Well, my book is overdue at the library and it’s filled with post-its to mark places that I found profound, thought-provoking, or lame. I’ve been taking it to work and reading it when I have a few free moments. I’m more and more coming to the conclusion that the President would make a very good university professor. And that the ambivalence he expresses, over and over, work against him—and us, when we need firm decisive leadership. I’m wondering if compassionate, sensitive, intelligent people do not make good leaders. I recall very clearly being impressed with Jimmy Carter’s sincerity, and also thinking he was stupid. Stupid in underestimating the task before him and stupid in overestimating the scope of his influence. In not realizing how hard it is for a president to make real change and thinking he could do everything.

Obama reminds me of Carter. We still have two years left, give or take, in his presidency, and a hostage crisis, or the like, occurs, how will he act?

The last three chapters in the book are faith, race and family, with an epilogue. After reading the chapter on faith, I do not believe that Obama believes in God, or even Allah. His scant observations on his spiritual experiences are told at a remove that belies the true spiritual Christian conversion. I think he thinks it’s a good and worthy concept, but he never seems to go to his knees, to acknowledge the power of Christ. This chapter is mostly an intellectual discussion of the issues of government and religion. I heard a sound bite from Glenn Beck that I thought was pretty powerful, something about people confusing freedom OF religion with freedom FROM religion. In this chapter, Barack Obama identifies himself as a Christian. Nah, I ain’t buyin’ it. He spends too much time trying to convince the reader we need freedom from religion. Converts to Christ don’t speak about him so disinterestedly.

That being said, I don’t care much. It’s good if our leaders are Christians, but I wonder how many of our presidents really were? Nixon, kneeling and pouring his heart out and turning his life to God? Don’t think so. I don’t think we’ve had a leader who put God first in his life since Jimmy Carter. They all pose.

The chapter on race is carefuly worded but you can’t miss Obama’s resentment, even anger at the prejudice minorities encounter as a matter of course. (A personal example, my neighbors are Tongan. Good people. Salt of the earth. But they’ve shared with me that they obey the law strictly. They never go over the speed limit or run a stop sign. Because they’ve been targeted unfairly; they routinely get stopped over trivial issues; their car searched. Those of us who are ivory white have no clue what this is like.) Like the professor I referred to in my previous post, though, Obama is careful not to sound too strident or angry. It’s not politically pragmatic.

I haven’t finished this book yet. I’ll wrap it up next week. I think it’s possible that when—surely not if—Obama’s presidential Gethsemane hits, he WILL be brought to his knees and “get it” —realize the truth of the things he says about God and his faith will become personal and not practical. I also think it’s possible that he will rise to a difficult situation and show backbone that necessarily must disregard social sensitivies when our country needs backbone more than it needs heart.

Ideally, we would have a president who’s deeply spiritual but sensible. Compassionate and kind but strong and able to look to the future without being tripped up at the sad situations occurring at his feet. Perfect. Well, Jesus.

Barring that, we have to deal with what is. And what is, is fallible, human beings. Those who would deify Obama because he sounds reasonable, or maybe because they’re just committed Democrats do us no more disservice than those who condemn him because we can’t quite figure him out. I think what’s going to happen there is history is going to show that he was just a man, not a terrorist or an elitist or a saint.

You know, I love what Harry Truman did for our country. I think he was a great guy. I think he had uh, you know. But a lot of people hated him. We Americans eat our leaders alive then spit them out. Has it always been this way? I was thinking the other day how I want to feel really good about my president. And how I haven’t felt that since Ford was president. I’m glad I read this book, because I feel better and more hopeful than I did before. Obama might be okay.