Most politicians talk about religion from the perspective of having been raised in families that are somewhat more observant than they are as adults, so they are elevating religion from their childhood and their parents or grandparents. Others, like George W. Bush, found in religion a private salvation. Obama’s experience is unlike either one, and frankly unlike anyone’s I know: His work as an organizer led him to the church, the church was the heart of the community in which he was working, he became religious because of his commitment to social change. It was neither personal, nor familial, but part of his forming an identity, but not just as an individual, as a member of a community. And thus, race, his public life, and religion are intertwined in a way that they are not for most people, even people whose social values and work originates in their faith.
(Ed) Kilgore comments that this “won’t make a lot of sense to those Americans who view church membership as an expression of consumer choice, and ultimately, of the spiritual discrimination and good taste of the religious consumer.” Indeed, this was the viewpoint of my colleague this morning — if you don’t agree with what you hear in a church, go to another church. But Obama’s analogy to family answered that about as well as could be answered — the church wasn’t serving just a personal function for him, it was situating him in a community in which he had chosen to live and work — and work on behalf of.
On the other hand: A BLACK MAN WAS YELLING!!! AND HE WAS WEARING ONE OF THOSE AFRICAN-CHURCH-TYPE ROBES!!!