"You can’t be using the church just to get elected and then push the church to the side," said the Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus, a prominent Chicago pastor who had campaigned for Obama among Hispanic evangelicals. . . . "If the president says he’s Christian, then in his narrative, and in his speeches and in his life, that should be displayed."
His Kenyan father had been raised Muslim but was an atheist by the time Obama was born. His mother, whose ancestors were Methodist and Baptist, was nonpracticing.
-- From "Obama’s spiritual life takes more private turn" by Ariel Sabar, Boston Globe Correspondent 2/22/10
He named a best-selling book after [his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s] sermon and was outspoken as a candidate about the value of faith in public life. He infused stump speeches with phrases like "I am my brother’s keeper," and made his journey to Christianity a central theme of the life story he shared with voters.
Obama’s courtship of religious groups in the 2008 race - the most extensive ever by a Democratic candidate for president - paid off on Election Day with strong support among liberal and moderate religious voters. He won 54 percent of the Catholic vote, a stark reversal from four years earlier, when Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, himself Catholic, lost the same group to Bush.
But since President Obama took office a year ago, his faith has largely receded from public view. He has attended church in the capital only four times, and worshiped half a dozen times at a secluded Camp David chapel. He prays privately, reads a "daily devotional" that aides send to his BlackBerry, and talks to pastors by phone, but seldom frames policies in spiritual terms.
But the shift has drawn notice from some religious leaders and political analysts, who say it opens Obama to questions of sincerity and threatens his support among the religious voters his campaign helped peel away from the Republican Party.
A poll last August by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicated that the proportion of Americans who saw the Democratic Party as friendly to religion had dropped to Bush-era levels, at 29 percent, after peaking at 38 percent at the height of the Obama campaign a year earlier.
Analysts say that another reason for Obama’s reticence [to appear Christian] may be the sheer number of crises in his first year in office and that a sharper public focus on faith risks becoming a divisive distraction.
"We have a recession, we have the health care agenda - Obama has taken on so much, why add one more thing, especially one that you can’t legislate on?" said Professor Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College.
"It’s only by being part of a church community that he’s going to get his own faith grounded," said Bruce Wall, pastor of Global Ministries Christian Church, in Dorchester. "George Bush did not hide his faith. He was a man of prayer, whether you supported him or not."
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