As journalists look back to take stock of President Obama’s legacy, religious aspects deserve some attention. The Washington Post’s “Acts of Faith” blog posted an example January 12 from Peter Manseau, co-founder of the pleasantly skeptical KillingTheBuddha.com, who scanned America’s history of pluralism in last year’s “One Nation Under Gods.”
Pursuing his book’s theme, Manseau proposed that this president “has embraced a more inclusive approach to religion than any of his predecessors.” But in making himself “the nation’s pluralist-in-chief” Obama “seems to have had an opposite effect in much of the country.” As his presidency wanes, he “leads a nation more divided along religious lines than at any other time in recent history.”
All of Manseau’s assertions are open to debate and worth pursuing by journalists.
Biographical recap: The president’s father Barack Senior, who abandoned Barack Junior, was born Muslim in Kenya but was an atheist as an adult. (Nonetheless, under a strict interpretation of Islamic law the son is automatically a Muslim, and in certain jurisdictions would be subject to execution as an apostate for forsaking his birth religion.)
Obama Junior was raised by a freethinking mother who taught her son about various religious paths. During their years in Indonesia he attended both Muslim and Catholic schools. Later, Obama was raised by grandparents who had been sometime Unitarians.
As an adult, the president-to-be converted to the liberal wing of “mainline” Protestantism. He was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, led by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, attended regularly, was married at Trinity and had his daughters baptized there.