Barack Obama has said, many times and in no uncertain terms, “I am a Christian.” He has been on the cover of Sojourner’d magazine, a Christian publication. His former pastor, The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, was in the spotlight for some unseemly comments about patriotism (among other things), but Reverend Wright was clearly a Christian preacher. Barack Obama did not grow up in Africa or the Middle East, Though he did spend some time in Indonesia. Just t clear up some of the cloudiness around his upbringing, we turn to Biography.com:
Barack Hussein Obama was born Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was born of Luo ethnicity in Nyanza Province, Kenya. He grew up herding goats with his own father, who was a domestic servant to the British. Although reared among Muslims, Obama, Sr., became an atheist at some point.
Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, grew up in Wichita, Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs during the Depression. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he signed up for service in World War II and marched across Europe in Patton’s army. Dunham’s mother went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the G. I. Bill, bought a house through the Federal Housing Program, and moved to Hawaii.
Meantime, Barack’s father had won a scholarship that allowed him to leave Kenya pursue his dreams in Hawaii. At the time of his birth, Obama’s parents were students at the East–West Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Obama’s parents separated when he was two years old and later divorced. Obama’s father went to Harvard to pursue Ph. D. studies and then returned to Kenya.
His mother married Lolo Soetoro, another East–West Center student from Indonesia. In 1967, the family moved to Jakarta, where Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro–Ng was born. Obama attended schools in Jakarta, where classes were taught in the Indonesian language.
Four years later when Barack (commonly known throughout his early years as “Barry”) was ten, he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham, and later his mother (who died of ovarian cancer in 1995).
He was enrolled in the fifth grade at the esteemed Punahou Academy, graduating with honors in 1979. He was only one of three black students at the school. This is where Obama first became conscious of racism and what it meant to be an African–American.
This is not your typical political prep, beeline to law school childhood of one being groomed for a life in politics. We can see from the background of Barack Obama that his message of change comes from a perspective on the world that is dramatically different than the standard Washington fodder for reform and reconciliation. Barack has seen a life of struggle and disharmony, and he is prepared to identify with people who have seen that same life. So, moving on to the issue of his religion.
Barack Obama became an atheist at some point along his journey, something that was no doubt influenced by the diverse backgrounds from which he comes and the turbulent childhood that he faced, moving not only to different cities or states, but different countries. According to Biography.com, after Barack Obama moved to Chicago and began working with poor communities on the south side, he encountered a church that he interpreted as reflecting his values and embracing the work that he was doing with the poor and disenfranchised of South Chicago. He joined the Trinity United Church of Christ. And that is where he encountered the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. This church works very specifically with the African American community in their area and encourages that community to rise up as a force to take control of their destinies and stand up for their neighborhoods. This message was birthed in the civil rights movement and remains relevant today as oppression and injustice in the urban areas happen mainly on the black communities. Here is a message from the Trinity United Church of Christ website:
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian… Our roots in the Black religious experience and traditions are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain “true to our native land,” the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.
I must admit that Black Liberation Theology is not something that I know a lot about and is not something that I connect with as a White Midwestern Middle Class male, but that does not mean that it doesn’t have a place in the umbrella of Christian Theology, We do not have to say White Christian theology, that would be redundant. White is the implied reference when we talk about American Christianity. You can deny it, but that wouldn’t be healthy. Barack Obama doesn’t deny it, though he has distanced himself from the Reverend Wright – a positive political move that recognizes that you do no service to your community if you are not elected.
In short, I would define the theology of Barack Obama as thoughtful and intentional, and it would probably fall into the Black LIberation Theology classification if we had to put it somehwhere. But that is not really what this article is about. THis article is about clearing up the questions surrounding the religious affiliation of Barack Obama. So I will just say it, in closing, Barack Obama is not a Muslim. He is not an Arab. He is not an Atheist. He is not a fundamentalist. He is a Christian who believes in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, and he works for justice as a follower of Jesus.
If you have any questions or doubts about that, I would suggest that you are viewing the world through the lens of political fanatacism, and that is not a sufficient way to examine Barack Obama’s religion.