With Barack Obama about to head into the general election, he’ll need to re-introduce himself to the American people. Many folks just don’t know that much about him. One thing we do know is that Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim. He talks about his Christian faith quite a bit but because of some of his liberal positions (read: abortion, civil unions) he’s going to need to really work hard to convince religious moderates and religious conservatives that they have common ground.
In 2004, he gave an interview to Cathleen Falsani who was the religion reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times. I must say the whole interview is remarkable. Below are some parts of it where Obama talks about Jesus, heaven and sin. The whole interview can be read here.
(GG is God Girl aka Cathleen Falsani)
OBAMA: Right. Jesus is a 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.
GG: The conversation stopper, when you say you’re a Christian and leave it at that.
OBAMA: Where do you move forward with that? 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 prostelytize. 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.
GG: You don’t believe that?
OBAMA: 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.
Part of the reason I think it’s always difficult for public figures to talk about this is that the nature of politics is that you want to have everybody like you and project the best possible traits onto you. Oftentimes that’s by being as vague as possible, or appealing to the lowest commong denominators. The more specific and detailed you are on issues as personal and fundamental as your faith, the more potentially dangerous it is.
GG: Do you believe in heaven?
OBAMA: Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?
GG: A place spiritually you go to after you die?
OBAMA: What 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.
When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.
GG: Do you believe in sin?
GG: What is sin?
OBAMA: Being out of alignment with my values.
GG: What happens if you have sin in your life?
OBAMA: I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.
In the fall, Obama’s critics are going to go after him because they don’t believe he’s a “true Christian.” (read: abortion, civil unions, etc) I think the Obama religious outreach team is ready for that debate. They believe that Christianity speaks to more public policy positions than just abortion and gay marriage.