My Take: What's next for President Obama's 'pastor-in-chief'
February 14th, 2013
10:35 AM ET

My Take: What's next for President Obama's 'pastor-in-chief'

Editor’s note: Joshua DuBois served as director of President Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2008 until he stepped down last week.

By Joshua DuBois, Special to CNN

I first heard the name Barack Obama in the summer of 2004 over a half-pound burger and fries on Capitol Hill. I was putting in long hours as a legislative intern for a wily member of Congress between two years of graduate school at Princeton, where I was studying public policy. The pay was meager - enough for gas for my beat-up Chevy Blazer and a tiny Craigslist apartment with two guys and a cat. But it was good to be in Washington and have a few months to wrestle with what in the world I was going to do with the rest of my life.

But by the time my internship was ending in late July, I wasn’t any closer to figuring things out. I knew I loved Christ - I was an associate pastor at a small Pentecostal church back home - and wanted my career to be tied to my faith. I also knew I wanted to help people who were struggling; my grandmother was active in the civil rights movement, and my parents made sure that working for justice and mercy was in my bones. And finally, I knew that I had some serious student loans to pay back. The hard part was figuring out how to balance all three.

Late one day, July 27 to be exact, I walked a couple of blocks to my favorite neighborhood dive, a local spot named the Hawk 'n' Dove. There was always a happy hour special going on at the Hawk, and they showed more Red Sox games than Yankees - which, since I'm a Sox fan, was a good thing in my book.

I settled in to enjoy my burger when the place got quiet on me - and the Hawk 'n' Dove was never quiet. A man was on television, an Illinois state senator named Barack Obama. And this guy was giving quite a speech.

I put my food down and listened. The state senator touched on many themes I loved - themes of justice, of fighting for the vulnerable and sick, of deep love for my country. And then he said, almost out of nowhere: “The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states: red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. … We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

"We worship an awesome God."

That line hit me in the gut. This young state senator had reminded me of the songs I had sung at Bible camps growing up, arms upraised: “Our God Is An Awesome God.” He reminded me of long nights, struggles with homelessness and poverty and desperation that I had experienced over the years, and the power of pure worship to shout down life’s loudest dins. He reminded me that the grace I had felt since I became a Christian - felt so fully and so purely - was not relegated to one party or another, to a red state or a blue state, but instead was available to all who sought it. “We worship an awesome God in the blue states.”

I had to work for this guy.

And so, with no inside connections, I set about doing just that. Fortunately for me, Obama and the people around him - folks like Pete Rouse, Valerie Jarrett, Denis McDonough, Melody Barnes, Michael Strautmanis, and Chris Lu - valued results more than reputation, and saw the need to engage people of faith in the public square. So they took a shot on me. I am grateful they did, because it has been an amazing ride ever since.

As U.S. Sen. Obama’s adviser on faith issues on Capitol Hill, as candidate Obama’s religious affairs director on his 2008 campaign, and as President Obama’s director of the White House faith-based initiative, I have had the honor of seeing firsthand the life and heart of a president who cares deeply about his country, his family and his God, in times of prayer, conversation and diligent work. I’ve also been able to manage the White House faith-based office, leading a phenomenal team that expanded partnerships with faith-based and nonprofit groups around the country.

Over the last four years, we’ve dealt with our fair share of challenging issues, and played a role in some of the country’s most contentious debates. But more than anything, we’ve been able to marshal and amplify the extraordinary kindness of millions of Americans: religious and secular groups who are putting it on the line every day, expanding opportunity and dignity to those who need help most.

After this amazing journey, I am leaving the White House to serve in a few new ways.

First, with my friends at HarperOne, I am writing a book of daily devotionals based on the meditations I send Obama each morning. I’m honored that the president has said these reflections have been helpful to him, and excited to share a selection of these thoughts with all kinds of leaders around the country.

Second, with Michael Wear, the 2012 Obama campaign religious affairs director, and a few other dear friends, we will soon launch a new social enterprise, Values Partnerships. Values Partnerships will help public, private and nonprofit organizations bring to scale powerful, measurable partnerships with the faith community that solve big challenges, from improving public health to expanding financial literacy to reducing recidivism. We’ll also help leaders in the church and faith-based nonprofits navigate the public square around them, based on our experiences over the years.

Finally, I’m looking forward to teaching, speaking and writing about life at the intersection of religion and politics, particularly focusing on how believers can live their faith powerfully in the world. Through trial and error, I have a few lessons to share on that point, and many still to learn.

Words can’t express the gratitude I feel for a president and first lady who love so deeply and express that love through service, and for a team of current and former officials who have embraced the importance of people of faith in American life.

