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Was Obama Ever Baptized?

January 22nd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s unclear. He was a church member, to be sure, but he was Moslem as a child and probably not baptized as an infant. Adult baptism is noticeable enough that one might expect it to be mentioned. It isn’t important enough to him to rate mention in his autobiography, which does talk about his joining the UCC church of Pastor Wright in Chicago.

A blog post looks at some evidence. A newspaper said he was baptized, without offering any evidence, but that was probably just speculation by the reporter.

I wonder if Obama is the first unbaptized President? No- actually not. I don’t think Quakers get baptized, though I might be wrong, and that would cut out Hoover and Nixon.

January 22: As the weblog post I linked to above says, it’s hard to find a credible statement that Obama was baptized. There are statements by reporters, but it looks as if they are just making that up, thinking that if he joined the church he must have been baptized, or confusing answering an altar call with baptism. It would be useful to actually look at his autobiography, though. Here’s some more info:

Beliefnet

Obama has long been an active member of Chicago’s Trinity United
Church of Christ and frequently attends services there. His pastor,
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, officiated at his wedding, baptized both his
daughters, and dedicated his house.

Newsweek

He is now a Christian, having been baptized in the early 1990s at
Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. But rumors about Obama’s
religion persist. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 12 percent of voters
incorrectly believe he’s Muslim; more than a quarter believe he was
raised in a Muslim home.

His baptism presents its own problems. The senior pastor at Trinity at
the time of Obama’s baptism was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the
preacher who was seen damning America on cable TV for weeks last
spring—and will doubtless be seen again this fall. In the NEWSWEEK
Poll, almost half of the respondents say Obama shares at least some of
Wright’s views; nearly a third say Wright might prevent them from
voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee.

and

During his years in Indonesia, Obama went first to a Catholic
school—and then to a public elementary school with a weekly class of
religious education that reflected the dominant Muslim culture. He was
raised, in part, by his stepfather, a man named Lolo, who “like many
Indonesians … followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the
remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths,” Obama wrote in
“Dreams From My Father.” “He explained that a man took on the powers
of whatever he ate.” Lolo introduced young Obama to the taste of dog
meat, snake meat and roasted grasshopper. In Indonesia, Obama has
said, he saw women with and without head coverings and Muslims living
comfortably next to Christians. He has said that his life among
Muslims in Indonesia showed him that “Islam can be compatible with the
modern world.”

AND

He didn’t officially join Trinity until several years later, when he
returned to Chicago as a promising young lawyer intent on becoming a
husband, a father and a professional success. Around the time Obama
was baptized, he says he studied the Bible with gifted teachers who
would “gently poke me about my faith.”

Freerepublic says, without citation:

Nobody, except Obama knows if his conversion to Christianity is real
or not. Although some reports and even Obama have referred to a
“baptism”, there doesn’t appear to be any record of a baptism.

Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin, when
asked about Obama’s baptism, wrote, “I have never been able to obtain
any evidence that he was baptized, although I asked for those
records.”

It seems that Obama’s conversion occurred when he answered one of Rev.
Jeremiah A. Wright’s altar calls by walking down the aisle of Trinity
Church to make a formal commitment of his faith.

I also found:

Mr. Obama was baptized that year, and joining Trinity helped him
”embrace the African-American community in a way that was whole and
profound,” said Ms. Soetoro, his half sister. (April 30, 2007 Monday
A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith BYLINE: By JODI
KANTOR)

A few years later, Obama returned to Chicago from Harvard Law School
to be baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ, with a
predominantly black congregation on the South Side led by Wright.
Obama had come to realize, he wrote in his 2006 book, “The Audacity of
Hope,” that the church “had to serve as the center of the community’s
political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life.” He
described his baptism not as an epiphany but as a conscious choice.
(The Washington Post January 18, 2009 Sunday

Obama ‘s Path to Faith Was Eclectic; President-Elect Will Reach Out to
Diverse Set of Religious Leaders for Advice BYLINE: Eli Saslow;)

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  1. Eric Rasmusen
    January 23rd, 2009 at 11:39 | #1

    I did do a Google search, and his baptism is *not* in the records, nor are any specific witnesses or dates ever mentioned, except an ambiguous reference to his sister (ambiguous because it looks as if she is being quoted for something else, but might also have contributed the information that he was baptized).

    If you do know of a weblink, James, please let us know. I tried Lexis-Nexis as well as Google.

  2. Eric Rasmusen
    January 23rd, 2009 at 11:36 | #2

    I haven’t checked back, but I recall reading convincing stories that when Obama was a boy in Indonesia, his stepfather was Moslem, he went to a Moslem school, and he went to mosque on occasion. He was a little boy, of course, so what would be surprising was if in a Moslem country with a Moslem father (and a mixed-up but decidedly non-Christian mother) he was *not* a Moslem.

  3. James
    January 23rd, 2009 at 08:23 | #3

    Based on the tone of this post, you’ll be relieved to know that Barack Obama was never a Muslim, and that he is a baptized Christian.

    You’re right that adult baptism is significant enough that it would be mentioned — and, indeed, it has been, including the time and place of Obama’s baptism.

    This isn’t speculation by one reporter, but rather a confirmed biographical fact with contemporary witnesses and records. It’s also been widely reported by mainstream media outlets, so I’m very surprised that the blogger you link to would write a post on the subject, without even doing a simple Google search.

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