My good friend Amy Sullivan is a very hard act to follow in any writing assignment, and she covered this topic very well for Time last week. But in an attempt to help provide a little perspective for our good friends on the other side of the Pond, here are my thoughts on the difficulties Obama will face as he and his family try to decide where to worship.
Amid all the speculation aboutdecisions president-elect Obama will have to make when he takes office, the questionof where will he and his family go to church has been getting a lot ofattention recently.
To some, this question may notrise to the level of, say, how Obama plans to tackle the banking crisis. Afterall, neither Ronald Reagan nor George W Bush even went to church whilepresident. The
Yet there are several reasonsthat Obama choice of church will be more scrutinised than that of any otherAmerican president. In a country where nearly half the voters attend churchweekly and another third attend at least once a month, Obama’s ability to talkabout his faith helped lead the Democrats out of the political wilderness ofbeing viewed by many voters as hostile to religion.
Furthermore, race and faith in
Finally, Obama’s last churchchoice nearly derailed his presidential aspirations when YouTube clips begancirculating of Obama’s pastor, JeremiahWright, preaching anti-American and racially-charged sermons.
Combine all of these factors, andObama’s allies will be looking for him to make an inspired choice that helpsreshape
For example, many people assumeObama will worship at an African American church as he did in
The same sort of dilemma appliesto his choice of denomination. Most past presidents have come into office witha clear denominational affiliation, which helped narrow their options. ButObama was a member of Trinity United Church ofChrist (UCC) in
Another question is whether hewill choose a church with a social justice and prophetic tradition that reflectshis theology but risks another Jeremiah Wright moment. Or should he chose amore “relational” church focused on community and Christian growththat would provide a nurturing environment for his daughters but might beviewed by supporters as the easy way out?
It’s hard enough to find a newchurch without being president. So what is a president, a father, a husband,and an inspiration to an entire race and new generation of American voters todo? Despite (or perhaps because of) all the political implications of thisdecision, there will not be a “smart” political choice. All will be fraughtwith peril. But Obama proved throughout the campaign that often the bestpolitical choice is just to do what feels right and then honestly communicatewhy he did so to the American people.