….Obama says his spiritual quest was driven by two main impulses. He was looking for a community that he could call home—a sense of rootedness and belonging he missed from his biracial, peripatetic childhood. The visits to the black churches uptown helped fulfill that desire. “There’s a side very particular to the African-American church tradition that was powerful to me,” he says. The exuberant worship, the family atmosphere and the prophetic preaching at a church such as Abyssinian would have appealed to a young man who lived so in his head. And he became obsessed with the civil-rights movement. He’d become convinced, through his reading, of the transforming power of social activism, especially when paired with religion. This is not an uncommon revelation among the spiritually and progressively minded…..
The cross under which Obama went to Jesus was at the controversial Trinity United Church of Christ. It was a good fit. “That community of faith suited me,” Obama says. For one thing, Trinity insisted on social activism as a part of Christian life. It was also a family place. Members refer to the sections in the massive sanctuary as neighborhoods; churchgoers go to the same neighborhood each Sunday and they get to know the people who sit near them. They know when someone’s sick or got a promotion at work. Jeremiah Wright, whom Obama met in the context of organizing, became a friend; after he married, Obama says, the two men would sometimes get together “after church to have chicken with the family—and we would have talked stories about our families.” In his preaching, Wright often emphasized the importance of family, of staying married and taking good care of children. (Obama’s recent Father’s Day speech, in which he said that “responsibility does not end at conception,” was not cribbed from Wright—but the premise could have been.) At the point of his decision to accept Christ, Obama says, “what was intellectual and what was emotional joined, and the belief in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, that he died for our sins, that through him we could achieve eternal life—but also that, through good works we could find order and meaning here on Earth and transcend our limits and our flaws and our foibles—I found that powerful.”
Maya says their mother would not have made the same choice—but that Ann understood and approved of Obama’s decision: “She didn’t feel the same need, because for her, she felt like we can still be good to one another and serve, but we don’t have to choose. She was, of course, always a wanderer, and I think he was more inclined to be rooted and make the choice to set down his commitments more firmly…..”
How does Obama´s mother and Obama´s own spiritual path and his modern progressive Christian perspective relate to your understanding of Obama and Christianity more broadly?
Obama´s pastor Rev J Wright made controversial comments about “God d*mn America” that led him to leave that congregation at United Church of Christ. What does this selection here, or its original article, make you think about the significance of that act?
How does Obama´s spiritual and religious experience relate to your own thoughts about your spiritual religious concerns?