Friday, January 26, 2007

Falsani: Evangelical? Obama's faith too complex for simple label

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES - Cathleen Falsani: Evangelical? Obama's faith too complex for simple label.

While on the presidential campaign trail 30 years ago, someone asked Jimmy Carter a rather indelicate public question:

Are you born again?

Carter said he was. And the next thing he knew, various media creatures were accusing the Southern Baptist peanut farmer of implying that his political aspirations had a divine imprimatur.

"I truthfully answered, 'Yes,' assuming all devout Christians were born again, of the Holy Spirit," Carter wrote in his 2005 book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis.

In 1976, most reporters didn't know born-again from over-easy. But times have changed and so has the public conversation about politics and religion. Terms such as "fundamentalist," "evangelical" and "born-again" are part of the media vernacular.

That doesn't mean, however, that such terms are particularly helpful by themselves in describing, much less defining, anyone -- be they politicians, presidential candidates or private citizens.

Perhaps that's why, back when I interviewed Barack Obama about his faith in spring 2004 a few days after he'd won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, I didn't ask him something I've remained curious about since:

Does he consider himself an evangelical?


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