On several occasions, when Barak Obama has been charged with being a Muslim, the Senator from Illinois will respond by affirming his commitment to Christianity. From a Sun Times article, April 5, 2004, Obama said, "I am a Christian . . . I have a deep faith. I'm rooted in the Christian tradition."
Most evangelicals may accept Obama's confession as legit with a raised eyebrow. Why? As an evangelical Christian myself, I would never say "I am rooted in the Christian tradition." My faith in Jesus is not something that has grown out of my past roots. Rather, as an adult I made a definite decision to follow Christ.
Whether or not Obama can pass the mustard with most evangelicals comes into further question when the presidential candidate suggests, "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." It sounds like Obama, with one big superhug, is endorsing the religion of Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists and . . . just about everyone else. To Obama everyone worships the same God; What difference does it make anyway which faith you belong to? Christian? Not!
Just what is the Christian tradition Barak Obama is rooted in? From the Chicago Sun Times article we learn:
Obama's theological point of view was shaped by his uniquely multicultural upbringing. He was born in 1961 in Hawaii to a white mother who came from Protestant Midwestern stock and a black African father who hailed from the Luo tribe of Kenya.
Obama describes his father, after whom he is named, as "agnostic." His paternal grandfather was a Muslim. His mother, he says, was a Christian.
In his book Dreams From My Father, A Story of Race and Inheritance Obama describes his mother as a secular humanist. She maintained a faith that rational people could shape their own destiny.
When he was 6 years old Obama's parents divorced and he moved to Indonesia with his mother and her new husband-a non-practicing Muslim.
Obama remembers that his mother would read books to him about world religions. During the day he would learn the Catholic catechisms and at night he'd hear the Muslim call for prayer and his mother's embrace of all faiths.
The senator has had an eclectic spirituality to say the least: Catholicism, secularism, universalism and Islam. He owns up to having an irregular practice of reading the Bible. However, the presidential hopeful does find the time to pray. He describes his prayer life:
It's not formal, me getting on my knees . . . I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I am doing, why I am doing it."
Concerning the universalism of the democratic contender, he acknowledges the call to share one's faith in Christ is part of the New Testament tradition. In some sectors of Christianity, according to Obama, if you don't embrace Jesus Christ as personal Savior, you're going to hell. Obama hugs the fence on this essential spiritual matter: "I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die."
No one who names the name of Jesus Christ and understands who He is as the only true Redeemer, would dare suggest that people can come to a saving knowledge of God apart from Jesus Christ.
Barak's mother, an anthropologist who collected religious texts, felt that her son needed a crash course in comparative religion and what she tutored is an eclectic Christian.
Okay, so is Barak Obama a Muslim? I don't think so. However, I'm not
naive enough to think his exposure to Islam in a Muslim country like Indonesia has not left an Islamic influence on the man who may someday preside over this country in the nation's Oval Office.
In an interview with Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barak's younger half sister, she recalls, "My whole family was Muslim, and most of the people I knew were Muslim." Regardless, while growing up in Indonesia Obama attended a Catholic school and then a Muslim public school where religious education was demanded. What would they teach in a Muslim school? Perhaps Judaism or evangelical Christianity? I don't think so.
Upon his return to Hawaii at the age of 10, Barak attended a preparatory school with a Christian affiliation.
What can we conclude about Barak's formal religious training? Catholicism and Islam. Obama was never too far from either the universalistic roots of his mother, Catholicism or the Islamic faith of his stepfather.
His exposure to Protestantism? His white grandparents, who helped raise him, we non-practicing Methodists and Baptists.
Sarah Hussein Obama, the senator's stepgrandmother but whom Barak calls his grandmother, still rises at 5 a.m. to say her prayers to Allah. In a recent interview in Kenya, Ms. Obama said, "I am a strong believer of the Islamic faith."
Barak Obama is a man who was raised to be tolerant of other faiths . . . even accepting of other's faith as sufficient for salvation.
Yet Obama was always reluctant to join a faith until the late 1980s when he met his present pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, minister of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, a man who told Sean Hannity that Christianity is a white man's religion.
Is Obama a Christian? He lacks the commitment to Christ as the only Savior of mankind-Jew or Gentile, white or black. He may be rooted in the Christian tradition, but his roots have spread out to embrace more faiths than just one.