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Bush's former evangelical biographer writes a book about the Democrat candidate's faith
When George W. Bush mentioned Jesus and the inspiration he drew from him, Europeans used to a separation between politics and religion turned up their noses. But what will they say in Europe now that Barack Obama has done the same thing? The strong faith of the Democrat candidate to the White House is the subject of a new book written by the author of a biography of the current president. Stephen Mansfield, a former pastor and author of the book The Faith of George Bush, is about to publish The Faith of Barack Obama, released this August in America just in time to target the religious electorate. Four years ago they voted predominantly for Bush, but this year they could even betray the Republicans and favour Obama.

The Book. Obama’s appeal to the ‘religious right’ is an obvious contradiction, and not just because, as shown in a recent survey, 11% of Americans still think that Barack Hussein Obama is Muslim. On issues close to the ‘value voters’, such as abortion and gay marriage, the senator of Illinois has decidedly liberal positions, contrary to those of the conservatives. Even during the lengthy campaign of the primaries, the religious vote within the Democrats always favoured Hilary Clinton. But in an interview with online news site Politico, which disclosed the book’s contents, Mansfield explained how young evangelicals have also been affected by Obama’s charm, and although they disagree with him on abortion, they are enthusiastic about the idea of supporting a young black candidate with whom they share views on the war and the fight against poverty. “Young evangelicals say ‘of course we are against abortion, but firstly we are in favour of a black candidate, secondly he is a Christian and thirdly he is convinced that faith can have a role within the political agenda’”.
Christian messages. The main message of the book, which will be sold in specialist Christian bookshops as well as large department stores such as Wal-Mart, is that for Obama, religion is not just “an electoral strategy, something which he says his strategies will aim towards, but instead something real which transformed him forever”, adds Mansfield, who in the book presents the Democratic senator’s religious journey in detail. He has always marked his adult conversion to the faith as a turning point in his life, although Obama’s political message has been influenced by religion since the Democratic candidate came onto the national scene. In 2004, when his speech in favour of John Kerry at the party convention made him known as a black public speaker, Obama said “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States”; and the title of his bestseller The Audacity of Hope was inspired by a sermon by Pastor Jeremiah Wright, who Obama has just denounced after the scandal of his anti-American comments which ended up on YouTube.

McCain’s embarrassment. In the race for the religious vote Obama’s fortune is also assisted by the fact that his rival John McCain is the opposite to Bush when it comes to faith. Not that he practises atheism, but the Republican candidate is certainly uneasy when talking about religion in public, and at present he has no strategy for gaining that percentage of voters. On social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, he also takes a progressive stance. Another point in favour of Obama is that the evangelical movement no longer has the monopoly on environmental and international issues that it had up until a few years ago. Recently, influential evangelical leaders have embraced causes such as the greenhouse effect and defending human rights in Darfur. The movement of evangelicals towards the left is also confirmed in a report by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life last year, according to which 40% of evangelicals between 18 and 29 consider themselves Republican: two years before it was 55%. Perhaps not enough to start talking about ‘a religious left’, but if these trends continue, Obama cannot help but take advantage from them in November.
Alessandro Ursic