President Barack Obama's pick to head his faith-based initiative is a 26-year old former Pentecostal pastor by the name of Joshua DuBois. The media have largely noted DuBois's religious affiliation in a matter-of-fact manner.
In a Newsweek Web exclusive, Lisa Miller and Amanda Coyne set out to find something juicy about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's house of worship, Wasilla Bible Church. But finding a "staid" worship environment that "steer[s] clear of politics" and whose main attraction is Biblical preaching, they opted to focus on where the governor used to worship regularly years ago, an Assemblies of God church:
Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing branches of Christianity in the world, and the Assemblies of God is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the country, claiming 1.6 million members. Pentecostals are generally characterized by a strict adherence to moral codes--no tobacco, no alcohol, no social dancing, no sex outside of marriage--and by their belief that the Holy Spirit bestows upon some the gift of "speaking in tongues," a reference to Acts 2: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues." A spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign has said that Palin attends many churches and does not consider herself to be Pentecostal.
When Palin worships in Juneau, she attends an Assembly of God church there. Sarah Palin may not call herself a Pentecostal, but she has deep and long experience in Pentecostal churches. And as the race wears on, this biographical fact will likely become another religious Rorschach test--pleasing to some, discomfiting to others.
Newsweek wasn't alone. On September 9, a CNN.com headline informed readers that former Palin pastor Tim McGraw thought that the "GOP may be downplaying Palin's religious beliefs." Four days earlier, NPR's "All Things Considered" found "Examining Palin's Pentecostal Background" worthy of coverage, concluding with a quote by a Christian theologian defending the media's scrutiny of Palin and her supposed embrace of Pentecostalism:
[Dallas Theological Seminary professor Darrell] Bock says President Bush and Democratic nominee Barack Obama have already been through this sort of spiritual vetting. Now it's Palin's turn.
Yet when it comes to DuBois's beliefs, the media seem disinterested in delving any further than the surface mention of his faith.
Reporting the story in a 12-paragraph article on January 28, New York Times staffer Laurie Goodstein found nothing but praise for DuBois:
President Obama plans to name Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and political strategist who handled religious outreach for the Obama campaign, to direct a revamped office of faith-based initiatives, according to religious leaders who have been informed about the choice.
“I’ve been very impressed with this young man,” said John J. Dilulio Jr., a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who was the first person appointed to this job by Mr. Bush and who soon left in frustration.
Mr. Dilulio was tapped by Mr. DuBois for advice on the religion-based initiative last year and through the transition process.
“He is smart. He is calm. He is steady,” Mr. Dilulio said of Mr. DuBois, “and I think he’s very close to the new president. He’d be a good guy to do it.”
Of course, Obama's far-left secularist voters may have some gripes with DuBois's religious denomination. The Web site for the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God contains pro-life, pro-traditional marriage language in its statement of faith: