Editor’s Note: At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee shop at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, for an interview about his faith. Our conversation took place a few days after he’d clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won, and four months before he’d be formally introduced to the rest of the nation during his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Conventio.
We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the Sun-Times called “The God Factor,” which would eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, in which Obama and 31 other high-profile “culture shapers” — including Bono of U2, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the author Anne Rice and President George W. Bush's speechwriter Michael Gerson — are profiled.
Because of the seemingly evergreen interest in President Obama’s faith and spiritual predilections, and because that 2004 interview remains the longest and most in-depth he’s granted publicly about his faith, I thought it might be helpful to share the transcript of our conversation — uncut and in its entirety — here on God’s Politics.
~ Cathleen Falsani
At the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, President Obama named Dorothy Day as a “great reformer in American history."
Who woulda thunk it?
This is the same woman J. Edgar Hoover once called a "threat to national security."
Here’s the exact quote from the Obama’s speech:
We can’t leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel — the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action — sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.
President Barack Obama made an unusual appearance in the Pentagon briefing room Thursday with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to release a new Defense Strategic Guidance, essentially the strategic plan for the U.S. military. Recognizing the end of the war in Iraq and the pressure of deficit-driven budget cuts, the plan outlines a smaller and more focused military.
Meanwhile, December unemployment numbers out this morning, and show a drop to 8.5 percent. That’s obviously good news, but don’t get overly excited. The unemployment rate for minorities was virtually unchanged – 15.8 percent of African-Americans and 11 percent of Hispanics remain unemployed. And the broader measure, including what are called “discouraged workers” – people who want to work but have stopped looking and those working part time because they can’t find a full time job – is 15.2 percent.http://www.twitter.com/dshankdc
Social Muddle: Business, Justice, and the Gospel are Already Social; Obama Refers to His Christian Faith During National Tree Lighting Ceremony; Fount of Blessing, Fount of Youth: Age and the American Church; One-Third of Shelter Residents Are Newly Homeless; U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest Level in Nearly Three Years; Gingrich Says Poor Children Have No Work Habits; For Afghan Woman, Justice Runs Into Unforgiving Wall of Custom.
By 2015, we could have an AIDS free generation.
AIDS was first identified nearly 30 years ago and has claimed countless lives. Currently, 1,000 babies around the globe are born with the virus each day. During much of the past few decades it’s been hard to see much hope when it comes to turning the tide against this disease.
But, thanks to smart public health decisions, public investment in strategies that work, and innovative implementation by NGO’s, we can now begin to envision a day when this mountain will be moved. During FY 2011 PEPFAR, (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief) supported the prevention of 200,000 children contracting HIV/AIDS from their mother.
With continued investment we are just a few years away from preventing nearly ALL children from being born with the virus.
Social justice index: USA No. 27 of 31. Democrats in Congress attempt to eat on $4.50 a day to protest potential budget cuts. Republicans shift focus from jobs to God. OpEd: Obama, the G20 and the 99 percent. In Congress, the rich get richer. The Shadow Superpower. And the U.S. sues South Carolina over immigration law.
Why Homelessness Is Becoming An Occupy Wall Street Issue; U.S. Pulls Out Ambassador From Syria: Diplomats; Hispanic Alabama Schoolchildren Face Bullying In The Wake Of Anti-Immigrant Law; Vatican Calls For Economic Equality, Sweeping Reform Of Global Financial System; We Pay More To Drive Than We Spend On Taxes; New Obama Foreclosure Plan Helps Banks At Taxpayers' Expense
The Side Effects Of Fast-Tracking Deportations; Ten Percent Of All Major Mainstream Media News Was About Occupy Wall Street Last Week; Mexican Clown Convention Holds 'Laugh For Peace'; What Has Obama Done For Poor People?; Class Warfare In The Senate Race; Restorative Justice And The Economy Of Grace; Pastors Hope For A Louder, Unrestricted Voice In 2012 Election; Jesus At Occupy Wall Street: 'I Feel Like I've Been Here Before'
In his column last week, Sojourners chief Jim Wallis talked about his frustration with the perennial misuse of the word "evangelical" by various media to describe folks and ideas that, in his view, and that of many of us who self-describe as evangelicals, don't bear any resemblance to what we understand that term to actually mean.
Below is a compilation of recent media reports where the word "evangelical" is invoked. When you read these, evangelical brothers and sisters, do you recognize yourself in how the word is used and defined? Or does it ring false to you and your understanding of what "evangelical" really and truly means?
Here we go again. Presidential elections are coming and the role of "the evangelicals" is predictably becoming a hot political story.
Ironically, voices on both the right and the left want to describe most or all evangelicals as zealous members of the ultra-conservative political base.
Why? Perhaps because some conservative Republicans want to claim a religious legitimacy and constituency for their ideological agenda, and some liberal writers seem hell-bent on portraying religious people as intellectually-flawed right-wing crazies with dangerous plans for the country.
Let me try to be clear as someone who is part of a faith community that is, once again, being misrepresented, manipulated, and maligned. Most people believe me to be a progressive political voice in America. And I am an evangelical Christian.
I believe in one God, the centrality and Lordship of God's son Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, the authority of the scriptures, the saving death of the crucified Christ and his bodily resurrection -- not as a metaphor but a historical event. Yep, the whole nine yards.
When President Barack Obama laid out his deficit plan Monday, he wasn't just trying to sell a policy. When he pressed for tax hikes on the rich and announced, "This is not class warfare," he was trying to exorcise a demon that has bedeviled the Democratic Party for decades and in the process deprive the Republicans of one of their trustiest weapons. The reaction from the right was swift and sure: "Class warfare!"
Wall Street has been devastating Main Street for some time. And when the politicians -- most of them bought by Wall Street -- say nothing, it's called "responsible economics." But when somebody, anybody, complains about people suffering and that the political deck in official Washington has been stacked in favor of Wall Street, the accusation of class warfare quickly emerges. "Just who do these people think they are," they ask. The truth is that the people screaming about class warfare this week aren't really concerned about the warfare. They're just concerned that their class -- or the class that has bought and paid for their political careers -- continues to win the war.
So where is God in all of this? Is God into class warfare? No, of course not. God really does love us all, sinners and saints alike, rich and poor, mansion dwellers and ghetto dwellers. But the God of the Bible has a special concern for the poor and is openly suspicious of the rich. And if that is not clear in the Bible nothing is.
President Barack Obama will decide as early as September whether to light a fuse to the largest carbon bomb in North America. That bomb is the massive tar sands field in Canada's Alberta province. And the fuse is the 1,700-mile long Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport this dirtiest of petroleum fuels all the way to Texas refineries.
The Keystone XL Pipeline is a climate and pollution horror beyond description. From August 20 to September 3, thousands of Americans -- including Bill McKibben, Danny Glover, NASA's Dr. James Hansen, and thousands more -- will be at the White House, day after day, demanding Obama reject this tar sands pipeline.
I'm going to be there, and I hope you will join me -- we need your voice.
Several weeks ago (right before I left for my sabbatical), I joined with six other pastors from around the country -- in partnership with Sojourners -- to draft an open letter to Congress and President Barack Obama regarding the budget and the proposals to cut certain programs that aid the poor in our country. Our hope was to invite at least 1,000 pastors to join us in signing this document.
As of today, we've had nearly 5,000 pastors and Christian leaders from all 50 states join us in signing this open letter, and we hope to keep adding voices and signatures. As a pastor and Christian leader will you add your voice to let our political leaders know that you stand with the poor?
We met 10-year-old Noor Al-Abid in November during our first visit to Gaza.