) at that session.

It amazes me that teachers can gang up like this and put pressure on a superior.  Wouldn't it be interesting if it worked that way in the business world?!  It would be one thing if there was truly a problem buried in all this, but based on my personal experience and what I've heard from other parents, this is an unfair criticism of one of the best administrators in this school district!

HSE School Board Members: Please show some spine on this one and support this outstanding principal.  Anything short of that would be yet another failure by the entire board, and the third in the last six months.


The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama

Audacity_of_hopeWarning...political opinions appear throughout the following book review.  If you're likely to be irritated by the discussion of politics in this previously politics-free blog, don't read the post below.  And please, no "gee Joe, why did you have to go off on a political tangent like this?  I used to like your blog..." comments.  You don't have to read this!  Consider yourself warned.

After reading John McCain's Faith of My Fathers a couple of years ago I thought I'd found my candidate for the 2008 presidential election.  But as the war in Iraq has dragged on I've become increasingly concerned that McCain will be more of what we've already had too much of over the past 7+ years and, without sounding too cliche, it's time for a change.  Btw, that's coming from a guy who twice voted for George W. Bush...a decision I've grown to deeply regret.

So how about Obama's The Audacity of Hope?  Has he won me over through his New York Times bestseller?  Not necessarily.  As I read this book I could see any of the candidates saying much of what's presented here.  I didn't find any one thing that jumped out at me as the key reason why I absolutely must vote for Obama.  The book is well written and I feel it gave me a glimpse of the man, his life, family, etc., but I'm hard-pressed to say it's a vote-getter.

Obama is clearly an extremely bright man and I'm in tune with his thoughts on investing in education, technology and a health care system that provides for the needy.  Then again, who wouldn't be?!  If you close your eyes and think about it, doesn't that sound like any one of the other candidates talking...from 2008, 2004 or perhaps even earlier?  To be fair, the book was originally published two years ago and the political landscape has changed a bit in that time.  Anyone interested in studying Obama's stance on the latest and greatest issues would be better served by visiting his website or following his blog.

I definitely feel this book was a worthwhile read.  It added some depth to the superficial candidate dialog and bickering that makes the six-o'clock news every night.  It's hard to believe we have seven more months of this ahead of us...

P.S. -- At this point, Obama probably has my vote.  But that's as much the result of my lack of interest in the other candidates as it is my heartfelt support for Obama.  While that's not exactly a ringing endorsement, I don't think he'd be any worse than the guy I voted for the last two times.


HSE's School Board Debacle

Dunce_corner_2Here's an excellent lesson in transparency and one that bloggers in particular should appreciate.  Earlier this week the HSE School Board decided to fire Superintendent Concetta Raimondi.  This event occurred approximately six months after the same board voted unanimously to not only extend Raimondi's contract but give her a raise as well.  The cost to taxpayers: $266K.  So while valuable school programs are being trimmed across the state, these knuckleheads decide to waste more than a quarter million dollars of taxpayer money.  Nice.

But the real lesson in all of this isn't so much the waste and indecisiveness as how the message was delivered and continues to be delivered.  I think the Indy Star's recent editorial summed it up quite well.  When Raimondi's contract was extended back in August, Board President Jeff Sturgis was quoted as saying, "We're very pleased with her performance in maintaining the standard of excellence that we have come to expect at Hamilton Southeastern."  The day Raimondi was fired however, Sturgis noted how the board has become more "seasoned and decisive" since last August.  Gee, I wonder what new direction we can expect this board to take six months from now after they're even more "seasoned."

There's all sorts of speculation about the real reason Raimondi was terminated but the board isn't saying much.  The decision to fire her was made by the board in a secret closed-door session that morning.  Now that the board is feeling the pressure from the community's reaction ("puzzled and infuriated") they're following up that first closed-door session with another one today "to clarify their reasoning."

Are you kidding me?!  They need to meet behind closed doors to clarify their reasoning?  Is there some reason why they didn't do that earlier in the week, before they fired this Superintendent?!  This situation just keeps going from bad to worse.

Even if the board could suddenly stop their waffling and avoid any additional embarrassing decisions, they now have the task of filling an open Superintendent's position.  This begs the question: What qualified candidate would ever want to work for such an awful board, one that could reward you one day and then fire you for no viable reason six months later?  I'd have to question that candidate's judgment skills.  Seriously, it reminds me of that old Groucho Marx line, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member."

What an unfortunate situation for this community to find itself in.  I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't voted in a board election for several years, so I have myself to blame.  That will change though as I am committed to voting out all the incumbents in the next election.


If Rumsfeld Writes a Book...

Rumsfeld...would anybody want to read it?  I agree with Kassia Krozser and her post on Booksquare, partly because of her point about what's likely to be an insanely high author advance, but mostly because I can't think of anyone else I'd care less to read about.  I take that back.  There is one book I'd read Rumsfeld's ahead of: How I Saved FEMA, by Michael Brown, a purely fictional project that (thankfully) will never see the light of day.

On a more positive note, my lovely wife got me a copy of Tony Dungy's Quiet Strength, which I plan to start reading immediately.  Now there's a guy I could learn a lot from I'm sure.  Local sports columnist Bob Kravitz offered this review of Quiet Strength in Tuesday's Indianapolis Star.  It's funny...I know a lot of people who can't stand Kravitz and his opinions.  I can't think of any time I ever disagreed with him though, and I'll bet this book review is no exception.


Wikileaks

WikileaksI just read this article...  Why do I feel like this Wikileaks idea is a train wreck just waiting to happen?  I think it's a wonderful idea in the sense that maybe, just maybe it will hinder oppression somewhere in the world.  But I also wonder how much misinformation is going to appear, get edited, disappear, etc.

That's the nature of wikis, right?  Sometimes errors are posted and, as the article says, they "will rely on the global community to police the material."  That sounds good in theory, but how many angry employees are going to start posting all sorts of half-truths about their boss or the company they work for?  How long will many of those posts sit unedited, all because someone thought they could really spread the rumors under a cloak of secrecy?  How long will it take for the first company to track an employee's browser history or use some other means to pinpoint the post to them?