Friday, August 27, 2010

Why I believe that I’m a Christian

People are questioning my faith so I’m going to share my beliefs. And when I’m done you will know, and when I am done you will know…

I am a Christian.

So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith.

Intellectually I've drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.

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.

I believe there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward.

I believe there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.

I was raised more by my mother and my mother was Christian.

My grandmother was Methodist. My grandfather was Baptist.

My grandparents later joined a Universalist church.

My mother had as much influence on my values as anybody, was not someone who wore her religion on her sleeve. We'd go to church for Easter. She wasn't a church lady.

My Stepfather wasn't particularly he wasn't a practicing Muslim. I went to a Catholic school in a Muslim country. So I was studying the Bible and catechisms by day, and at night you'd hear the prayer call.

I don't think as a child we were, or I had a structured religious education.

My mother was deeply spiritual person, and would spend a lot of time talking about values and give me books about the world's religions, and talk to me about them.

I think always, her view always was that underlying these religions were a common set of beliefs about how you treat other people and how you aspire to act, not just for yourself but also for the greater good.

So that was what I carried with me through college. I probably didn't get started getting active in church activities until after college.

I joined church and committed myself to Christ in church.

I went up to altar call it was powerful for me because it not only confirmed my faith, it gave shape to my faith, also, it allowed me to connect the work I had been pursuing with my faith.

I did this 16, 17 years ago. 1987 or 88

I’m born again, 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 its 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.

I think that, particularly as somebody who’s in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.

I pray often, well I guess I do.

It's not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why am I doing it.

The biggest challenge is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I'm having 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 think I'm off track.

It's important for me throughout the day to measure and to take stock and to say, now, am I doing this because I think it's advantageous to me, or because I think it's the right thing to do? Am I doing this for the recognition or am I doing this because it's necessary to accomplish my motives.

The most powerful moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth.

This power is not necessarily the Holy Spirit or God rather I think it's the power of the recognition of God, or the recognition of a larger truth that is being shared between people and me.

Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.

And he's also a wonderful teacher. I think it's important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.

In my life Jesus is someone I feel I have a regular connection with, a personal connection with.

I think some of the things I talked about earlier are addressed through, are channeled through my Christian faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I read the Bible. I read it not as regularly as I would like. These days I don't have much time for reading or reflection, period.

I'll be honest with you; I used to try to take some time for meditation prayer reading all the time, in a fairly disciplined way. But now I don't. And I probably need to and would like to, but that's where that internal monologue or dialogue I think supplants my opportunity to read and reflect in a structured way these days.

It's much more sort of as I'm going through the day trying to take stock and take a moment here and a moment there to take stock, why am I here, how does this connect with a larger sense of purpose.

I have people in my life that I look to for guidance; my pastor is certainly someone who I have an enormous amount of respect for.

I have a number of friends who are ministers and I interact with and hold close colleagues dear.

Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure.

I am a great admirer of our founding charter, and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming, and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root in this country.

I'm very suspicious of religious certainty expressing itself in public

Now, that's different from a belief that values have to inform our public policy. I think it's perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about.

What I say regularly is that my views are informed by a belief that we're all connected. That if there's a child somewhere that can't read, that makes a difference in my life even if it's not my own child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere, that's struggling to pay for their medicine and having to choose between medicine and the rent that makes my life poorer even if it's not my grandparent. And if there's an Arab American family that's being rounded up by John Ashcroft without the benefit of due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

I can give religious expression to that. I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, we are all children of God. Or I can express it in secular terms. But the basic premise remains the same. I think sometimes people have made the mistake of shying away from a conversation about values for fear that they sacrifice the important value of tolerance. And I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive.

I think that I am disturbed by, let me put it this way: I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God's mandate.

I think there is this tendency that I don't think is healthy for public figures to wear religion on their sleeve as a means to insulate themselves from criticism, or dialogue with people who disagree with them.

This is something that I'm sure I'd have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.

I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.

I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.

That's just not part of my religious makeup.

I believe that women have the right to choose.

I believe that watching Fox News or listening to talk radio is confusing and dangerous and creates intolerance

I believe that faith is a personal thing.

Oft times people may presume a set of doctrines that I subscribe to that I don't necessarily subscribe to.

I think that each of us, when we walk into our church or mosque or synagogue, are interpreting that experience in different ways, are reading scriptures in different ways and are arriving at our own understanding at different ways and in different phases.

If all it took was someone proclaiming, "I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins," and that was all there was to it, people wouldn't have to keep coming to church.

I don’t believe in heaven, you know the harps and clouds and wings. I don’t believe that heaven is a place you go to when you die.

What do I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.

I believe that we can create heaven right here on earth.

I believe in sin, sin is being out of alignment with my values

I believe that one sins the same as what I believe about heaven. What I mean is if I'm true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, that’s heaven, when I'm not true to it, it's its own punishment, that’s sin.

I find spiritual inspiration in so many things, I can be inspired in church. By a good choir and a good sermon, these things moved me by these things I am transported.

I can also be transported by watching a good performance of Hamlet, or reading Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, or listening to Miles Davis.

However, I am most inspired in my own sort of mental library, the Civil Rights movement has a powerful hold on me. It's a point in time where I think heaven and earth meet. Because it's a moment, in which a collective faith transforms everything. So when I read Gandhi or I read King or I read certain passages of Abraham Lincoln and I think about those times where people's values are tested, I think those inspire me.

I feel the most centered, the most aligned spiritually when I'm being true to myself. And that can happen in me making a speech or it can happen in me playing with my kids, or it can happen in a small interaction with a person when I'm recognizing them and exchanging a good word.

I believe bin Laden to be a bad example of a spiritual man

I believe Gandhi to be a good example of a spiritual man

I also believe that Dr. King and Lincoln applied their faith to a larger canvas without allowing that faith to metastasize into something that is hurtful.

I did not suddenly come to faith or belief in God I just acknowledge that faith that was in me all the long. I think my going to the alter was just a moment to certify or publicly affirm a growing faith in me.
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. The column she wrote about the interview has been quoted and misquoted many times over, but she'd never before published the full transcript in a major publication. -- Steve Waldman (source)


  1. Anonymous7:55 AM

    Explain 1 Samuel 15:3.

  2. It seems pretty clear to me! Why do you think it needs explaination?