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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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I am a strong supporter of Obama, and am highly religious.

I'm a 47 year old male, divorced father of two, retired from the Army, working in private sector for six figures, but seriously contemplating seminary. I believe that we are in such a transitional era -- due to political, economic, and social trends -- that our nation and its people will have a greater need for faith than ever before.

We are at such a new era for being inclusive of all religions. I feel it is time for American citizens to experience the beauty and richness of each faith...yet keeping what is sacred to them personally...which may also mean NO religion! It is through understanding one another that we grow our respect for all human beings.

For me I have dedicated my life to creating and providing the tools which will help support such awareness with my E-commerce small business - It is my spiritual practice to continually hold a space for religious dialogue and understanding within our local communities! The ripple effects of deepened peace begins to reach out to the globe!

I am a theological person and am very interested in understanding current affairs better, especially as they relate to religious and political issues.

I'm very interested in how President Obama and, by extension, his administration see faith's interaction with politics. One of the early reasons I was attracted to his campaign was his views on religion as expressed during his speech before an audience in June of 2006.

As a neo-Pagan, my sensitivity toward religious minorities is perhaps heightened and during the eight years of the previous administration, I was often fearful of the ways in which larger religious organizations received so much attention from the political establishment. As such, I'm interested to see how this administration will handle such things as tomorrow's National Day of Prayer.

I'm not a rabid "separatist," believing that religion and politics shall never meet; rather I see both as separate institutions seeking to make the world a better place for our society and for humanity. Both have had their rough spots and both have had their shining moments. And, I believe that both have much to offer each other. To that end, this event is quite interesting to me.

Thanks for an enlightening podcast and informational network. I really appreciate what you do and how you do it.

I'm constantly looking for ways to strengthen my beliefs & faith & to feel that I'm okay. "Speaking of Faith" offers fascinating portraits of people & issues that can provide model for my struggle. Krista Tippett asks the questions & encourages a dialogue with people that provide context for the battle.

What interests me is diverse voices focused on that deep part ourselves that's universal. I'm a writer who worked for 8 years in the corporate world. I'm a buddhist meditator. It feels like we're on the verge of a great transformation, and to me, it seems that begins deep inside each one of us. A few days ago I went to the Brooklyn Food Conference and really came away with the feeling that change has to come from us. Raj Patel said that we expect Obama to be our pizza delivery dude of change, but that we have to show him what the change looks like. LaDonna Redmond said that whoever names it defines it. And then there's that idea I heard years ago -- someone told me that Thich Nhat Han said that every age has its spiritual leader, but the next one wouldn't be a person, it would be the sangha.

I am very concerned that spiritual practice and faith-based action be reclaimed by moderate and tolerant, open minded and diversity friendly people. I want very much to participate in the Obama wave of civility and tolerance, hope and justice and peace. to move far away from the fear based actions of the military--fundamentalist movements that have been in ascendence.

I live in a lovely little town in southern Tasmania in Australia. I have moved here recently from the United States. I was in the country for the Obama lead rennaisance and can once again be proud of being American.

I am interested in this event because I would love to learn more about how President Obama and his administration are balancing their approach to issues between faith and politics. Does he solve a problem politically, economically, etc. first, then make sure it is a decisions supported by his spiritual beliefs, or does he first look to his faith when trying to solve a problem?

I personally have struggled with many political issues because of my faith. The biggest struggle is not whether something is right or wrong, but what to do about it. To what extent can we legislate morality? But at the same time, is it possible as a Christian to sit by and allow immorality? Where is the line, what do we do in different positions, for what are we responsible? This includes but also goes beyond the typical issues of abortion and gay marriage, and also applies to war, the economy, welfare, taxes, and just about every political issue we face.

VERY interested in hearing what this new White House leader has to say about Faith and how it's changing in America.

I am the founder and director of Kinetics.

Kinetic Institute (Kinetics) mission is to develop new ideas that work to strengthen social movements within the African-American community; providing them with the tools and skills to pursue justice and better address the needs of those whom they serve.

One of our programs is the Kinetics Faith & Justice Network, a social networking platform designed to form strategic alliances across various disciplines for community empowerment. Members include clergy, scholars, lawyers, social justice advocates, and nonprofitand business professionals.

I was born in Nigeria, West Africa: a product of triple heritage: African Traditional religion, Christianity and Islam. I attended Islamic High School in Nigeria for five years, which was at the time a boarding school, with similar curriculum to a typical British colonial boarding school in Nigeria. It was at the Islamic school that I was exposed to the natural sciences, British and American literature, and general knowledge of the West. This is far cry from the usual category of "Islamic madrasa schools" in the West. In the southwestern part of Nigeria, the peaceful co-existence of Islam and other religions has been the hallmark for a long time. Members of my own immediate families are Muslims. I am not a Muslim.

