When Terry sent around this Christian Science Monitor story on how presidential candidate Barack Obama was "putting faith out front," I groaned. Exactly how many times will reporters tell the same story of Obama's faith? In other words, I was not hopeful that reporter Ariel Sabar would report an original story on Obama's faith. My prediction ended up being sadly correct.
Until the last quarter of the fairly long story, the piece reads like a condensed version of Obama's own books. That, last time I checked, is not reporting. Campaign staffers are also given generous room for quotes explaining in shallow, generic terms how Obama's faith affects his political views and why the religious-inspired views of his Republican opponents are incorrect or misguided.
The only criticism of Obama's faith come from the ACLU, which believes he is improperly mixing religion and politics, and "some evangelical leaders" who question his views on abortion and same-sex unions. But that story has been told over and over again. There is more to this story.
The article ends with this rather pathetic kicker:
Obama's message of faith and his ties to a controversial pastor have not been without pitfalls, analysts say.
But "the positives outweigh the negatives," says Professor Dwight Hopkins of the University of Chicago Divinity School, who is a member of Trinity but not affiliated with the Obama campaign. "I think he is one of the biggest threats to the Republican Party and their campaign, because he has seized the religious discursive ground. No Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter has been able to do that."
You have to love the fact that Obama's faith has become a political football to be tossed around like another focus group issue. When has Obama ever tried to minimize or play down this part of his life? It's part of who he is.
Has any reporter asked Obama whether he considered the positive and negatives when he committed his life to Christ? Yes, the political angle is an issue that reporters must cover since Obama is talking about it, hiring faith-related liaisons (who isn't these days?) and using it in his political platform (again, who isn't?), but as Mollie pointed out earlier, when writing about religion, more reporters could stick to religion and not the politics of religion. The political story has already been written in Obama's case.
Since Obama and his team are proclaiming the glories of how a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will affect the policies in an Obama administration, reporters should test that claim. For example, the CSM tells us that Obama disagrees with his minister's stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is there a religious reason for that? I'm not making a value judgment in asking that question. Rather, I'd just like for reporters to flesh that out. If the story line is that Obama's faith guides his principles, what is the source for his inspirations if not the minister who helped him find his faith?