There is much talk about Sen. Barack Obama saying he's weighing a White House run. People talk of his good looks, charisma, brains and moderation. But there has been very little talk about the thing that will help him connect with many Americans who have felt alienated from the Democratic Party in recent years: his relationship with God. Turns out he's got himself one of those personal relationships with Jesus, just like our current President.
In "The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People," Chicago Sun-Times religion writer Cathleen Falsani talks at length with Obama about his faith. From the book:
[Obama] is not shy about saying he has a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." As a sign of that relationship, he says, he walked down the aisle of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in response to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's altar call one Sunday morning in 1988.
This may scare the life out of many in the Democratic elite, but it will be music to the ears of the hundreds of millions of Christians in this country. More Obama:
"I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. Throughout the day I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why I am doing it."
"[T]he biggest challenge, I think, is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I'm having with God internally. I'm measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least, is audible, is active. It tells me where I think I'm on track and where I'm off track."
"The most powerful moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth. I can feel it. When I'm talking to a group and I'm saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I'm just being glib or clever."
Falsani asks Obama: "Is that the power of the Holy Spirit?" He says: "I think it's the power of the recognition of God, or the recognition of a larger truth that is being shared between me and the audience. That's something you learn watching ministers--what they call the Holy Spirit. Not to try to intellectualize it, but what I see there are moments that happen within a sermon where the minister gets out of his ego and is speaking from a different source. And it's powerful."
Obama is clear in the interview that he believes in the separation of church and state, but he's equally clear -- and unashamed -- of the role his strong faith plays in his day-to-day life. Hopefully he will continue to talk about it, as he has in the past. And hopefully he won't be scared off by any negative reaction he receives from the Far Left.
Obama gave a speech earlier this year and the reaction from the Far Left was swift and harsh (and full of unbelievable cluelessness about how much the Democratic Party does not understand religious voters). Fortunately there were more open minded people on the Left who gave him a fair hearing such as Amy Sullivan at Slate (link: http://www.slate.com/id/2144983/) and Nathan Newman at TPM Cafe (link: http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/coffeehouse/2006/jun/28/obama_religion_and_the_blog_reaction).
Much of the harping from the Far Left was about how Obama wanted to change the Democratic Party's position on gay rights and abortion. The gay rights issue doesn't make sense considering that in 2004 John Kerry and John Edwards both opposed gay marriage. Hillary Clinton opposes gay marriage. Most Democratic presidential candidates support civil unions (as does most of the country) and oppose gay marriage (as does most of the country). On abortion, I can't speak for Obama except to say I'd be thrilled if he started speaking out against the more extreme policies the Democratic Party has become known for such as opposing the late term abortion ban, parental consent and laws banning the transfer of minors across state lines to get abortions. But I don't know where he stands on all of that.
Whatever happens, his voice as a religious Democrat is welcome and will serve him -- and the Democratic Party -- well if he runs for President.
Not God's Party: A New Poll Shows Democrats Are Losing (More) Religious Voters - By Amy Sullivan - Slate Magazine -- http://www.slate.com/id/2148547/