I am currently Assistant professor of sociology here at Waynesburg University. A faculty member informed me about your program about two weeks ago: since then, I have downloaded over one hundred and fifty of your podcasst to my iphone. It is a remarkably enlightening and instructive program - more people should listen to it.


Ezekiel Olagoke

Worked on the campaign and in the Admin.

I am a President Obama supporter and I am very interested in how he and his affluence and leadership will radiate throughout our society and the world.

Either there is creation or there is accident - or an accident produced the setting for creation to occur - or creation produced a setting in which accidents occur - or it's really quite beyond our figuring which then leads to faith in that which is within and without - beyond us and within our hearts. No religion can or should claim to have all knowledge but each should find the creation within themselves and seek the creative in others. What will a "Pastor-in-Chief" bring to something which is not about nationality to a nation?

I am a potter with a wonderful wife and four adult children. Born into the Christian faith I no longer cling to any one religion but seek to understand the spiritual condition which is within us all.

I'm a 61 year old IrishCatholicDemocrat - all one word - The Gospel according to my parents was about justice and mercy, not condemning others moral choices. When Mrs. Obama speaks of her parents, I hear echoes of my own life, growing up in rural Massachusetts. I believe this administration can help us all to reclaim the strength of community that is the foundation of so many faith traditions. I look forward to the conversation.
Peace and good_____,
Beth Ramos

(Please consider this my comment.)

I think President Obama is the best leader this country could possibly have and we are blessed to have him. He leads us with extraordinary wisdom that seems to me to be faith-based. I want to know more about who he listens to in matters that to him are faith-based. Anyone who he listens to and relies on to inform his faith and his religion is someone who I want to know more about.

I believe this is a crucial opportunity for our nation to understand the appropriate role of such partnerships that do not devolve into religion as partisan politics or as narrow moral agenda. As a United Methodist minister who has worked for thirty years in hospital chaplaincy and who has for the past 12 years had executive responsibility in a large faith-based hospital system, I remain extremely invested in helping to define and make real such partnerships for the benefit of all people.

Is the western world moving away from self and greed? I don't expect a definitive answer, but I hope to discern a direction that our leaders are following.

I am interested to learn more about our leader's spiritual and religious ideas. I want to know what motivates him to be a leader and to care for the well-being of our nation.
I am a believer in God, and a believer in community. I am excited about President Obama and his goals and hopes for our country.

I am interested in this event because I know that people of faith who focus on the positive portions of their religious tradition can live meaningful lives. I want to hear what Obama's administration believes can or should be the role of religion in public life.

I'm interested in seeing a widening of the concept of "religious life" in the U.S. to encompass spiritual practice beyond formal, organized religion, beyond specified belief, beyond amorphous faith. Knowledge available in basic human awareness can be readily awakened by effective simple practice, unadorned by required dogma, ritual, or even strict rules for living.

NIH has examined Transcendental Meditation (TM) and found it to be such a practice. The wordless knowledge it activates is the source of individual and community peace, health, and creativity. With regular practice, it shows itself in daily life as the found answer to all religious questions and leads to an end to illness, violence, and want.

It has been nearly 20 years since I learned TM at age 49. I had had an intense government career while raising children, leading what I thought was a productive life, albeit hectic and unhealthy (smoking and drinking). Within a couple of years of beginning to practice TM, I stopped drinking and smoking, began eating simple, pure food, and have become healthier, happier and more loving and creative than ever.

I know many others who have had a similar experience with TM, and hundreds of studies have verified aspects of this outcome. I therefore am convinced it is the absence of this deep, silent and eternal knowing in the hearts and minds of our citizens that is at the root of the myriad problems our country (and the world) faces.

Fortunately, because the effects spread through "collective consciousness," not everyone has to learn the TM technique. It has been calculated and demonstrated that practitioners equalling a small percentage of an area's population will bring about peace in that area.

The effects of practicing TM are the same as touted by all religions and by such popular figures as Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Eckardt Tolle and recent proponents of what was known as "The Secret." Contrary to most religions and to teachers who do not have a proven technique, TM can point to realization of benefits here on earth, "Heaven on Earth."

I feel TM encounters some lingering opposition in this country because, were it to be widely adopted, it would have adverse consequences for many vested interests/engines of our economy: drug companies, hospitals, the packaged foods industry, entertainment media, the war and criminal industrial complexes, etc.

