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Mar 4, 2009

Obama and God

Obama's Interview with Cathleen Falsani
11/11/08 - blog.BeliefNet by Steven Waldman

Barack Obama's thoughts about his religion, followed by my comments.

Waldman: The most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama's faith came in an interview he gave March 27, 2004 to Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani when he was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois.

[excerpt]

Obama:   And so, the biggest challenge, I think, is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I'm having internally. I'm measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active, it tells me where I think I'm on track and where I think I'm off track.

It's interesting particularly now after this election, comes with it a lot of celebrity. And I always think of politics as having two sides. There's a vanity aspect to politics, and then there's a substantive part of politics. Now you need some sizzle with the steak to be effective, but I think it's easy to get swept up in the vanity side of it, the desire to be liked and recognized and important.

It's important for me throughout the day to measure and to take stock and to say, now, am I doing this because I think it's advantageous to me politically, or because I think it's the right thing to do? Am I doing this to get my name in the papers or am I doing this because it's necessary to accomplish my motives.

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[excerpt]

Falsani:   Do you pray often?

Obama:   Uh, yeah, I guess I do.

Its' not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why am I doing it.

One of the interesting things about being in public life is there are constantly these pressures being placed on you from different sides. To be effective, you have to be able to listen to a variety of points of view, synthesize viewpoints. You also have to know when to be just a strong advocate, and push back against certain people or views that you think aren't right or don't serve your constituents.

And so, the biggest challenge, I think, is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I'm having internally. I'm measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active, it tells me where I think I'm on track and where I think I'm off track.

It's interesting particularly now after this election, comes with it a lot of celebrity. And I always think of politics as having two sides. There's a vanity aspect to politics, and then there's a substantive part of politics. Now you need some sizzle with the steak to be effective, but I think it's easy to get swept up in the vanity side of it, the desire to be liked and recognized and important.

It's important for me throughout the day to measure and to take stock and to say, now, am I doing this because I think it's advantageous to me politically, or because I think it's the right thing to do? Am I doing this to get my name in the papers or am I doing this because it's necessary to accomplish my motives.

Falsani:   Checking for altruism?

Obama:   Yeah. I mean, something like it.

Looking for -- It's interesting, the most powerful political moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth. I can feel it. When I'm talking to a group and I'm saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I'm just being glib or clever.

Falsani:   What's that power? Is it the holy spirit? God?

Obama:   Well, I think it's the power of the recognition of God, or the recognition of a larger truth that is being shared between me and an audience.

That's something you learn watching ministers, quite a bit. What they call the Holy Spirit. They want the Holy Spirit to come down before they're preaching, right? Not to try to intellectualize it but what I see is there are moments that happen within a sermon where the minister gets out of his ego and is speaking from a deeper source. And it's powerful.

There are also times when you can see the ego getting in the way. Where the minister is performing and clearly straining for applause or an Amen. And those are distinct moments. I think those former moments are sacred.


Observations

I have an ongoing conversation with God. I'm constantly asking myself about what I'm doing, why am I doing it.

This is what a TV evangelist would say. It is good to closely examine policy. It is strange for someone to constantly question his own actions and motives.

and push back against certain people or views that you think aren't right or don't serve your constituents.

So, there are two types of views. The ones that aren't right, and the ones that are right but that don't serve your supporters. Why make that distinction? This assumes that there are many right things to do, and the politician can choose the one that particularly serves his supporters.

I'm measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active

Obama is in constant moral struggle. I think good policies benefit everyone and encourage voluntary cooperation. Those policies do not require a moral struggle.

I hope his moral struggle does not involve choosing who to hurt for the greater good. To me, it is a fundamental requirement of Democracy not to use the power of the state to hurt anyone. I am worried that I don't understand what that moral struggle is about.

I personally do not have an "audible" inner voice, but a set of feelings and desires that can be made more specific by careful thought and observation. I look to the world and collected experience to guide my views. My desires suggest solutions; my intellect guides me to the solutions that will work without harm.

I think it's easy to get swept up in the vanity side of it, the desire to be liked and recognized and important.

Obama is in constant struggle not to be vain and self-serving.

Throughout the day I measure and take stock. Am I doing this because it is good politically, or because I think it's the right thing to do? Am I doing this to get my name in the papers or am I doing this because it's necessary to accomplish my motives.

Another struggle, here against selfish motives. It seems that he has not definitely won that struggle, or does not know if he has won it.

When I'm talking to a group and I'm saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I'm just being glib or clever.

I think it's the power of the recognition of God, or the recognition of a larger truth that is being shared between me and an audience. I see there are moments that happen within a sermon where the minister gets out of his ego and is speaking from a deeper source.

It bothers me that "saying something truthful" is special. This may be a complaint that his political career requires lying. I have seen him bend the meanings of his promises and words.

Obama feels a special connection to God and a larger truth. This is different than the power he feels when being glib or clever. He enjoys being the instrument of a deeper, divine source. This is not an escape from ego; it is a celebration of ego.

1 comment :

Maggie45 said...

"Obama feels a special connection to God and a larger truth. This is different than the power he feels when being glib or clever. He enjoys being the instrument of a deeper, divine source. This is not an escape from ego; it is a celebration of ego."

Boy, did you hit the nail on the head there!!

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