Stephen Mansfield is a New York Times best-selling author of such books as The Faith of George W. Bush; The Faith of the American Soldier; Ten Tortured Words; as well as biographies of Churchill, Tom Delay, Pope Benedict, and Derek Prince.
Stephen is also a buddy who announced to the world on his blog a few weeks ago that he and I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania early next year–a date roughly six months after his 50th birthday and six months prior to mine.
Stephen has a new book coming out in August. It will be titled, The Faith of Barack Obama, and though it hasn’t even been printed yet, it is already earning him attacks, denunciations and hearty helpings of vilification.
The funny thing is, the folks feeling all denounce-y and vilifilacious are mostly Stephen’s fellow conservative Christians. As he relates in a blog post titled, “An Internet Mugging,” he’s being deluged with emails suggesting that he is surely a son of perdition and thoroughly hell-bound.
So, what has the knickers of my fellow religious righties in such a twist? As best as I can tell, it all stems from an early review by Ben Smith on the Politico.com web site. More specifically, it is the review’s headline, which has now been repeated and linked to thousands of times all over the Web, that has folks all worked up: “Bush Backer Pens Pro-Obama Book.”
Of course, Stephen hasn’t written a “Pro-Obama” book. (I had the opportunity to read the manuscript before it was sent to the publisher.) He has written a fair, objective, earnest exploration of the spiritual influences on Barack Obama–one that makes a gracious, good-faith effort to decode just what the man believes. In other words, Stephen attempts to answer the question so many people are asking right now. Namely, “Is this guy a real-deal Christian and, if so, what flavor?”
Why did Ben Smith characterize Stephen’s book as “pro-Obama?” I can only assume that the polarized political climate has conditioned Smith to assume that every book about a political figure has to be either a vicious, screedy hit piece or a great big advertisement. Smith must have looked at Stephen’s past books and resume; pegged him as a Republican; and therefore assumed the book would be the former. When, to his surprise, it wasn’t, he then defaulted to assuming it was the latter.
I don’t think it occurred to Smith that a pro-life evangelical like Stephen might actually be interested in just presenting the facts fairly and objectively so readers could make their own evaluations. What I know is that Stephen has the soul of a historian. That sensibility comes through in this excerpt from Stephen’s blog post:
[T]here are certain lives you have to understand in any age in order to understand the times. Franklin Roosevelt may not be of your political persuasion but you can’t understand
Americain the twentieth century without understanding his life. The same is true of Obama. Whether you are an evangelical pastor, an anarchist guitar player, a home school mom, a feminist doctor or a libertarian accountant, if you are going to understand Americatoday you have to know a bit about Obama. When you decide that this is true, you are going to hope for a book that tells the facts with as little bias as a flawed human being can manage. Not everything is political. Not everything is perspective. Some things are just true but they are best learned from a decent storyteller.
Maybe when enough Americans conclude that this is so, I won’t have to go to hell after all.
Ironically, the misinformation cascade triggered by Politico’s review may actually work in the book’s favor. It may now get read by liberals who wouldn’t have otherwise picked it up.
In any event, I recommend it to you if you’re interested in some perceptive insight into the spiritual beliefs of the man who may be the next President of the United States.