Nearly three years ago *** Obama sat with me in public at a cafe on South Michigan Avenue and talked about his faith.Hmmm... so it appears that Barack Obama is a professing, mainstream Christian.
He didn't hesitate. No one coached him. He didn't choose his words carefully or tailor his responses. He shot from the hip, giving me candid and complicated answers to my inquiries about his religious history, beliefs and doubts.
At the time, Obama said he was a Christian, that he has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, that he reads the Bible regularly and prays constantly. He described his conversion experience in his mid-20s, how he walked the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ one Sunday in a public affirmation of his private change of heart. But we didn't talk labels, I didn't ask him for one, and he didn't offer.
A few weeks ago, during a visit to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, I had a chance to ask Obama that lingering question:
"Are you an evangelical?" ***
"Gosh, I'm not sure if labels are helpful here because the definition of an evangelical is so loose and subject to so many different interpretations. I came to Christianity through the black church tradition where the line between evangelical and non-evangelical is completely blurred. Nobody knows exactly what it means.
"Does it mean that you feel you've got a personal relationship with Christ the savior? Then that's directly part of the black church experience. Does it mean you're born-again in a classic sense, with all the accoutrements that go along with that, as it's understood by some other tradition? I'm not sure."
He continued his answer: "My faith is complicated by the fact that I didn't grow up in a particular religious tradition. And so what that means is when you come at it as an adult, your brain mediates a lot, and you ask a lot of questions.
"There are aspects of Christian tradition that I'm comfortable with and aspects that I'm not. There are passages of the Bible that make perfect sense to me and others that I go, 'Ya know, I'm not sure about that,'" he said, shrugging and stammering slightly.
My gramma would call some of that talk about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ "witnessing."
When one considers the abuse that Tom Roeser has heaped upon Ms. Falsani, it is a wonder to see how her piece effortlessly, even casually, sweeps away any possible basis for Roeser's Grand Inquisition of Barack Obama.
Maybe that's why some folks write for Chicago newspapers and some folks write blogs.
Note: Because the "issue" of Barack Obama's religious faith will be of interest throughout the upcoming presidential election and because some readers may find this post after the Sun-Times has imprisoned Falsani's piece behind an archives firewall, I have reprinted her piece, in full, here.
Update: Media Matters has more