TM is easily targeted because of its ancient Indian "Vedic" roots which echo the Hindu culture of India. For this reason, although many celebrities have practiced TM for years and years, few have come forward. In the past year since its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi passed, several have come forward, including Howard Stern. Most recently at a benefit concert last month at Radio City Music Hall in New York City the remaining Beatles, Jerry Seinfeld, Cheryl Crowe, and others joined David Lynch in raising funds to teach TM in middle schools across the U.S. because it has been shown to be wonderfully effective in helping these children focus and achieve in their schoolwork.

I could go on and on. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this conversation.

Thank you so much for the beautiful and accurate assessment and description of TM and what it's practice achieves. I have been a practitioner of TM since 1969, and this technique for experiencing Being saved my life. I am almost 65 and I don't think I would have made it to 21 without TM and the resulting expansion of
Consciousness. Because of doing TM, I have much more of myself with which to function, so everything is easier.

Again thank you very, very much for sharing your experience.

Jai Guru Dev and Maharishi.

I met Eboo Patel last night (May 7th) at the annual meeting of the St. Paul Area Council of Churches and now this May 20th will be an opportunity to meet Joshua DuBois. I've already written to Joshua about interfaith cooperation and understanding so I am pleased that this communication can continue and become more personal. I wish to also voice my view of the importance of spiritual education of children and how the Virtues Project can be key in that for the nation thru its publications, "The Family Virtues Guide" and "The Educators Vurtues Guide". Go to:

I have been reading the poetry of Rumi for quite some time. The manner in which he conveyed his thoughts is fascinating. His words connect to the soul like no other. A discussion like this can only add insight to this poet and how he affects other readers of his work.
I'm a 58 year old automotive designer and appreciate my right brain sensibilities that allow me to appreciate the power of Rumi's words. Rumi and I share the same birthday.

Have long been interested in the history of religion and how it gets lived out in spirituality. With the major shifts we have recently experienced economically, politically, culturally, I am interested in seeing/hearing how our present administration views may affect the changes we are undergoing.

It's a wonderful time to be alive!

As a life coach I study pattens, transformation, fields, matter change, money.

I am teaching a course for high school seniors on religion and politics in America.

I want to hear the real story on religeon in the Whit House. Not the hippcracy and arrogence of the Bush years. Our Nation's God is not a God of war but a God of peace, love, compassion.

I am a telephone prayer associate at Silent Unity.
We have been praying with people of all faiths for over 100 years, taking over two million calls annually from all over the world. I was ordained a Unity minister in 1998.

I was trained as a Presbyterian minister but left after a year. I have taught in Chicago's inner-city schools for years and now reside in Duluth were I teach reading in a Federal Prison to those men who either cannot read at all or do so at very low levels. While I have become disenchanted with the institutional church and no longer attend anywhere, I am reading and studying religious questions continually and at a rather high level. From time to time (I am continually being asked to offer courses)I teach classes at University for Seniors housed at Univ MN Duluth. These arre very invigorating classes and they are always full of both religious,non- and anti-religious people. I am particularly interested in how the church can be more "relevant," more in keeping with the issues of today while being faithful to the themes and values of a Christianity in honest dialogue with other religious faiths.

As a spiritual person I am very interested in our President's views. President Obama is the most dynamic president I have ever experienced. I am 57.

Knowing some of Joshua DuBois's background as well as the outstanding ministry of my #1 nominee, I nominate Rev. Dr. Kendyl Gibbons, Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, as a salon participant.

She is serving and has recently served in several national leadership roles, including currently as Dean of the Humanist Institute.

She would bring to the salon an excellent grasp of the challenges that Mr. DuBois must be dealing with, particularly as regards separation of church and state.

Please reach her at 612-377-6608 x116 or

If she is not available to participate, I would gladly serve in her place.

Though at age 75, I am "retired," I am currently quite active as a member of her congregation and other organizations where I am leading volunteers in several projects:

1> to end homelessness, in part through Project Homeless Connect Minneapolis and Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness,

2> to help immigrants learn English and other needed skills, in part through Minnesota Literacy Council and Common Bond Communities,

3> to help mobilize residents of a Common Bond Community for very low-income people to help as volunteers workers for the local chamber of commerce and the regional food-bank distributor,

4> to help senior citizens active in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the U of MN think about Renewing America, first through a course that I designed and led last winter and now through a special interest group for Renewing America, and

5> by creating and chairing her congregation's committee on emergency preparedness, which helps other congregations and organizations beside my own become more ready to reduce the toll of infectious disease, especially any potentially pandemic strain of influenza A, sending dispatches designed for distribution to members of congregations or only to members of their board.

