I have to admit it. There's something about Barack Obama that fascinates me. Even though I've always been interested in politics and have followed the different campaigns, I've never been one to jump on anyone's bandwagon. I've always been too cynical about politicians to do so. I think I'm generally able to see through smooth-talking guys who just tell you what you want to hear, but Obama excites me like no other politician I can remember in my lifetime. Though I'm naturally skeptical of eloquent politicians, I sense more of a man who has given a lot of thought to deep questions and problems than a man simply perpetuating the usual spew of political rhetoric. Perhaps it's because of his unique background and upbringing, from which I think his sincerity stems, and which I believe to be genuine. It's hard to define who he is and in a way I can identify with that.
I just finished reading this Newsweek article about Obama's Christian journey. It's an interesting read about his religious background and goes beyond the Rev. Wright scandal that has been everyone's main focus.
As I read this article, it made me think about my own spiritual journey through Christianity as a Mormon. And to be entirely honest, I felt a bit envious. Really, I shouldn't, because I was born into a stable, harmonious home where both of my parents were strong members of the Church. Spiritually speaking, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth: born into the Covenant, a wealth of spiritual knowledge and blessings just waiting for me to take advantage of them. Compare that to Obama, raised without a specific religion, bouncing around from church to church, a mother skeptical of any One Truth, a Muslim father who was a self-proclaimed atheist. So while I was merrily going about my life as a youth and young adult, always asking questions, yet mostly oblivious to the world of religion outside of Mormonism, Obama was well into his spiritual journey during the same stage of his life. Fast-forward a few years, Obama got youthful rebellion out of his system and found his spiritual home, his faith later weathering the storm of the Rev. Wright controversy. I, on the other hand, find myself somewhat spiritually up-roooted and trying to expell the spiritual rebellion I never really experienced as a youth.
A few years ago, I would have said with confidence that I would have been able to accept the Gospel as a convert. I would have attributed that to the fact that spirituality is part of my nature and that Mormonism answers a lot of questions and gives a lot of clarity that traditional Christianity can't. But now I see the wisdom, if God has truly had a hand in it, of my being born into the Church. I no longer think that I would have been able to convert to Mormonism because I would have been scared off by certain aspects of Church past and present. I could have easily subscribed to a type of spirituality that Obama's mother felt most comfortable with. As interesting and maybe even fulfilling as that may have been, I would have missed out on the vantage point that is unique to the LDS Church.
There's another reason why I feel a bit envious of Obama's spiritual journey. I'm no expert in religion and could therefore have some misconceptions, but finding spiritual peace in his brand of Christianity, it seems to me, carries less of an obligation and therefore less pressure than Mormonism. Mormons are about binding covenants, unwavering obedience, and asking very few questions. I feel that a faith like Obama's leaves more room for wondering and seeking, by shying away from the responsibility of having the one and only truth and only way to Eternal Salvation. Period. A part of me longs for the freedom of seeking and exploring, like Obama, without being guilty of rejecting the One Truth that is Mormonism's alone. Guilty of straying from what's right, only to find out later that the grass is always greener on the other side. I suppose I long for something to fill the void of those problems and questions that Mormonism can't answer. Therein lies the appeal of an approach like Obama's mother, to be free to draw from the positives of each religion and without being bound to one. And although she never found One Truth, could it be that she was, in a way, more spiritually fulfilled than me or you?
Always drawn to life's Big Questions, Obama embarked on a spiritual quest in which he tried to reconcile his rational side with his yearning for transcendence. He found Christ—but that hasn't stopped him from asking questions. "I'm on my own faith journey and I'm searching," he says. "I leave open the possibility that I'm entirely wrong."
I feel that I am on a similar quest, but I could very well have already reached my final destination without really knowing it. Nevertheless, to that last quote, I simply say "ditto."
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