A few weeks ago I posted a video by the author of this book and of how Thomas Nelson was sending me the book to review. Well, I just finished it today, and here is my review of the book.. be advised that I am an amateur reviewer :)
To begin, I have to say that the book was a big disappointment.. I thought that a better name for the book would have been "The Faith of Jeremiah Wright". The author seemed to fixate on Reverend Wright and spent large amounts of text writing of Wright's theology and church. This would not be as much of an issue if he wove in Obama's reflections about Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ but he did not. I think this is a typical error though - many often confuse a person's faith with the faith that their church or pastor espouses.
The book started out okay chronicling Barack Obama's history.. starting with details of his grandparents' religious history in Kansas with Methodism and his mother's rejection of religion. It sets the stage and speaks of their influence of Barack's early years. The book also speaks to the influence of Obama's Muslim step-father Lolo - I was surprised to find that Lolo was more of a secular Muslim than a religious one.
The book also briefly covers his rebellious teen years and academic accomplishments through law school. Surprisingly the book doesn't cover much more of his personal life. It doesn't once mention Barack's wife, Michelle, or his children's names. I got the impression that the author, Stephen Mansfield, has probably never had a lengthy discussion with the person he wrote about. The book in many ways seems to be more of a commentary on Obama's faith than a delineation of it. It uses conjecture and innuendo at times and sometimes didn't seem to be factual.. it could have been but it left me a bit confused.
Mansfield also included short vignettes on the faith of John McCain, Hillary Clinton and George Bush. I am not sure what the point of this was except to very loosely (I mean very loosely) compare their faiths with Barack Obama's. He also included sections on Obama's run for the Illinois state senate against Bobby Rush in 1999 and for the US senate against Alan Keyes and how Keyes' Christian rhetoric stayed with him after he won the election.. and how it fueled his thoughts of involving his faith in his politics.. I thought that this was an insightful aspect of the book.
On a positive note I think that the author did somewhat paint Obama as a man of faith but not the sort of faith that we Evangelicals embrace. He spent some time speaking to the idea that Barack Obama views the church as his house as well as the house of Evangelicals like Senator (from Kansas) Sam Brownback. He spoke of the time that Obama responded to an altar call at Trinity church. He affirmed that Trinity church believes in such conversion experiences at the church altar much in the way that many evangelical churches do.
Mansfield also spent some time delineating how Obama's view on faith diverges from classical Christianity. He cites Obama speaking of how there are other valid religious ways and quotes him talking about how the traditional view of Hell and his views (of Hell and of God) seem to be a bit at odds with each other. It seems apparent from this and other parts of the book that Obama embraces a more liberal-leaning faith than most Evangelicals embrace. That said I found him to be one of genuine, albeit incomplete, faith.