I strongly believe in the constitutional principle that bans religious tests for public office. It does not matter whether a candidate is a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist or an atheist. What does matter is whether a candidate is competent, honest, has integrity, and is compassionate. When I look at Barack Obama he seems to have these important qualities. And so, on those principles alone, I feel like he is the best person running for president to serve as president.
But, as a person of faith who believes that faith can play an important role in the public square, I find Barack Obama’s willingness to speak of his faith and from his faith quite refreshing. That he understands the gospel and its call to love one’s neighbor is welcome.
When I hear candidates speak of faith, I listen for a voice that is authentic, for too many politicians have discovered the value of religion to politics. Now in recent years, Democrats by and large have shied away from such uses, but it would be easy for the party to start using religious language to gain votes. Such tactics will not work – I do not believe. As a Christian and as a pastor who is also Democrat, I do not wish to become a tool of the party (as a person of faith). I welcome the opportunity to speak to the party as a person of faith, but I do not wish to become beholden to the party.
With that in mind, what has stood out from the beginning of this campaign is the authenticity of Barack Obama’s faith. He doesn’t quote scripture for the sake of effect, but instead speaks of issues in ways that reflect a deeply thought out faith, one that has been formed by significant time in worship, in prayer, and in study. He seems to me to be a man who practices what he preaches. That he discovered faith in God and the church in the context of serving as a community organizer, suggests that he understands that words and deeds must go together.
Finally, in an age where religious intolerance, it is good to hear a person of faith who is in a position of power acknowledge the importance of humility and religious pluralism. That he speaks from faith and yet recognizes that there are other voices, legitimate voices that may differ from his, gives me comfort and confidence that he will not use or abuse faith as he brings it into the public square.
I am a pastor who supports Barack Obama, not simply because he is a person of faith -- is like me a Christian -- but because as a political leader he has advocated policies of compassion and grace that connect with my faith. He has I believe understood the principle of love of neighbor. This is why, even though I'm a pastor and at least in my position as a pastor I cannot intervene politically, as a private citizen who is a person of faith, I'm for Barack!