Obama's Faith: Rumor vs. Reality

Beliefnet answers your questions about Barack Obama's faith, including rumors about Islam, his church, and his upbringing.

BY: Dan Gilgoff and Ansley Roan


Continued from page 1

 Obama’s Faith Life

Q: Do we know a lot about Obama’s faith life?

A: Yes. Obama has long been an active member of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ and frequently attends services there. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, officiated at his wedding, baptized both his daughters, and dedicated his house.

Obama came to the United Church of Christ after college. He’d taken a job as a community organizer for a group of Chicago churches and focused on tackling joblessness. Working with pastors and laypeople, Obama has written, “forced me to confront a dilemma that my mother never fully resolved in her own life: the fact that I had no community or shared traditions in which to ground my most deeply held beliefs. The Christians with whom I worked recognized themselves in me; they saw that I knew their Book and shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me remained removed…”

Drawn by the activist African-American church tradition, the longtime religious skeptic was “finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized.”

 How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Have Reacted to Obama

Q: Have the false rumors hurt Obama with Christian voters?

A: Obama has received substantial support in the primaries from the Christian community, though largely among black churchgoers who are likely motivated more by race than religion. Polls suggest that Hillary Clinton has an edge among white churchgoers, but it’s unclear if the false Muslim rumors are at all responsible.

Q: How have Jews reacted to the false rumors, and what’s the truth about Obama’s stance on Israel and the Palestinians?

A: The false Muslim rumors, combined with Obama’s past sympathetic statements toward Palestinians, his support for negotiating with Iran, his ties to his pastor—a supporter of Louis Farrakhan—and the role of Israel critic Zbigniew Brzezinski as an informal Obama adviser—has sown some doubts about him in the Jewish community. Obama has met with Jewish activists to address the concerns. During the campaign, Obama has frequently voiced support for Israel, saying in a February debate that the Jewish state’s security is “sacrosanct.” In January, a letter signed by leaders of nine prominent Jewish organizations condemned emails falsely claiming Obama to be Muslim. Obama won Jewish votes in primaries in Connecticut, California, and elsewhere, while Hillary Clinton has won among Jews in New York, New Jersey, and a handful of other states.

Q: How have Muslims reacted to the false rumors about Obama being Muslim?

A: Some Muslims have criticized Obama for calling false rumors about him “scurrilous” and for declining to defend Muslims as he combats the rumors. What’s so bad about being Muslim, they ask? There is no good polling on which presidential candidate Muslims are supporting in 2008. But with Muslims moving from the Republican to the Democratic column in the years since George W. Bush’s war on terror, some Muslim leaders believe that Obama is beating Clinton among Muslims, largely because of his background and his outspoken support for stepped-up diplomacy with Muslim nations.

Q: Were a Muslim to run for president, would Americans be less likely to vote for him or her?

A: Polls suggest that this is the case. A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 45 percent of Americans expressed reluctance over supporting a Muslim candidate. By comparison, the poll found that 25 percent of Americans had reservations about supporting a Mormon.

Q: Was Obama sworn into the Senate using a Qur’an?

A: No. Obama was sworn into the Senate by Vice President Dick Cheney using Obama’s own Bible. This rumor confuses Obama with Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first and only Muslim member of Congress, who was sworn in using a Qur’an.

To ask your questions about Obama or to discuss his faith, click here.

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