The Faith of Barack Obama
By Stephen Mansfield
"This book is...written in the belief that if a man’s faith is sincere, it is the most important things about him, and...it is impossible to understand who he is and how he will lead without first understanding the religious vision that informs his life..." –Stephen Mansfield
I think reading The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield after the 2008 election is over has allowed me to better absorb the wealth of understanding this book provides. Mansfield, who has also written of Churchill, Booker T. Washington, George W. Bush, et. al. has a gift for honing in on, and creating a well-documented text that speaks directly to and clearly presents the defining points of the person about whom he has written.
It is not the first time Mansfield has written about the faith of men. It perhaps, though, is the first time that his book is published immediately before the election of that man as president elect. Obviously, the biography may well become a must-read for all Americans, as we look toward the time of change that Obama has promised. I believe the book covers essentially all of the issues that drove this year’s election and helps lay a foundation that will guide our understanding of the future.
One of the major highlights of the book was a comprehensive, comparative analysis of the “Four Faces of Faith” for those individuals who were the primary participants in the 2008 election: George W. Bush as the individual who was leaving the office and then Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain as the leading candidates. Each of these individuals has openly discussed their faith during the election. Reading the comparison however, clearly focuses on how the candidates’ profession of faith may have been perceived by citizens.
Mansfield begins his book, naturally, with a look at Obama’s early life. Considering the diversity of influences from his major role models—his parents, grandparents, and his stepfather¾it is somewhat amazing that he was able to intellectually work through the breadth of his experience and arrive at a point where he chose to follow Christ. Then, as various political campaigns were undertaken, Obama was constantly attacked from a faith standpoint; however, being under fire, actually worked to forge his beliefs into both rhetoric as well as actions that in turn fired his growing numbers of followers.
“We worship an awesome God in the Blue States,” declared Obama at the 2004 Democratic Party Convention speech. Quite willing to claim that democrats were Christians too, Obama has in essence “founded” a Religious Left that has met the needs of the millions who soundly rejected that only the Religious Right were true Christians. “We, too, have faith...Those of us who believe in a woman’s right to choose an abortion, who defend the rights of gays and who care for the poor... It was a conscious attempt to reclaim the voice of the American political Left.”
Mansfield clarifies issues regarding Obama’s early teachings in Islam, and his relationship with Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as well as a discussion of the black church experience, which historically has provided a method for hearing the news, dealing with issues and planning for the good of the community. His inclusion of a perhaps little-known issue, of the “Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” lends credibility to his discussion and forces us to better understand the fear and anger of a large part of our population!
In closing, Mansfield highlights a number of healers—those who are able to bring about change for the good. Will Obama be such a healer? Mansfield seems to imply that he just might be. He has been forced to share and has willingly stood on what he believes, while at the same time, admitting, for instance, when he is unsure of his position on abortion, that “I don’t believe such doubts make me a bad Christian. I believe they make me human, limited in my understandings of God’s purpose and therefore prone to sin.” (From The Audacity of Hope) May this reviewer add her personal “Amen” to that!
Needless to say, I highly recommend The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield!
"No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide...Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives." --Barack Obama
G. A. Bixler