(AP) Obama nurtures his faith away from the spotlight
By JOSH LEDERMAN
President Barack Obama is not an overtly religious man. He and his family rarely attend church, and he almost never elaborates in public about his own relationship to his Christian faith.
But away from the public eye, advisers say, the president has carefully nurtured a sense of spirituality that has served as a grounding mechanism during turbulent times, when the obstacles to governing a deeply divided nation seem nearly insurmountable.
Every year on Aug. 4, the president’s birthday, Obama convenes a group of pastors by phone to receive their prayers for him for the year to come. During the most challenging of times, prayer circles are organized with prominent religious figures such as megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights activist.
Each morning for the past five years, before most of his aides even arrive at the White House, Obama has read a devotional written for him and sent to his BlackBerry, weaving together Scripture with reflections from literary figures such as Maya Angelou and C.S. Lewis.
Obama is particularly moved by theories that draw connections between biblical themes and the personal journeys of historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., DuBois said.
He added that the president’s spiritual strength is his belief that God will carry him through to see another day even in times of crisis.
The image of Obama as someone who draws heavily on faith to guide his daily life contrasts with his public persona.
An intensely private person, Obama has shied away from all but the most general descriptions of his spiritual life.
Obama had to distance himself from his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, when his anti-American rantings threatened Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Persistent and false claims that Obama is secretly a Muslim have followed him even into his second term.
The best clues to which texts fortify Obama’s spiritual consumption may come from the daily devotionals that DuBois started sending Obama, then a U.S. senator from Illinois, in 2008.
DuBois ran religious outreach for Obama’s presidential campaign that year, and his digital benedictions for Obama have been compiled in a forthcoming book, “The President’s Devotional.”
At pivotal moments in Obama’s presidency, DuBois sometimes selects texts that offer lessons appropriate to the challenges at hand.
Before one State of the Union address, it was the words of Isaiah, in an appeal for clarity of speech: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”
Others are intended as an oasis from the conflicts Obama confronts on any given day.
In his final years in office, Obama plans to continue with the morning meditations, the birthday call with pastors and ad hoc prayer circles, said a senior administration official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name on Obama’s spiritual life and requested anonymity.
In times of crisis, from hurricanes to school shootings, many Americans look to their president as a source of strength and comfort.
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