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The Faith of Barack Obama
by Stephen Mansfield
 
            It’s campaign season here in the US and the books about the men vying for the presidency are flooding bookstores. I think everyone who plans to vote come November owes it to their country to learn about the candidates and make an informed decision. But so many of the books on the market are laced with erroneous information that it’s hard to know what to pick!
 
            The way I figure it, books by the candidates are the best way to go. You can get a real feel for their personality and their background: Barack Obama has Dreams From My Father and with the aid of Mark Salter, John McCain penned Faith of My Fathers. If you want books more about their politics there’s The Audacity of Hope and Worth the Fighting For. But there are scores of other books praising their virtues or demonizing them.    I can’t hope to review all of them – and frankly, I don’t want to – but I did come across one earlier this month that I think is worth the time to investigate.
 
             The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield appealed to me because as a Christian, my faith is part of my everyday life and influences every decision I make. It became very clear during the current administration just how the President’s faith can influence the office, so I now consider it quite vital to know what the next man’s faith, and how it affects his judgment. At less than two hundred pages, this book remains neutral, examining Obama’s relationship with God without endorsing or condemning him as a presidential candidate.
 
            Mansfield begins by painting a portrait of Obama’s multi-religion childhood, when he lived with a Muslim stepfather and atheist mother and attended a Catholic school. Later, he lived with his grandparents who attended a Unitarian church. As he grew up his constant moving left him without a strong sense of community and his life lacked a driving, central force until he found both at Trinity United Church of Christ. Controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright is introduced and Mansfield explains his version of a “black” church and the mix of social commentary and revisionist Bible-reading that characterizes his ministry.   Wright isn’t demonized; many times Mansfield emphasizes the pastor’s kindness and love of his flock. But he also stays true to the facts, and does a fair job of balancing the good and bad in Obama’s record with a minimum of spin. He also touches on how faith and religion have influenced the policies and careers of John McCain, Hilary Clinton, and George W. Bush. 
 
Much of the research for the book is directly taken from Obama’s own books, speeches and interviews so if you’ve read Obama’s works this may, at times, seem repetitive.   But regardless of which man you plan to vote for, you can only help your decision by reading this book.
 
 
PS – Discussion question: Whaddya think of McCain’s Veep? That choice was rather unexpected. Pragmatic or pandering?   

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
jeeperstseepers
Aug. 31st, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
PS – Discussion question: Whaddya think of McCain’s Veep? That choice was rather unexpected. Pragmatic or pandering?

No more pandering that what any number of other candidates--including Obama--have done. Obama took someone who was the opposite of him in many ways, to appear to balance his flaws and things he's lacking, and McCain has done the same. (Those who shout that she's so young and lacking in experience should probably think for a moment about the fact that yes, that's true, but she's running for vice president; if it's such a problem that she's young and inexperienced, doesn't that kind of support the argument of those who say the same about Obama, who's running for president?

Plus, I really believe that even if Hillary hadn't come so close, and Obama got the nomination without Hillary ever being a main contender, there's a good chance McCain would have chosen a woman. It's a smart way of generating excitement for himself. Vote one way, you get a black man. Vote the other, you get a woman. Either way, history is made.

Was it a calculated choice? Of course. But when are things otherwise in politics? And I believe that it still means something. There may have been a number of reasons she was chosen, but that doesn't change the fact that he was willing to go with it.
bookswede
Aug. 31st, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
This sounds quite interesting -- I find American politics fascinating, not least because the candidates actually inspire the populace. People actually care about politics. In the UK, often, because the party leaders are so stupid, or boring, or both, we tend to pay them very little attention, save to satirise them. Quite often, people will vote knowing very little about what the person they are voting for stands for. In the end, it might just come down to looks!

I'm sure the same thing happens in the US, sometimes, but this particular Obama/Clinton nomination race, has really captured our imagination as well.

(Sorry to waffle! Thanks for adding me as a friend, by the way, and as you can probably tell, I'm back from my Internet hiatus!)
bookswede
Aug. 31st, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
PS: Ooo! The new Gaiman prizes sound excellently intriguing!
jeeperstseepers
Aug. 31st, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know if was an accident that you replied to my comment instead of the entry, but I'll reply to your reply anyway :)

Quite often, people will vote knowing very little about what the person they are voting for stands for. In the end, it might just come down to looks!

