Joshua DuBois — Obama's Faith-Based Office
May 28, 2009

The very words "faith-based" became controversial during the Bush administration, yet Barack Obama has retained the faith-based centers in 11 federal agencies that his predecessor created. And within weeks of assuming the presidency, he announced priority areas for his own White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships — including economic recovery and poverty reduction, abortion reduction, responsible fatherhood, and global interfaith dialogue. In a live, public conversation, we meet the 26-year-old political strategist, Pentecostal minister, and trusted associate of the president who will lead this charge.


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Religious Life in the Obama Era

Krista's live conversation with Joshua DuBois at the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Senator Barack Obama's "Call to Renewal" Speech

June 28, 2006 – Washington DC
This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that's deeper than that — a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.

Selected Audio

SOF Salon: Lived Faith and Civic Life

[mp3, 69:45]
Krista joined a diverse group of 13 individuals to react to DuBois' words, and contribute more stories to the dialogue. Download and listen to the lively and insightful conversation in full.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

Some stunning photos capturing DuBois' night at the Fitzgerald Theater.


Video of Obama's speech and how it came up in our live event with Joshua Dubois.

Krista speaks with a diverse group about what a new era of service and civic virtue in U.S. public life might look like. Watch it here!

Recorded video of the live stream of Krista and DuBois on stage at the Fitz — and a transcript of the online audience chat.

A White House video about the Obama administration's faith-based initiatives, with commentary by DuBois.

About the Image

Krista Tippett and Joshua DuBois during their live conversation at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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inspiring action for the common good through bringing our heart and soul to our work within our communities

interested to see what is said... it's interesting to me how the claim has been made we're in the obama era... since, he's only been president for a little over three months...

I am a history instructor who has been interested in religion as it relates to public life for most of my life. This event is important because it starts an important dialogue regarding the place of faith-based communities in public policy. My hope is that it will allow for diversity in those faith-based communities.

I want to be part of that dialogue.

I'm a 27-year old solo pastor of a Disciples of Christ church (Plymouth Creek Christian Church) in the western Minneapolis suburb named Plymouth. So I guess I technically miss out on the salon age-range by 2 years, but figured it wouldn't hurt to express interest, in the event you find yourself in need of another participant.

I began listening to the SoF podcast two years back, during my first year of ordained ministry in Lexington, KY, and enjoyed the broad reach of the show's curiosity. It became a personal favorite after the Joe Carter episode, which told a story about the spiritual "Nobody Knows" that I couldn't get out of my head. I used/sang that in an Independence Day sermon, and thanks in great part to the story, I felt for the first time I preached a sermon that truly connected in a deep way with my congregation. This taught me something visceral about the power of story to buttress, or even undermine broadly shared values like freedom or truth. Hopefully so that a more inclusive, life-giving narrative can be constructed.

Anyway, that was a then, and last August I've was called to serve a small, intimate community in the suburban Twin Cities. As a young adult, first-time solo pastor, I'm constantly aware of challenge and the need for humility in spiritual understanding. With so many of my contemporaries avoiding this suburban environment for hipper, more eclectic urban neighborhoods, what I see and respond to on a day-to-day basis seems like stuff I shouldn't care about. I was taught about urban ministry at a southside Chicago divinity school; I served a downtown congregation in Lexington. The suburbs were supposed to be places of escape, insularity, unacknowledged racism, and an uncritical celebration of sameness. But it's is where I'm from (Littleton, CO), to be fair, and where I now serve. And while sometimes correct, I'm finding this caricature of suburban ministry incomplete.

The people I minister with are reason #1 for that, of course, and as I've grown to love them, my heart has opened to the wisdom of this new environment, and how it might connect even further with the gifts of rural and urban contexts across the globe. I guess that's much of why this event interests me, besides the chance to see SoF live. Joshua DuBois seems like a wise, courageous faith leader, and I'm curious to know more about his vision for connecting people of faith across political, geographic and ideological spectra. I'm aware that much progressive Christian theology (my 'tradition') focuses rightly on the material needs of poor urban neighborhoods, and the unjust lack of balance in living standards throughout the world, environmentally and economically speaking. Suburban folk both can be vilified as poster children for such problems, but also looked to for resources and renewal if a way forward exists. I imagine Joshua DuBois knows more about these issues than I could dream of, and so I wonder how his leadership will help people of faith throughout the country hear each other's wisdom more gracefully, speak more directly with government and 'secular' institutions who care about similar stuff, and how we all can help out in ways that don't get young pastors fired for 'preaching politics'!

