Saturday, August 23, 2008

Book Review: The Faith of Barack Obama

I've always been somewhat of a political junkie so when the election cycle includes the presidential election, I gear up. This year that cycle seems to have been around forever and we haven't even had the conventions yet!

Living in Illinois, I've been aware of Barack Obama a lot longer than much of the nation. I've seen him rise from local Chicago politics to becoming a state senator and finally a U.S. senator. And in all that time I haven't known much about the man except that his politics and mine don't exactly mesh.

A few weeks ago Thomas Nelson Publishers made an offer of their new book by Stephen Mansfield, The Faith of Barack Obama, to anyone who would agree to read it and post a review on their blog, favorable or unfavorable. How could I resist?

At the same time I was reading Mansfield's book, Senators Obama and McCain appeared in a forum at Saddleback Church in California in an informal like interview with Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life fame. I found having the book and seeing Obama and McCain in that setting at the same time to be an invaluable experience.

Mansfield's book shows that the author did his homework. I'd heard spatterings of Obama's backstory before. We've all heard how as a child he spent several years in Indonesia and was enrolled in a Muslim school there. That his biological father was also muslim. But, what I didn't realize was that his spiritual formation began way before with his grandparents eshewing the fundamental Christan beliefs in which they were raised, and later his mom declaring that she was an athiest and adopting a rather detatched view of anything religious or spiritual.

Last year most Americans were shocked to hear the pastor Obama had been sitting under for many years verbally attack the United States from the pulpit. I, too, was appalled at what I heard. Having read this book, I have a far greater understanding of where the man is coming from and how his style is very much in line with many black preachers, especially from that generation. I still don't agree with their style, but I do have a different understanding of it.

Also included in the book is a snapshot view of the faith of John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and George Bush. It's easy to see that we cannot judge a person's faith by what they say publicly. Sometimes a faith is real, deep and personal, yet so personal it's difficult for someone, even one used to speaking in public about many things, to share. Yet another will so easily talk the talk and sound like a believer when they are not.

I highly recommend this book to anyone of voting age. Evangelicals in particular need to read this book and weigh what it reveals. In my humble opinion, the future of our country depends on it.

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