I wanted to find out what liberals of religious conviction think about Barack Obama's expression of faith, so I had to go outside Seattle. Not a single person I know here attends anything remotely like a house of worship, unless you count yoga studios, and since you have to pay to attend those, they shouldn't count. I contacted my friend Bridgett Wissinger, who is very active in her Catholic parish in urban St. Louis, Mo.
Wissinger told me that her book club of nine women was split, three for Edwards (this was before he dropped out of the race), one for Clinton, and the rest soundly in favor of Obama. The Edwards supporters tended to be the more conservative of the group (but still solid Democrats). Wissinger read the mood in St. Louis and said she wouldn't be surprised if Barack Obama took the city. He ended up taking the state.
Wissinger and I share an alma mater: St. Louis University. It was founded by Jesuits, renowned for their high-quality education and commitment to service learning. It was there that I developed, and Wissinger no doubt strengthened, a healthy respect for good works done in faith. The Jesuits at SLU don't just pay lip service to it. Just one example: They could have moved out to the county when the money went that way in the 1950s and '60s, but they chose to stay put in Midtown, where they could do more good.
What I wanted to know is what a practicing Christian like Wissinger thought about Obama's relationship to God. She replied:I read Obama's speech from June 2006 and frankly, I could have read some of it out loud as my own words. His faith journey sounds reasonable and thoughtful. He doesn't seem to make it the central issue in the public square but recognizes that for many Americans, religion is an important issue (too important, in my mind). I don't stand in that camp, but I can see him opening the doors for some of them (like my neighbors, who are thinking Evangelicals) to come in and take a look-see.
I love that. Wissinger, who is herself a blogger, pointed me in the direction of [A]mazed and [B]emused, a blog out of Canada whose authors frequently discuss Obama and faith. Notably, the blog received a Thinking Blogger Award from Jewish Atheist.