Hope that's helpful. Thanks for coming up north. Looking forward to your questions, and Dubois' response.

I really like SOF and Krista's interviewing style and the topics she presents. I also moved to St. Paul recently and would like to get more involved in things. I'm a grad student at St. Kate's, pursuing a master's in theology with a cert. in Spiritual Direction. I recently spent ten years as a live-in assistant in a L'Arche community in Iowa, working with and living with persons with intellectual disabilities.

President Obama brings a far more pluralistic, realistic view of religion's role in not only the historical U.S. but also its role in today's culture. A real breath of fresh air.

To date, the president and his family have expressed little interest in faith, apart from hosting a Seder dinner and attending a church service only twice since the inauguration. And during the campaign after the dispute with Rev. Wright, they apparently didn't attend services at all. Is the president's intent only to support initiatives on faith without modeling faith?

I am very interested in spiritual topics, and I greatly appreciate Speaking of Faith. I often tell others of programs. Some that come to mind are Krista's interviews with Rachel Naomi Remens (great fan with repeated readings of her books), a yoga teacher who told his story of physical disability (sorry I'm not looking up name now), and a very recent one about living aware of each moment with particular interest to send to my son & daughter-in-law his comment about young children who seem to be great zen teachers given to us to grow spiritually (their girls are 2 & 4 with a boy expected in a month).

This event interests me as I have mixed feelings about government funding religious programs. It can be a wonderful thing with some money added to private money to do good, but I have misgivings about it's possible misuse. I feel more trustful of it's use under this president than under the last administration.

I was the founder and for 8 years the director of an alcohol and drug treatment center that started as a division of the Union Gospel Mission; it later incorporated separately as the Shoreview Treatment Center. It was federally funded (through Ramsey County) but later lost its funding with a change of administrations...I am now part of a counseling and consulting staff that specializes in working with stressed clergy persons and their families as well as religious groups and church organizations that need help with orgaizaitonal problems. We serve people of all faiths.

I was educated in the Catholic schools in my area because our public schools have been challenged for quite some time. However those in my family who are "religious" at all are strong Southern Baptist - ministers and people in leadership in the African-American Southern Baptist Church.

In college an older classmate listened to me speak and decided she had to introduce me to Buddhist practice. There I explored several traditions and am now a teacher in the Shambhala tradition.

So, seeing a range of spirituality in America has given me a rich perspective on the benefits and challenges. Seeing how an administration which approaches things through listening and considering various perspectives is facinating and exciting to me!

I with other passionate followers of a Christian tradition reason from a critical biblical hermeneutic that perceives caution on placing undue (idolatrous) dependence on any leader (king, president or nation state) above the reality of "Jesus is Lord". Living by a lively ethic and a politics of the kingdom of God (of Jesus), non-violence and respect of other religions (neighbor) is normative. One of my ongoing questions while seeking to support the Obama administration is this: What kind of development can we expect during the Obama Administration supporting a shift from a strong US narrative that says the state via the military is our “savior” (a sort of Christological narrative that sees the state as savior and protector of security and freedom decreed by God) to an alternative script that helps the US (as a diverse population of people among other peoples) become good neighbors while exercising “neighborly” practices such as more patient and imaginative diplomacy without being naïve, responsibility for the environment that lives with the tension of one’s own economics while remaining keenly aware that we share responsibility for the entire planet?

I'm very interested in in appropriate partnerships between government and faith groups (and appropriate boundaries between the two). Among other experiences, I was a part of recruiting and organizing faith groups in establishing and serving in a homeless shelter in North Carolina and now work in Minneapolis in a Lutheran-associated non-profit specialty longterm care facility as a chaplain and clinical pastoral educator. I am very interested in the subject. I also am very impressed with President Obama's intelligent faithfulness and his clear commitment to social justice and care for all.

I am so hopeful about Obama's presidency and would love to participate in the group.

