Issues of faith and religion come to the forefront quite often during elections and presidential campaigns. In preparation for the 2012 elections, I'm providing a "faith snapshot" of each of the presidential candidates. This project will be updated as I find additional faith-related statements from the candidates. Please check back often!
Barack Obama's Political Profile:
Columbia University, B.A.
Harvard Law School, J.D.
Current Position: President of the United States
Experience: Attorney, Illinois State Senator
Declared Candidacy: April 4, 2011
Barack Obama's Faith Snapshot:
Religion/Church: Former member of the United Church of Christ.*
President Barack Obama was not raised in a religious household. Like his mother, he said he "grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion." His father was born Muslim but became an atheist as an adult. His mother's family members were "non-practicing" Baptists and Methodists. It was after college that he encountered a "spiritual dilemma." Realizing something was missing in his life, he felt drawn to be in church.
Obama said he had begun to sense God beckoning him to submit to his will and dedicate himself to discovering truth. So one day he walked down the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and affirmed his Christian faith. Remaining a member of the church for 20 years, Trinity, Obama said, is where he found Jesus Christ, where he and Michelle were married, and where his children were baptized.
In a "Call to Renewal" Keynote Address in June 2006, Obama referred to himself as a progressive Christian.
During Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., made headlines for what many considered highly offensive and controversial remarks from the pulpit. Distancing himself from his pastor, Obama publicly denounced Wright's comments as "divisive" and "racially charged."
*In May 2008, Obama announced at a news conference his formal resignation from membership at Trinity, saying that he and his family would finalize their decision to find another church after January 2009, "when we know what our lives are going to be like." He also said, "My faith is not contingent on the particular church that I belong to."
In March 2010, Obama confirmed in an exclusive interview with Today's Matt Lauer, that he and his family would not be joining a congregation in Washington. Rather, the Obamas had adopted Evergreen Chapel at Camp David as their "favorite place to worship" as a family. Obama told Lauer, "What we've decided for now is not to join a single church, and the reason is because Michelle and I have realized we are very disruptive to services." (Read more ...)
Barack Obama's Expressions of Faith:
Barack Obama said that his faith "plays every role" in his life. "It's what keeps me grounded. It's what keeps my eyes set on the greatest of heights." In the "Call to Renewal" Keynote Address he also said, "Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts. You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away--because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey."
In spite of Obama's open expressions of faith throughout his presidency, the American people continue to have questions. In August 2010 the Pew Forum on Religion and Politics released the results of a national poll with remarkable details about the public's perceptions of Obama's faith: "A substantial and growing number of Americans say that Barack Obama is a Muslim, while the proportion saying he is a Christian has declined."
At the time of the survey, close to one-in-five Americans (18%) believed Obama was a Muslim. This number was up from 11% in early 2009. While Obama publicly professed to be a Christian, only about one-third of adults (34%) actually thought he was. That figure was down dramatically from 48% in 2009. A large number (43%) said they were unsure of Obama's religion.
White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton responded to the poll saying, "... the president is obviously - he's Christian. He prays every day. He communicates with his religious adviser every single day. There's a group of pastors that he takes counsel from on a regular basis. His faith is very important to him but it's not something that's a topic of conversation every single day."
Barack Obama and the Bible:
Obama writes in his book, The Audacity of Hope, "I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”
More About Barack Obama's Faith:
• Pew Forum - Religious Biography of Barack Obama
• Christians Say Obama is Trampling Religious Liberty
• New Poll: 'Growing Number of Americans Say Obama is a Muslim'
• Obama Decides Not to Disrupt Church Services in Washington
• Obama's Fascinating Interview with Cathleen Falsani
• A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith
• Deborah White's US Liberal Politics Blog: Barack Obama on Faith, Politics and Democracy