April 30, 2007
Obama's faith, his pastor, and his foreign policy
The NYT explores the Senator's faith and his pastor, while David Brooks deciphers how it might affect his foreign policy.
The New York Times has an extended piece on Barack Obama's faith, his church, and his relationship with his pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Wright has become known for his liberation theology, which, as Wright has applied it, some have called reverse racism.
Obama describes the differences in outlook he has with his pastor.
"Reverend Wright is a child of the 60s, and he often expresses himself in that language of concern with institutional racism and the struggles the African-American community has gone through," Mr. Obama said. "He analyzes public events in the context of race. I tend to look at them through the context of social justice and inequality."
The article's emphasis on Obama's relationship with his outspoken pastor is due to its potential political effect on Obama's presidential campaign. But the article does describe Obama's personal conversion: "He comes from a very secular, skeptical family," said Jim Wallis, a Christian antipoverty activist and longtime friend of Mr. Obama. "His faith is really a personal and an adult choice. His is a conversion story."
The article has less of Obama speaking about himself than David Brooks's column does. In the column, perhaps, we see Obama's faith at work better than we do in the much longer piece about Obama and his pastor. Brooks says he got Obama to open up when he asked, "Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr?" Obama, it turns out, is a big fan. "What do you take away from him?" Brooks asked.
"I take away," Obama answered in a rush of words, "the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away ... the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from na?ve idealism to bitter realism."