In addition, I have in the past served as chair of the county association of religious leaders, as president of another Minneapolis congregation's philanthropic foundation, as co-chair of a 500-member Minneapolis club called "Singles All Together" and as a representative of my clergy association and my congregation in the midst of the 1965 crises in Selma, Alabama, and then in Jackson, Mississippi.

My cell phone is 612-751-0445 (7am-11pm).

My budget crunch is the reason that I am watching the live video stream, not attending in person.
I would love to be there to see Rev. DuBois more clearly and feel how the audience responds to him!

Interested in most things spiritual, especially Christian spirituality. Interested to see how the new administration has modified faith-based initiatives and the guest's perception of how those changes will affect the effectiveness of the faith based office.

I am the national program director of a faith-based organization that engages retired men and women in service to the poor. We combine their service with prayerful reflection to support the volunteers and bring deeper meaning to their work. I am thrilled to have a president who values community service - I want to see what we can do to support efforts and promote volunteerism. Tremendous benefits can be mined from the rich faith-based service traditions in this country.

I serve as Legal Counsel and Managing Director for the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). The HAF is a nationally-based advocacy group providing a progressive voice for over two million Hindu Americans. The Foundation interacts with and educates leaders in public policy, academia, media and the public at large about Hinduism and global issues concerning Hindus, such as the free exercise of religion; separation of church and state; the portrayal of Hinduism; hate speech; hate crimes and human rights.

In addition to my work with the Foundation, I have recently gotten involved locally with an organization aiding Bhutanese refugees in resettlement. This work, which admittedly I am only in the very beginning stages of, has already provided an enormous opportunity to see first hand the faith based social services of other faith communities at work as well as some of the issues faced by minority faith communities, whether it be as a social services recipient or as a social services provider.

I hold a law degree from the University of Florida College of Law and holds a Bachelor of Arts in both Religion and Economics from the same. I hope to offer the perspective of a second-generation Hindu American layperson engaged in endeavors to serving her faith community and bringing my religious tradition to the national dialogue.

Everything spiritual interests me.
The idea that our president is interested in spirituality is exciting, and if he chose Mr. DuBois, i want to hear what he has to say.
About me:
10 yrs ago i suffered a divorce, job loss, and failure to find new work, onset of palsy and loss of health insurance, in rapid succession.
It was truly the end of my life, as i knew it.
I didn't think i could sink any lower.
But out of the ashes rose a life so rich and wonderful, i could never have dreamed it.
With no alternative, i re-invented myself. I started my own business, found a wonderful boyfriend, took yoga classes, got massage therapy and found out i didn't have palsy, but muscle spasms gripping the nerves in my neck.
I am now happier and healthier than i've been in a long time.
I work very hard at keeping and cultivating my business & spiritual connection to God and the universe i live in and to show my gratitude for His deliverance from the hell that was my life.

I want to have civil conversations and human correspondence with people of religious persuasions other than my own, which is Christian (conservative Lutheran by indoctrination; liberal by persuasion) with deep interest in and respect for other religions, especially Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism (the others with which am somewhat acquainted and in which I find practical, conceptual, and spiritual value). I have the greatest difficulty in correspondence with people of my own religion, other Christians who have a "literalist" view of their faith and feel obliged to convert me or, failing that, get angry because I resist becoming one of them. At best, the ensuing conversations are alienating because of differences in world views altogether, not just religious views. I suspect it has much to do with personality differences, but it's difficult for me to be present to that when I don't think of the other being human when we are in our foxholes of "truth."

I believe that hospitable conversation about our religions and spiritualities is essential to achieve the human correspondence that, I hope and think, most people are looking for. That conversation must include religious beliefs of all faiths, in depth, without prejudice. President Obama's administration, as any American president's administration, is in a uniquely perfect place to set the tone or quality paradigm for the national conversation that circumscribes and influences all other such conversations in our society. The tone I'm looking for is one that encourages us to find the common ground of essential human goodness, of spiritual aspiration, and of religious purpose. Further, beyond the present common ground, I also want my society to benefit from the life-affirming truths and practices which derive from the unique spiritual history and insights of humans other than our own brand -- and not be afraid of the differences between them and us. My interest in hearing Krista's conversation with Mr. DuBois is to hear from him the tone that the Obama administration is setting for this important national conversation.

I am a male of Norwegian descent, 75 years old, retired now from being an architect and a military pilot. I live in a suburb of Minneapolis. I am married; between my wife and myself we have 4 adult children, two of them with spouses, 3 grandchildren, and one cat.