I'm sure the same thing happens in the US, sometimes, but this particular Obama/Clinton nomination race, has really captured our imagination as well.


The same thing happens here, without a doubt. Looks and youth were a HUGE part of the Bill Clinton/Bob Dole race. Clinton was young and smooth and played the saxophone on a cool late-night talk show. Bob Dole was old and stiff. What either of them actually said or did was secondary. And now, with Obama, a huge part of it is his looks. And I'm not just talking about race. I'm talking about his youth and good looks. He's so dapper! There's no question that many people respond to that.

People actually care about politics. In the UK, often, because the party leaders are so stupid, or boring, or both, we tend to pay them very little attention, save to satirise them.

This is very interesting. I had gotten the idea that there were plenty of people in the U.K. who voted for issues or cared about politics. All the ranting about Thatcher, all the initial love of Blair that disappeared and turned to bitter hatred, etc.
prodigal
Aug. 31st, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
It's a pandering, shameless grab at what he hopes will be a significant PUMA vote.
lyzzybee
Aug. 31st, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I hope we can get copies here. I put in for a copy with LT early reviewers but didn't snag one, possibly because I have no other books on religion or American politics!
juushika
Aug. 31st, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
PS – Discussion question: Whaddya think of McCain’s Veep? That choice was rather unexpected. Pragmatic or pandering?

Not unexpected, in retrospect. And yes, pandering, but thus is most of politics. I see it as an attempt to, for one, balance out McCain platform with a more conservative platform; for another, to try and "pick up" some would-be-Hillary Clinton voters via a female VP nomination. The former is how VP picks work, really, and doesn't surprise me one whit. The latter is sad, but not surprising either; mostly, though, I hope it fails. I hope it fails because the two women are alike only in that they are women. It's sexism of the most essential sort—that an individual is entirely defined, labeled, and preferred or discriminated against on the basis of one factor: their gender and sex.

Hopefully, those that supported Hillary Clinton did so for more reasons than her gender alone. Hopefully, those that would love to see a women in a position of power (and I am one of them), want that woman to be worthy of the office. The goal shouldn't be to raise a discriminated individual to a position of power. The goal should be to make it so that the individual isn't subject to discrimination at all—to make it so that the factors of discrimination, from gender to race to sexuality, are no longer factors at all.

Ah, I ramble. But those are my thoughts.
deathjoy
Aug. 31st, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
I loved both of Obama's books. They seemed very honest, grounded, and sincere. In his books you get much more of a sense of the centrist views he has, as opposed to the ultra liberal left winger he's portrayed as.

As to Palin...I'm kind of insulted as a woman that Mcain thinks he can get women's votes just by picking a female VP. And he really should have more carefully considered his VP pick, seeing as he's 71 years old and really does have a chance of dying while in office.

Edited at 2008-08-31 08:27 pm (UTC)
hidden_tugboats
Sep. 1st, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
Ehhh. I can't get over the fact that she looks like Tina Fey. (Wow, that sounds so shallow XD)
I am such an Obama fan, McCain is sort of just...eh. That book looks super-sharp, and I definately want to check it out, although I'm of the opinion that faith shouldn't matter much when choosing a president. however, because there's such an emphasis on it this election, i don't know how i can avoid it.

oh, and dreams from my father gets my highest recommendation possible. it's an excellent book and an excellent view into obama's mind.
the_kestral
Sep. 1st, 2008 06:29 am (UTC)
call me a conspiracy nut but I would not be shocked if McCain gets elected and his health were to fail (hey he is NO spring chicken) that something would happen to her before she could ever be sworn in as President. Just dont see the powers behind the scenes being willing to let her take the oval office unless of course they have some very STRONG strings on her.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 1st, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
faith of barack obama
in this, i can only keep quiet and listen. but thanks for writing about this, the book be profound or no.

in many ways, i think i am quite at the farthest end possible from politics of this kind. no one here may have any idea of it all yet, but west bengal in india is going through very hard days. there seems now here no government but the political party, and the opposition to the ruling party just waits around for the ruling party to make a mistake, so it can turn that into some kind of political capital. neither thinks constructively. i am a member of a civil society group trying, in very small ways to make for slight difference and visibility. this is not relevant to this post, really, but the post reminded me of it all.

olidhar@yahoo.com
www.arcche.blogspot.com
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