Everything about the Obama administration interests me. There is a new language that is being used once that is focused more on dialogue. I'm curious to hear what this "Pastor-in-Chief" has to say about the direction of faith based initiatives since our church serves a monthly free community meal to guests who are only increasing in number. Plus, I just saw Krista live in Cleveland last evening, and continue to be stimulated by her thinking and questions.

I'm a 47 year old, Chicago-born African-American Catholic. Many folks, like me; however, my wife (same background as me) and I are raising 2 teen sons as Catholics in suburban Philadelphia. Not many youth, like them; especially African American Suburban Catholics attending a Quaker school with a predominantly Jewish studentbody. The complexity of their lives and our family conversations about matters of Belief, Faith, Morality, Ethics and Values are numerous.

I am an immigrant originally from Madagascar and have lived in Tanzania (East Africa) for 8 yrs before coming to the US. I have gone grown a great deal in the last many years and as an American citizen, I am all of these: Malagasy, Tanzanian, American etc...I am a christian (having gone through my religious and spiritual ups and downs) but I have appreciation for others values in other religions. I attend a buddhist meditation center as well as christian church. I also have been inspired by President Obama and would like to understand how his Faith come into play in his journey. I am simply interested in open discussions about Faith as well..

I'm very interested in learning more about the president's views on religion and its role in public life.

I am very interested in Obama's faith-based initiatives, and I'm sure that Krista will initiate a thoughtful discussion.

I have been listening to Krista's radio broadcasts for about 2yrs. The programming has grown exponentially in quality, content, sophistication, range and depth of coverage of subjects.

I presently reside in St. Paul, MN, and have found the program to be a source of enlightenment and spiritual balance.

The program with J. DuBois is of particular interest, because of my current experiences dealing with the Human Services in Minnesota. I only recently moved here, and only recently became a first time user of the 'welfare system' at 59yrs old. A LOT TO LEARN and not much time to spend on learning.

I will continue to watch online, listen via the airwaves, and thoroughly enjoy your programming.

Thank you for such a high level of performance! OUTSTANDING! BRAVA!

i am a trained hospital chaplain and remain interested in all inquiries of faith.

retired married female, parents of 3 children, member of UCC

I believe religion is the underlying motivator to human life. I'm very interested in listening to what Mr. DuBois has to say about religion in American now since there are many different views.

I had a chance to visit with Mr. Obama in a small group during the Iowa primary while he was carrying his own suitcase. I was impressed with him then and continue to be impressed. He surrounds himself with good people who "carry the suitcase" of the vision he has for our country and the world. Mr. DuBois is one of those good people. I look forward to hearing him.

I have complete faith that the Obama administration will respect the establishment clause of the us constitution so that is not an issue for me.

I am an attorney who worked on an Indian reservation for 11 years as their public defender. Needless to say there is a lot of poverty, alcoholism, and drug abuse. I attended different native churches and services. I found that my clients who really turned it around were those who found or rediscovered a solid foundation in their faith. This seemed to work better than the typical a and d programs or state probation.

I would like to see more faith based groups involved in recovery. I believe there is a difference between faith based and religion based. I believe you can reach people in a powerful way in a faith based context.
Personally, I would like to see more attorneys openly engaging their faith and their legal work. I know this can be done in a positive and non-offensive way.
Of course I was working in a community where faith has always been the central part of life. I suspect there are other communities, non-Indian where spirituality weaved together in social programs can only help create a vibrant healing process.
The truth is, that in poor communities is is often the pastors, medicine men, and other religious who are holding it together for people. The only difference with a faith based initiative is that they would get a little help from the government. I believe this can be done without "establishing a governmental religion." To tell you the truth, when one of the clients is in so much pain with court, incarceration, poverty, addiction....they don't care what religion you are part of but they do seem to light up when you support their faith and hope during the transition period.

I am fascinated by the ever evolving expressions of faith and spirituality in America. I recently heard a snippet on NPR that said that 1/2 of US Adults no longer attend an organized religious service due to disenchantment with religious people or religious organizations. I certainly fall into that category. I am interested in how to participate in and support moral and ethical development and expression for the benefit of our nation, community and environment.

President Obama, in last night's press conference, stressed the importance of holding to our values in the face of adversity. He was speaking about his decision to prohibit torture, but his example as a national leader is so important. We need national leaders such as Mr. Obama to exemplify holding fast to high moral standards in the face of adversity. We need to measure success on our compassion and kindness shown for each other, not just on our material success.

