Obama’s 2004 faith interview

Steve Waldman gives the setup: “The most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama’s faith came in a 2004 interview he gave Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani when he was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois. … Falsani has graciously allowed [beliefnet] to print the full conversation here.”

Some excerpts:

OBAMA: … I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there’s an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.

FALSANI: So you got yourself born again?

OBAMA: Yeah, although I don’t, I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I’m not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I’ve got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.

I’m a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.

OBAMA: … It’s interesting, the most powerful political 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: What’s that power? Is it the holy spirit? God?

OBAMA: Well, 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 an audience.

FALSANI: Can we go back to that morning service in 1987 or 88 [his altar call] — when you have a moment that you can go back to that as an epiphany…

OBAMA: It wasn’t an epiphany.

It was much more of a gradual process for me. I know there are some people who fall out. Which is wonderful. God bless them. For me it was probably because there is a certain self-consciousness that I possess as somebody with probably too much book learning, and also a very polyglot background.

FALSANI: It wasn’t like a moment where you finally got it? It was a symbol of that decision?

OBAMA: Exactly. I think it was just a moment to certify or publicly affirm a growing faith in me.

Sounds like a good Episcopalian. The Episcopal Church welcomes you. As Bishop Whalon says, “I must say that I wouldn’t mind at all if they discovered the Episcopal Church! After all, St. John’s, Lafayette Square, will be right across the street.” That’s just one of many excellent options.

Read it all.

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