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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

President Obama's Expressions of Faith

The role of religion in American public life is a major theme of our book, and a number of posts here have supplied updates. Just over a week ago, for instance, we looked at Democrats' problems with religious outreach. Now Carol E. Lee writes at Politico:

President Obama’s trip to church Sunday followed a steady rebirth over the past three months in public expressions of his Christianity.

Obama has publicly mentioned his “Christian faith” more times in the past three months than he did over the past year. He has more frequently cited passages of the Bible, including repeated references to Genesis 4:9 – “I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper” — which was a mainstay of Obama’s 2010 campaign stump speech. And he’s taken his family to church twice, a shift for a president who has preferred to worship privately since the end of the 2008 campaign.


“It could be trying to appeal more to the general public because I think there’s a lot of people in the middle who have had doubts about Obama because the right has been so much more effective in their rhetoric,” said Timothy Longman, a political science professor at Boston University who specializes in religion and politics.

Obama, who personally took on questions about his religious beliefs during the 2008 campaign and spoke often about it at the beginning of his presidency, has not kept the visibility of his Christian faith over the past year. As a candidate he regularly appeared at church services, at times speaking from the pulpit, but he has not done much churchgoing as president. He has more openly acknowledged the Muslim roots in his family since taking office, a line he preferred to blur during the campaign. And Biblical references that were signature features of his 2008 stump speech also tapered off once he moved into the White House.

“His religious life has been much more private since coming to office,” Longman said. “I guess because he got so burned by it during the campaign he’s been reluctant to be very public about his religious affiliation.”