Cheers for (candid) talk on religious left

the faith of barack obamaThere are times when it seems as if the World Wide Web has always been around, like a public utility. But if you look at cyberspace in terms of journalism history, we are still very early in the transition to whatever the heckfire is going to happen next. One of the encouraging trends that I am seeing more often is the use of verbatim Q&A interviews. This format rarely made sense in dead-tree-pulp media, especially as newspapers struggled with smaller and smaller news holes. But on the Web? Why not?

Printing full questions and full answers is especially appropriate when dealing with subjects as complicated and personal as religion. As this weblog constantly demonstrates, there are times when many of the readers probably know more about the topic being discussed than anyone on the copy desk editing the news stories.

In a WWW world, why not print the story and then back it up -- online, at least -- with the full texts of the crucial interviews? Let people read the interviews for themselves, if they choose to do so.

The other day, I pointed readers toward an interesting interview with the Rev. Franklin Graham, which had moments of nuance -- imagine that -- as well as the blunt talk that is so common with Graham the younger.

This time around, take a look at this Newsweek interview (online only) with Stephen Mansfield, author of the new book "The Faith of Barack Obama." Reporter Jessica Ramirez did the interview, which covers lots of familiar territory about Obama's family history.

Then, near the end, we see The Question. This is not quite "tmatt trio" territory, but it's close:

So, where do you think Obama fits in the spectrum of Christianity?

I think Barack Obama believes about Jesus and about conversion what your average evangelical does. He believes that Jesus is the son of God and that he died for the sins of the world and God raised him from the dead again. Where he begins to depart from orthodox evangelical Christianity probably begins with his view of scripture. He believes some of it might be of human origin, and some scriptures may be of more weight than others.

So in a sense, [his is a] traditional theological liberalism that tends to treat scripture as being at least partially of human origin. But then you add that sort of young postmodern twist. Postmodernists don't really reconcile systems of thought. In fact, they're not sure systems of thought are possible. Theologically speaking, they might pick one from column A and two from column B, whether it all fits together or not. So he's a theological liberal with a postmodern emphasis.

Read on. He pretty much buys the media template that a new evangelical left is rising up to broaden the social agenda beyond the old one or two issues, etc. etc. As the Divine Ms. MZ has noted, there seems to be a MSM echo chamber on that point, while the polls appear to be just as close as ever and the familiar social issues are very much alive and kicking, if you are following the headlines.

The question again: Can Obama propose actual change on the social issues, which would mean compromises between his own party's hard lifestyle left and the religious right? That would have been a good question to include in this interview. Still, lots to read and mull. More please! There's plenty of room online.

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