Perhaps most important of all, he believes in a “living word of God,” one that ever reveals and expands, that comes from unexpected sources. “When I read the Bible,” he has written, “I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations whether they come from a lesbian friend or a doctor opposed to abortion.”
These “new revelations” might come from a non-Christian religion as well, for Obama does not believe his Christianity is the final word. “I am rooted in the Christian tradition,” he has said. But “I believe there are many paths to the same place and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”
Already in his first months in office, then, he has hosted a Jewish Seder, attended a Baptist church, and put a Pentecostal in charge of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships. He invited a gay Episcopal bishop to speak at an inaugural event, but he also asked the most prominent American evangelical of our time to give an opening prayer. And when he spoke at the University of Notre Dame recently, he both honored the Catholic tradition and defied that faith’s stand against abortion rights, all the while saying we must carve out a new unity on the issue of abortion. And this is what we can expect a big tent faith-based presidency, rooted in a non-traditional approach to Christianity yet seeking to draw in nearly every religious tradition. For this, he understands, is how the majority of the people he serves would want it to be.