MASON CITY, IA.---White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) attended a church service Sunday here at the First Congregational United Church of Christ—his denomination—and from the pulpit talked about how he came to find Christ and join a church in Chicago with a social action agenda.
Through the course of Obama’s presidential campaign, in targeted paid radio advertising and in some public appearences, Obama has stressed his Christianity. There are a few reasons why it is reasonable for Obama to talk about faith: It is a part of this life. People have questions about his faith because he has Muslim relatives. A faith-based appeal is part of his campaign. He has been reaching out to a demographic slice of faith-based “values voters” who care a lot about religion.
So Obama’s worship Sunday at the UCC church, where he was asked to do a reading from the pulpit, seemed a logical booking . He delivered a variation of his stump speech at the church (transcript below) and made good use of his time in a rural part of Iowa where a lot of people would be at church in the morning anyway.
Said Obama, “And certainly for those of you here in Iowa have been bombarded with political messages, unfortunately over the holiday season I hope that we're all reminded that of us have some work to do and that this is a moment of celebration of the birth of our Savior but it is also a moment of reflection on how we can make a contribution to our community. I'm looking forward to joining with you in some capacity over the coming years to make sure that we're dealing with the violations that I think God calls on all of us to deal with.”
“I am so grateful for the chance to be with you. I brought my mittens I want you to know. And I want to send greetings from Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th St. in Chicago, a sister church which has done wonderful work in the community. As some of you know because some of you had attended the general assembly in Hartford that I have been a member of Trinity for almost twenty years. And it is a wonderful church and we are very proud to be part of the UCC community.
I was not raised in the church. I came to the church by way of work as a community organizer. I had been inspired as a student during college by the civil rights movement. And I went and began working at a grassroots level at a community level to bring about change to bring about a better community.
There were a group of churches on the South Side of Chicago that had formed a small organization to deal with the devastation of steel plants closing, and neighborhoods had really fallen on hard times. Many of the commercial strips had been boarded up, people were laid off, young people were adrift. So these churches came together and formed an organization and all they could afford to hire was me for $12,000 plus car expenses. I moved to Chicago and I started doing work, setting up job training programs for the unemployed, after school programs for youth and tried to bring economic help to devastated communities.
And I had never belonged to a church, but what I found in the course of these three years I was an organizer was number one, ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they are coming together and trying to find common ground and part of that is what inspires me and continues to in the work I do to this day.
But the other thing I discovered was the values of honesty and hard work and empathy, compassion were values that were spoken about in church and that I want to connect with a larger community than myself and realize that the scripture and the words of God fit into the values that I had been raised with.
So it was through service and through the work that I actually came to Christ and the fact that we actually had a church in the United Church of Christ denomination that had such a long tradition of service and fighting for justice, well in this country made it a good fight for me.
So during this holiday season and during this political season I am continually reminded that the values that I learned in Trinity and in church as part of the UCC of Trinity are values that can't just stay in church, they have to be applied outside of church and that each and every day God calls on all of us to make some sort of contribution that we all provide comfort to the needy, will provide justice for those who still hunger for justice, will provide equality for those who still thirst for equality, and we can all do that in our own various ways,
We don't have to run for president in order to make a difference. And certainly for those of you here in Iowa have been bombarded with political messages, unfortunately over the holiday season I hope that we're all reminded that of us have some work to do and that this is a moment of celebration of the birth of our Savior but it is also a moment of reflection on how we can make a contribution to our community. I'm looking forward to joining with you in some capacity over the coming years to make sure that we're dealing with the violations that I think God calls on all of us to deal with.
To deal with people who don't have health insurance, to provide opportunity for all of our children not just some. To be good stewards to the earth to make sure that our planet that currently is in peril is one that we persevere for these beautiful children here today so from trinity I want to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and I very much appreciate the opportunity to share this womderful season with you and my understanding is when I toss the mittens I'm supposed to try for the top. I used to play basketball, I'm confident in my skills. Think I'm gonna do just fine.”