|WASHINGTON (BP) -- A newly released interview from 2004 sheds light on President Obama's faith, showing that on several major doctrinal issues -- including sin, heaven and the Gospel's exclusivity -- he steps outside historic Christianity.
The one-hour interview by Cathleen Falsani was conducted when Obama was running for U.S. Senate, several months before he was introduced to the country during his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. At the time, Falsani was a religion reporter for the Chicago-Sun Times. Although the interview formed part of a book ("The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People"), much of Obama's answers were not included in it. She calls the interview the "longest and most in-depth he's granted publicly about his faith," and she made the transcript available at the Sojourners website in February.
Among Obama's most intriguing answers, he says he believes there are many paths to God. His answers on heaven and sin, though, have drawn the most discussion:
FALSANI: "Do you believe in heaven?"
OBAMA: "Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?"
FALSANI: "A place spiritually you go to after you die?"
OBAMA: "What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing. When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I've been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they're kind people and that they're honest people, and they're curious people, that's a little piece of heaven."
FALSANI: "Do you believe in sin?"
FALSANI: "What is sin?"
OBAMA: "Being out of alignment with my values."
FALSANI: "What happens if you have sin in your life?"
OBAMA: "I think it's the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I'm true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward; when I'm not true to it, it's its own punishment."
Obama said he is a Christian but that he also draws beliefs from other religions.
"I am a Christian. So, I have a deep faith," he said. "So, I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10. My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim. And I'd say, probably, intellectually I've drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith."
He added, "So, I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that 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." Continued...