And as a committed African-American Pentecostal, I never thought I could become such dear friends with so many in the faith community - Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Jews, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats - who care first about God, and second about their neighbors, and seek to live this care out into the world. I would hope to honor those friendships, continue to serve this good president, and let my life and work be a song of worship in the exciting days ahead.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief

soundoff (401 Responses)
  1. Laquonda

    They do resemble each other. Both want this nation destroyed and Obama is sure doing everything he can to make that happen. $20T in debt when he leaves….

    March 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  2. Laquonda

    Well, if the devil had a son, it would look just like.......BHO

    March 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  3. Francine Wilkins

    Jesus Christ put Obama in office and it is nothing you or anyone else can do about it. if you took the time to examine yourself and was really truethful about what you saw in YOURSELF you would not have time to talk about someone else. we all have flaws and the means YOU!!!!!

    March 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  4. Laquonda

    when clear thinking people think of the devil, they subconsciously see him as Obama.........

    March 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for children nor any living thing

      Except for the fact that anyone who thinks "clearly" knows there is no such thing as "the devil"! What a hoot!

      March 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  5. Mary

    I do see the family resemblance................

    March 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  6. Mary

    my peeps, lookie here.......we already knew that Obama is the devils advocate. this is not a new idea.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  7. Lucifer

    Who am I to disagree with God's will. If he wanted Obama not to resemble Satin then he would have made Obama look like something else. Maybe the back end of a donkey for example.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • back end of a donkey

      as long as i don't have to look like you

      March 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  8. Julie

    Obviously, he's another long lost Obama brother!

    March 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  9. Julie

    Barack Huessein Obama
    ...Deceiptful, Arrogant, Untrustworthy/Liar, Thinks he's a Messiah.........All Fits!

    March 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      He's no worse than most POTUS and better than a lot.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  10. Julie

    Some facts for you ignorant progressives.......ONLY Obama's DNA will tell us the real truth about who he is. Obama's father hated America, capitalism and christianity. Sounds like the devil to me!

    March 18, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • TC

      We already know who he is.

      He is the President of the US, and an American citizen.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Links to evidence?

      March 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  11. Julie

    Check out that picture carefully. When you look into his eyes you see nothing but pure evil.

    And looking into the other guy's eyes, I just see an actor playing a role.

    March 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  12. Ted

    They just wanted Satan as realistic as possible!!!!!!

    March 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Billy

      get some help, troll.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • sockcucker

      If they paid enuf surely someone would have uglied up as Dick Cheney.

      March 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  13. Ted

    All one has to do is watch what Barry does and says to know that he is a Muslim. He only quotes the bible for political gain. However, when he wants to state his beliefs he quotes from the "Holy" Kuran...

    March 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Any links to evidence of that?

      March 18, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  14. Ted

    Obama isn't Satan. He's the Antichrist!

    March 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  15. Barry

    That would explain the fake birth certificate......

    March 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  16. hillary

    It's not our fault that Obama looks like Satan. Or is it the other way around? Of course Satan can take on any image he likes. Maybe he likes Obama!

    March 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  17. Goranesh

    I just bought a great Ariel Atom from having earned $9356 this month and would you believe, $10k this past-month. This is really the most-comfortable work I have ever had. I began this 6 months ago and right away was bringing in more than $83 per/h. This is what I do, Rich45.C0M____

    March 13, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Just because you watch Top Gear and know the names of cool cars doesn't change the fact that you're full of sh!t.

      March 13, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  18. Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

    Written and produced by men. Hey Picasso inspired me to paint but he didnt paint my paintings. This is the reality.....men wrote the bible. People have faith in writings of men. I have no doubt they might have been "inspired" by their belief. But you are being dishonest with yoruself if you are saying God wrote something that he/she never laid a hand to.

    March 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Charlotte, NC

      The bible was inspired by God. It is God breathed. Therefore, it is His sayings. Not man's thoughts or opinions.

      March 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for children nor any living thing


      March 21, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for children nor any living thing

      Being "inspired" by delusions that do not exist is clearly a form of Mental Illness. ALL religious texts are conceived and written by humans, for there is no other being that writes text, but "us".

      March 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  19. wowzah

    What a lovely post. Your experiences will serve you well on your life's journey. Much Blessings.

    March 10, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Science

      wowzah you too Peace

      Gravity wins no god(s} required or splat goes the fairy.

      Curtains Down for the Black Hole Firewall Paradox: Making Gravity Safe for Einstein Again


      March 12, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  20. Science

    Hey bethany/chad cause is non casual agent religious BS

    Hey Bobie and As-stin Chad/rachel l4h fred Robert Brown loony bethany etc etc All creationists !!! CC too

    Was the bible around back then ?

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.


    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.


    March 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.