I adore Speaking of Faith and I'm always interested in hearing about religion and related issues in the U.S.

I'm very excited about the Obama administration and the possibilities for our country to get back on the right track of providing opportunities for all citizens. I've was leery about the government's support of faith-based initiatives under the Bush administration but have more confidence that Obama will maintain appropriate church-state separation. I look forward to learning more about these efforts, and I always enjoy the carefully thought out and challenge questions that Krista asks.

Shahir Ahmed
Executive director of P.O.W.E.R. Inc Pursuit Of Wealth Education and Resources

Speak and work with inner city kids, discussing entrepreneurship and business professionals. The company sets up a workshop/curriculum based on entrepreneurship and business professionals. Inspiring youth to find what they are good at, and how they can use their skills in the business world. P.O.W.E.R works with non-profit and profit organizations.

I am a woman living in New York City and I believe that connecting with our spirit is the only way to get us out of the current mess we are in.

I am a L'Arche community member. Our L'Arche community is an interdenominational Christian community. Krista interviewed our founder Jean Vanier a few months ago.

L'Arche is subject in many ways to government regulation because L'Arche community members who have intellectual disabilities receive government funding and because the home life of people with intellectual disabilities is regulated if 4 or more live together, whether they receive funding or not. Governments generally value L'Arche, but the L'Arche vision and way of life is so different from the vision and way of life underlying the regulations that it makes living L'Arche difficult in the United States. I think a lot about how regulations could be changed to make L'Arche and government regulation get along better.

I am a Protestant Christian male of middle age. Religion in the public sphere rightly interests me. The activities, policies, ideologies, etc. that emanate from the White House have the potential of huge impact on me personally and on our nation at large, for good or for ill. Hearing from the man appointed by our latest President, the same President with a rather controversial, and some would say aberrant experience of religion in the Chicago church he attended for so long, is important for discerning what might issue from the White House over the next few years.

I'm not sure what mistakes are attributed to Bush's efforts with "faith-based initiatives", or even how effective they have been, but the whole topic seemed to be largely overshadowed, if not subsumed completely, in other topics. A question of interest to me for Mr. DuBois is, "Bush clearly pioneered a formal effort for the govt. to promote the national interest through so-called govt.-supported faith-based initiatives. There was much resistence among Bush opponents, perhaps effectively minimizing the positive affects if the opposition had not stood and his policies prevailed. How is this administration's approach to faith-based solutions to societal needs and problems different from the prior administration's and how will it avoid the same pitfalls that befell the previous attempts?"

Thank You,
Adam Benson

I live in a rough part of Baltimore,

I am raising a healthy 14 year old Black Male son (Single Dad)

There are a number of children on my block who are not making it and who ( I humbly submit) vicariously are being raised by us.

I want to help but need help Learning the best practices.

Also, in helping I need to associate with others who are interested in helping.

How are you getting the word out to us on what governmental help is available?

What kinds of ideas are you taking? Who are you listening to, to better understand what problems are being addressed?

I eagerly listen to SOF weekly - often it is my catechesis of choice for the week. I am a full-time member (Director of Music) of a pastoral staff in a medium-sized RC parish in the northeast US. My grad studies (St John's Univ, NY) are in Theology and I try to keep current in issues of religion, faith and politics.

I'm a Baby-Boomer who is born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I was brought up in a Reform Jewish synagogue, and still consider myself a classic Reformed Jew. My folks were both born in Germany and left before the war. My father spent several years in Holland before immigrating to the US in the early 40s. My mom's family immigrated to South America in the late 30's and she came to the US in 1955. She met and married my father the same year.

I'm curious to see what Mr. DuBois has to say about the Christian Right's impact on politics today. I strongly believe in the separation between church (or Temple) and State and have concerns about the increasing role religion is playing in American society. I believe in G-d and consider myself spiritual, but I also respect the right of others to feel differently.

Quaker upbringing, existentialist, living in bible-belt usa.
I have grown to understand dogma; the main difference between Friends and Christians.

I'm a big SOF fan who is involved in congregation-based community organizing where I live - Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The name of our organization is JONAH (Joining Our Neighbors, Advancing Hope), affiliated at the state level with WISDOM, and at the international level with the Gamaliel Foundation, which (as I understand it) is the organization through which President Obama did his community organizing in Chicago.

I am an ordained interfaith minister as well as a gothi in the germanic reconstruction tradition. I am interested to know whenever our government attempts to intersect with faith in a public and meaningful way. I don't mind that government recognizes the importance of faith (any faith) for some folks, but I'm cautious about government taking an active role in it.


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