Exclusive: Obama's Religious Upbringing Explored by Author Stephen Mansfield

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 5, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Barack Obama's faith has been the subject of constant controversy in this election, however, through all the scandals Obama has insisted that he's a Christian who lives by Christian values. A new book, "The Faith of Barack Obama," explores the presidential hopeful's unique religious upbringing and his conversion to Christianity.

Joining us now is the author of that book, Stephen Mansfield.

Steve, good to have you here. Thanks very much.


Video: Watch Sean and Alan's interview with Stephen Mansfield

COLMES: You, yourself, are a conservative, evangelical person.

MANSFIELD: Pro-life conservative, yes.

COLMES: And yet you wrote a very fair book here about Barack Obama.

MANSFIELD: I tried to, yes.

COLMES: He is not a Muslim, as some have tried to say.


COLMES: Never was a Muslim.

MANSFIELD: Practiced in his youth with his father lightly, very lightly, but no, never officially a Muslim, because you can't really be one until after adolescence. And he wasn't...

COLMES: And there's no question he is a devotee of Jesus Christ, that he worships Jesus Christ.

MANSFIELD: No question.

COLMES: And, in fact, you even talk about having visited the church that has been such a subject of controversy here.


COLMES: And seeing Otis Moss, the current pastor, and saying he gives one of the better sermons anybody might have given.

MANSFIELD: The sermon I heard from him was a fine sermon. I pastored for 20 years, and you know, I'm not an expert, but it was a fine, fine Christian sermon.

COLMES: Why did Barack Obama then drop out of the church? Was it just political pressure? Did he truly have a difference with the church? I mean, some people felt if that's what you truly believe stay in the church.

MANSFIELD: Well, I think he should be given credit for trying. He tried not to throw his pastor under the bus. He tried to stay — tried to stay connected, tried to honor his pastor. But I think when even the guest ministers were making politically charged statements, he knew that would be hung around his neck, you know, forever. And it was wise for him to...

COLMES: Why does — you've written books on a number of people now and their faith. But why is it important to know — we have a separation of church and state. We have a government, supposed to be religion- neutral. Why is it so important to know what somebody believes religiously? They're not going to legislate that.

MANSFIELD: Well, first of all, because if their religion is serious, if they're serious about their religion, it's one of the most important things about them. It's going to frame their world view, frame their sense of justice, frame their sense of right and wrong, and therefore, frame their policies.

It also tells you a lot about the man. I mean, in an age in which we know what kind of underwear a presidential candidate wears and what his dog's name is, we should know what he believes religiously, because that's important.

COLMES: So if that's the case, given what we know about his religiously, how would he then be as president, based on that, if you believe that is the basis on which he would govern?

MANSFIELD: I believe that Barack Obama is a serious Christian, though of a theologically and politically type — politically liberal type, I mean. And I believe that he will govern out of the religious base. He's already said he's going to continue George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives. He's going to continue policies oriented towards prayer and bringing faith into the public square.

And so I think he'll be novel for us in the American experience, because he'll be a left — a theologically left leaning president, should he become president, bringing his values into the Oval Office.

HANNITY: Steve, is it possible to sit in the pews for 20 years and not know where Reverend Wright is coming from?

MANSFIELD: I don't think so. I don't think so.

HANNITY: So he probably lied to us?

MANSFIELD: No, I don't think he lied to us. I think that there's a mixture...

HANNITY: OK. He said, "That's not the man I knew."

MANSFIELD: Well, I don't know about you, Sean, but I've sat in churches and listened to pastors and sometimes been surprised by the things that...

HANNITY: Chickens coming home to roost, G-D America. Have you ever sat in a church that said that?

MANSFIELD: I've never sat in a church like that. But let me say this.

HANNITY: He didn't condemn him, even after he said that.

MANSFIELD: Well, no, he — he did, actually.

HANNITY: No, not really.

MANSFIELD: He said — he said this is now a different generation; this is not where I am.

Now, you know, again, I'm pro-life conservative. I'm not necessarily an Obama supporter. But I'm willing to say that Reverend Wright is a mixture. He's a man who believes in liberating the oppressed, and he would mean that both spiritually and politically.

At the same time, he believes in a black liberation theology that is very much oriented toward the teaching of James Cone...

HANNITY: The black family, the black community.

MANSFIELD: I've seen you debate that with him before. So I think it's important for us to realize that, you know, Trinity United Church of Christ is not just a Marxist recruitment center. It's a good, solid church with an overlay of this black liberation theology.

HANNITY: What about — what about the Hamas material that was in their book? What about Louis Farrakhan on the cover of their magazine?


HANNITY: It seems to me you're glassing over and you're making excuses...


HANNITY: ... for a church where a pastor is extremely bigoted, has a strong anti-American sentiment with, frankly, racist overtones.

MANSFIELD: Well, when you understand black liberation theology, you understand that what it says is that Jesus came to set the oppressed free, and, therefore, that should be the work of the church. Reverend Wright takes that in a political as well as spiritual sense, so he's going to be pro-Palestinian. He's going to be pro-women who are in need of an abortion.

HANNITY: Pro-Palestinian. But to put a Hamas, a terrorist group.


HANNITY: Louis Farrakhan is one of the biggest racists and anti- Semites. Would you go to any church that would put his face on the cover?


HANNITY: But Barack Obama's face was on the same cover with him.


HANNITY: He stayed in the church. You know what's bothering me her? This is the fringe of the — of the black liberation theology movement. And he stuck there 20 years. Then he claimed to have no knowledge that any of this happened. I don't buy it. I think it's an outright lie.

MANSFIELD: And I think it's valid for us to ask those questions. What I'm saying, having gone to Trinity and having studied it, is that it's not all this radicalism that's been presented. It's not all...

HANNITY: There's a lot of it.

MANSFIELD: ... of the aspects of Jeremiah.

HANNITY: There's a lot of it. There's a lot of it, isn't there?

MANSFIELD: There is a good deal of it, absolutely.

HANNITY: And so he would — he would have known that in 20 years?

MANSFIELD: He would have, but he — I will have to give him credit. He actually has distanced himself from a great deal of it. I know it's disturbing, Sean. I'm just saying.

HANNITY: It's not disturbing. I don't believe it. I think he knew full well, and I think he was in full agreement. That's my thinking.

MANSFIELD: We disagree on that. And I understand where you're coming from.

HANNITY: All right. Reverend, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

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