WaPo Publishes Puffy 25-Paragraph Story: 'When It Comes to Praying, Obama Prefers Privacy'

"When it comes to praying, Obama prefers privacy."

Thus reads the page A2 headline for Michael Shear's August 20 Washington Post story that reads like an extended Obama White House campaign press release.

Shear opens with a story about how Obama prayed with "three Christian pastors" over the phone as he flew to Chicago to celebrate his 49th birthday. "As he celebrated his birthday, he was in a reflective mood," Shear cooed. "He told them he wanted to pray about the year that had passed, what's really important in life and the challenges ahead," the Post staffer added before cuing up Joel Hunter, "an evangelical pastor who ws on the call and who is part of a small circle of spiritual advisers who frequently talk to Obama by phone."

Hunter served up the argument of Shear's article, that because Obama is private about his Christian faith, it's no wonder polls show a growing number of people unsure of his faith, with some even thinking he's a Muslim. "You know what happens with a vacuum?" Hunter asked, before answering his own question, "It gets filled."

Aside from Hunter and Obama himself, Shear quoted only Obama staffers: deputy press secretary Bill Burton and Joshua DuBois, Obama's "chief faith adviser in the White House." Shear failed to raise any Christian leaders who, for instance, might question how a Christian like Obama could be as staunchly opposed as he is to any restriction on abortion rights.

Shear also noted that Obama "talked about his belief in Jesus's resurrection" at an Easter breakfast earlier this year, going on to quote the relevant passage in the next paragraph. Yet Shear failed to recognize that Obama's mishmash of spiritual beliefs aren't exactly in line with the exclusivist claims of historic, orthodox Christianity.

Indeed, one can detect a bit of Clintonian word-wrangling in an 2004 interview with Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times, particularly when Obama tackles the meaning of Jesus' statement that he alone is "the way, the truth, and the life" (emphasis mine):

"I am a Christian," the 42-year-old Illinois state senator and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate says, as one of the nearby customers interrupts to congratulate him on his recent primary win. Obama shakes the man's hand and says, "Thank you very much. I appreciate that," before turning his attention directly back to the question.

"So, I have a deep faith," Obama continues. "I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.

"That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived."

It's perhaps an unlikely theological position for someone who places his faith squarely at the feet of Jesus to take, saying essentially that all people of faith -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone -- know the same God.

That depends, Obama says, on how a particular verse from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me," is heard.

Media Bias Debate Religion Polling Christianity Islam Washington Post Obama Watch Michael Shear Joel Hunter