I am so grateful for such a leader who encourages this kind of behavior in our military, our bankers and in each other.

Thank you for hosting this event.

Pluralism in the United States

I was a member of the staff of the Ecumenical Institute in the 60's and 70's and worked with local churches in church renewal efforts. Much of the renewal emphasis was aimed at getting the church active in the world—to turn outward, turning its back on any injustice confronting the church at large. Today the issues would be gay marriage, abortion rights, civil rights. . . Also, today, we have the church predominately looking inward trying to save itself.

I want more information. I am worried about maintaining the separation of church and state and rolling it back to prior to 2000 levels.

Pres. Obama is an even-handed man but what he establishes will be there for the next president, who might have an agenda to elevate one faith to state-supported statis. This will destroy our country.

Kept as equal in the eye of government, faith-based organizations can do much to help the poor and needy in our communities, but nobody should have to pretend to accept religion to partake of services offered by federal funding. This is a fine line to walk.

I teach Religious Studies at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX. One of my colleagues is participating in a panel overseen by Dubois's office, and I think the initiative sounds very promising. I'd like to learn more!

The importance of faith and a spiritual guidance in our modern life. To hear of other voices of others in the country, is nourishment.

I am an English teacher in Germany. In various classes I teach about the American dream and it is exciting to see how there are different ways to understand it depending on the presidency. Also I teach religion and here one of the major topics is the relationship between religion and the state. We look at Bonhoeffer and also on the impact he had on theology in the US.
Above all I have a very personal interest in American politics and religion as I have friends and relatives in the US who I share my thoughts with.
I am hoping for interesting new thoughts through your program. Thank you for letting me participate.

(Baby awake gotta makethis short sorry)
Two things have change my life in an unique and profound way,first the election where We the People voted in our first african american President and the second thing is "Speaking of Faith with Krista Tibbet".
I have listened to every show and I have encouraged friends to listen as well,I LOVE SOF!

I am 32 years old, grew up on a North Dakota farm, Lutheran faith, and am currently living in Minneapolis and of open religion.

I am interested in learning about the faith-based initiatives that are being led in our country.

I'm a big fan of your show and want to find out what Obama's plans are in this area.

I am a liberal American Baptist pastor of a small congregation in upstate New York. A primary concern of mine is for the future of religion in America.

Recent surveys tell us we are becoming more and more of a godless nation and this is at a time when the people of America are in need of a spiritual perspective more than ever.

At the source of every major issue facing our country ~ LGBT rights, stem cell research, the economy, the war ~ there are divisive religious attitudes. I am constantly on the lookout for events that can bring those diverse perspectives together to work together and learn from one another; this program on Religious Life in America may help us do these things.

I love SOF and am delighted Krista and Crew have organized this free and open sharing. Attending on-line and benefiting from the experience even though I am hundreds of miles away is a hoot! Ain't the internet cool!?!
Looking forward to May 20th.

The fact that it is spiritual and linked to President Obama. I am a spiritual person and go to a Christian Church sometimes. I daily read from Science of Mind magazine and Pema Chodron. I often listen to or read from the Dali Lama, Wayne Dyer, The Bible, Marianne Williamson etc.

I'm interested in hearing what part Mr. Dubois thinks religion should play in our country and in our government and how the Obama administration plans to use the "Faith Based Initiative" program.

I'm interested in how the Obama Administration can foster unity through uniting the diverse patchwork of religions and spirituality. I look forward to seeing what faith-based initiatives they attempt to introduce to change the religious as well as political landscape. I'm certain that community service can help bring us together not only as a nation, but as one world with common dreams.

I am a Japanese (retired) pastor, and have been interested in what would occur during Obama-era.

The Obama election pulled me back into the world of American politics after eight years of experiencing despair with the Bush-Cheney way of leadership and goverence. I want to "be a part" of this administration, and listening to what I am sure will be a wonderful conversation is yet another way to stay in touch. And, obviously, as someone who regularly listens to Speaking of Faith, I know that Krista Tippet's encounter with Joshua DuBois will help me better understand the Obama administration's hopes for building spirit anew in our country. I am looking forward to the live feed!

I am a 24 year-old graduate student at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. I am a UUA-Humanist with deep interest in the use of religious symbols, rituals and language and how this connects us to our true human nature. I believe that these things are necessary for a functioning society and I am severly bothered by both the disappearance of public and civic religious practices as well as the idolization of the existing practices that lead to division.
I have a deep appreciation for art and music and the role they play in our religious lives.
I am interested in observing and recording the devolpment of religious language and ritual in public places under this new president. I think there is an opportunity for religioun to be revived as a source of community building as opposed to one of division under the false guise of "family values" as it was under the previous administration.
I am also deeply interested in full GLBTQ participation in religious rituals, as well as the unique gifts, stories, and perspectives that they bring. The rejection of these gifts, stories, and perspectives, in my opinion, has been one of the greatest crimes of the Christian church in the past 50 years. I think it is time for the church to be both inclusive of GLBTQ people and understand how historically and presently they participate in exclusion, and how they can act now for inclusion.

I am a Presbyterian pastor and a local elected official for our school board. The interface between faith, religion and public life has been an area of great interest for me personally.

The Scene and the conversations. Thanks.

I am a 54 year old, Swedish born of American (Irish heritage) and Canadian (Scottish heritage) parents . I am 5th of 7 siblings. I have lived in Sweden, Germany, Long Island (NY), Colorado and Minnesota (for 26 years). I am a lesbian in a (unmarried) loving relationship. I have 2 fabulous grown daughters.
I have a bachelors and 2 masters degrees (over-educated?) and work as a program manager for a non-profit chemical dependency organization.
I have been in recovery from alcholism for 24+ years.
I was raised Catholic but am not religious. I am spiritual. I believe in The Divine (not a god). I have more questions than answers. I am comfortable living in the questions. I try to learn.

What about this event interests me? I am always interested in learning more about spiritual/religious beliefs. I believe religion still divides this country despite that part of its origins stem out of religious intolerance.
I'd like some insight into where our country is headed spiritually. I'd like to know if my identity as a spiritual person is being recognized and respected as an equal and worthwhile being. I'd like to know if my civil rights (including the right to "marriage") are going to be upheld. I'd like to know that we are going to remain a country that seperates church and state.
There are so many religious issues/beliefs that have become political (ie abortion and "gay" marriage). So how is our president being counselled so that he will not put his own biases into the civil rights of others? And how does this country move forward in respecting difference of gender, race, sexuality, spirituality, religion, culture, etc.? Perhaps the quesiton is: how do we continue to move beyond a white, Christian, male hierarchy?

I am a pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Butler, PA... a western Pennsylvania city in the "rust belt" of closed steel plants. We have drug problems, crime and great needs for housing and food here. I'm excited to know more about President Obama's initiatives and would like to know more about Mr. DuBois and his vision. Thanks.

I have been so happy with our president
who never seems to put a foot or a word wrong.
I have been especially impressed by his welcoming,
friendliness to all kinds of people. His search for wisdom as well as intelligence in the people he appoints is wonderful. I would like to know more about the sources of his values and faith. I am an elderly white woman and feel blessed to have been around to see the changes in my country.

I grew up in a very conservative evangelical Christian tradition... I've grown in my faith to the extent that that kind of fundamentalism actually scares me.

I know little about President Obama's faith but I would imagine the convergence of faith and politics will look very different than that of former President Bush... who's one of those guys that scared me! ;)

I wish I could be there! I'm interested in the dialogue that I know will be created with Kristen's superb interviewing skills and insight. I'm an instructor of communications at the College of Southern Idaho in Hailey. My background is broadcast communications and I'm currently in a self-study program through the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago to become a certified Yoga instructor.

I'm a participant, committed to what we can be and accomplish together.

regular listener

I am currently interning at the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in New York and hope to keep updated on new programs initiated by the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Neighbor Partnerships.


Voices on the Radio

Joshua DuBois

is the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Production Credits

Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

Managing Producer: Kate Moos

Senior Producer: Mitch Hanley

Producer: Colleen Scheck

Associate Producer: Nancy Rosenbaum

Associate Producer: Shiraz Janjua

Technical Director: John Scherf

Online Editor: Trent Gilliss

Associate Web Producer: Andrew Dayton