Mansfield's The Faith of Barack Obama

I recently had a chance to review an advance copy of Stephen Mansfield's The Faith of Barack Obama. Mansfield also wrote The Faith of George W. Bush and The Faith of the American Soldier. These aren't books that I would normally read, but faith plays an undeniable role in our elections and I was curious to see how Obama would be portrayed.

In many ways, the book is written to inform the Religious Right of a man who will be a force in politics for years to come, even if he were to lose the presidency. The book makes it clear that Obama has been exposed to a few religions and remained a skeptic for much of his life. Even now, the book explains, his faith is evolving, and is described as a postmodern Christianity. The book covers Obama's relationship with Trinity church and Rev. Wright, and urges the reader to understand that though some found the relationship with Wright to be questionable, in many ways it was about sticking with those you have a history with. Trinity provided an outlet for change and activism, and this is what Obama clung to. A more biased account would have used Rev. Wright's views--and the fact that Obama sat in his church--against Obama, as many others did.

There's a chapter called Four Faces of Faith that covers briefly positions Obama against McCain, Clinton, and Bush. Mansfield admits some might find covering Bush as questionable as it seems clear that America, generally, wants nothing more to do with him, but also notes that much of the openness in discussing faith in the political arena is to the credit of Bush.

Obama is ultimately portrayed as a nontraditional Christian whose faith--complete with its doubts-- appeals to the younger generation and whose openness appeals to those who feel betrayed by the rampant scandals of prominent religious figures.

The book has a Notes section that spans 7 pages and includes references to books and interviews, and I think Mansfield does a good job of remaining true to the sentiments he outlines in the introduction. The book is a good way to learn a little more about Obama through his faith.