A Beer with Barack

Today I claim Barack Obama as a fellow interfaith child. Of course he’s a Christian. He made that choice, and has every right to do so. I waited years to claim him as an interfaith child because I so badly wanted him to be President, and I willingly participated in the liberal media conspiracy to downplay his Muslim roots.

But at this moment, I am filled with nachas (Yiddish for pride in the accomplishment of a relative) because Obama will be drinking beer this evening at the White House with a black professor and a white police officer. I see this inspired gesture as quintessential interfaith, or bicultural, behavior. He sees the conflict from both perspectives, and inserts himself in the middle to become the human bridge between the two.

Of course, race is still the primary identifier in America, and Obama’s status as a mixed-race child trumps his interfaith background. But when you listen to his moving speech in Cairo last month, it is clear that he benefits from his formative experiences with Islam. While he did not know his Muslim biological father, growing up with knowledge of this family connection can have a strong effect on an interfaith child’s identity. Even more important was his experience as a boy in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, with a Muslim stepfather. Obama is both a practicing Christian and someone raised with an intimate knowledge of Islam. I celebrate his interfaithness, and see that the world has already benefitted from it.

As an interfaith child, I am proud to share the “both/and” perspective with many other Americans–children who embody two or more races, immigrants who straddle two cultures, expatriate offspring raised in other countries. All of us see ourselves in Obama. Many of us aspire to use our “both/and” status to become religious bridges, Obama-style. I don’t happen to like beer, which is just as well given the different religious perspectives on alcohol. Anyone want to come over for a root beer?

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2 Comments on “A Beer with Barack”

  1. bethany Says:

    How about a Sauvignon Blanc on my deck with a lively discussion of building bridges? Or root beer, whatever… I personally want to find a way to bridge the gap between our liberal atheist cohort who sees all religion as rigid fundamentalism. I also want to save spirituality from the religious. It’s a big job, but I think you, me and Barack can do it ;-D


  2. Good work, Susan! The common theme I am seeking for my children’s life in faith is the same one I hope Our Man Obama magnifies during his brief tenure as Leader of the Free World: the power of love, not the love of power, leads to lasting peace. Any sustainable community — faith or other — has this principle as its life’s blood. Many thanks to Jimi Hendrix for calling this theme to my attention!


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