Obama’s (almost) pastor

9780849908163After Barack Obama moved into the White House he needed to find a dog and a church. The search for a dog ended in April with Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog. But whatever happened to the church search? And who would become the president's pastor after he split with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright last spring? According to Washington Post staff writer Jacqueline L. Salmon, Obama now draws inspiration from Carey Cash, a 39-year-old Southern Baptist Navy chaplain, husband and father of six who ministers to the Obamas and other military families at Camp David.

As Salmon writes in "The Pastor Who Has Obama's Attention," a balanced 1,800-word page-one story:

Carey Cash, the great-nephew of singer Johnny Cash and the younger brother of a former Miss America, sees the hand of God in every part of his journey: from the football fields where he once aspired to the NFL to the medical facilities where he learned he'd never play again; from the battered Humvee where he came under fire on the streets of Baghdad to the tiny chapel where he preaches to the country's commander in chief in the Western Maryland mountains.

Obama had attended churches in D.C. but did join any, in part because of the aftereffects of the Wright controversy:

"Let's be blunt," said Obama, who has attended worship services once at Nineteenth Street Baptist Church and three times at St. John's Episcopal Church, most recently Sunday. "We were pretty affected by what happened at Trinity and the controversy surrounding Reverend Wright. That was deeply disturbing to us, and it was disappointing for us personally. It made us very sensitive to the fact that as president, the church we attend can end up being interpreted as speaking for us at all times."

Even though Cash is not Obama's official pastor, he is drawing unprecedented scrutiny for his views and associations.

carey-cash.evergreen-1Cash is a powerful preacher who authored a 2004 book, A Table in the Presence: The Dramatic Account of How a U.S. Marine Battalion Experienced God's Presence Amidst the Chaos of the War in Iraq, published by W, a division of evangelical publishing giant Thomas Nelson. Cash's association with the president has drawn attention to his theology, especially his embrace of miracles and his critique of Islam:

"Sadly, grace is often absent in Islam, which is based upon binding religious law, requiring strenuous adherence to every tenet of the 'Five Pillars of Allah,' " Cash writes. "A religion that emerges from the soil of strict adherence to law as a means of gaining God's favor will always tend toward extreme self-sacrifice."

Cash's association with Campus Crusade for Christ's Military Ministry has also drawn fire from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Many Americans care deeply about how and where their President worships. And while Salmon's article could have gone deeper into Cash's faith, it does a good job of introducing us to his views and his family (his mother runs a Christian ministry) without demonizing his beliefs or getting sidetracked by church-state disputes.


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