Paul  Kengor

Let me begin with what I hope is a credibility enhancer: For daring to write a book on the faith of Hillary Clinton, I was questioned by fellow conservatives, especially for calling Mrs. Clinton a “lifelong, committed Christian.” In the final chapter of that book, I included a brief section on the faith of Barack Obama, where, taking him at his word—based on a major June 2006 speech on his faith—I felt confident in reporting, “Obama is a Christian.”

I’m not disputing that here. Since then, however, I’ve taken a careful look at Obama’s faith, and there are quite a few things that stand out as historically extremely unusual, and in some cases unprecedented for a potential president. They are worth knowing, especially given the secular media’s adoration of the man.

Indeed, journalists are so worshipful of Obama that they are unfazed by his two decades of membership in the church of a ranting, blasphemous preacher who mocked everything from Bill Clinton to America itself—and who married Obama, baptized his children, and whom Obama considers a mentor and the inspiration for the title of his best-selling book. That double standard has struck even the likes of atheist Christopher Hitchens. After eight years of wailing and gnashing of teeth over a Christian Republican president, secular liberals have undergone a Saul-like conversion.

On rare occasions, however, the press has offered constructive analysis of Obama’s faith. The most revealing look remains a glowing profile in Newsweek a couple of months ago. The Newsweek offering was remarkably one-sided, even venturing into evangelical phraseology, the shared-language-of-believers style characteristic of Religious Right publications. I counted 10 examples of phrases like, “He found Christ,” “accept Christ,” “Obama went to Jesus.”

Nonetheless, even in this unusually un-critical article, much can be mined about Obama’s faith. Most salient is this inescapable conclusion: More than any presidential nominee this close to the White House, Barack Obama’s faith is a patchwork of divergent beliefs, philosophies, and influences, from what Newsweek called a “Christian-turned-secular mother”—her own views a product of “two lapsed Christian” parents and a Bill Moyers book—to a “Muslim-turned-atheist African father” to a stepfather with a “unique brand of Islam.”

As for Obama’s personal path, Newsweek noted how Obama, in his younger years, enjoyed, on one hand, Augustine, and then Nietzsche and Graham Greene. Obama hopped and groped his way through Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, asceticism, and eventually settled at the political church of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.