A Search For Faith In 'Godless' Washington | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

A Search For Faith In 'Godless' Washington

War has brought the act of faith to the forefront for those who occupy the White House. President Lincoln famously issued a call to prayer during the Civil war. Franklin Roosevelt announced D-Day to the nation with a prayer.

Today, President Obama receives a daily spiritual meditation. The man who sends those messages is a Pentecostal minister named Joshua DuBois.

When he first moved to Washington, D.C., DuBois says he had already formed an impression about the spiritual life of the town.

"I had heard that Washington was, quite frankly, a pretty godless place," he says, "that people weren't serious about their faith and their values."

But what he found was quite the opposite.

"A lot of folks who were active in the public square, when they got back home, they took their faith practice pretty seriously, and that was illuminating for me," he says.

DuBois worked with religious communities across the U.S. as the head of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under Obama. In February 2013, he stepped down and took a teaching position at New York University, and also writes for the Daily Beast.

He tells Kelly McEvers, host of weekends on All Things Considered, that he now sees the nation's capital as a place where peoples' faith is strong. In a recent article for Newsweek, he writes of congressmen, senators and other officials in the public eye who practice their faith openly.

"We just peer a little bit into their lives, not their proclamations, but their private, lived experiences," DuBois says.

That includes people like Sen. Ben Cardin from Maryland, who's Jewish and observes the Sabbath, and Congressman Andre Carson, a Muslim who prays five times a day from his Washington office.

DuBois also wrote about a group of four officials, two Democrats and two Republicans, who meet regularly at a coffeehouse.

"It's a fascinating story," DuBois says.

"Across these significant political divides, they get together once a week and spend a little time in conversation and prayer," he says. "They share about each other's lives, and learn about each other's families, and really seek to bridge those divides."

It often seems that high-profile people in Washington are reluctant to make their faith public. DuBois says there's a desire to remain authentic.

"There's a suspicion that if they're seen as touting their faith and their values, or wearing it on their sleeves, that people will think that they're seeking to gain some political benefit from their religious testimonies," DuBois says. "I think folks are very sensitive about that."

During his own tenure in the capital, DuBois found his faith changed by Washington.

"It has stretched and grown," he says.

"It was a constant struggle, as it is for many people of faith in politics, to maintain your core values and belief when they're under attack," he says. "In many cases, like in the course of a campaign and you're in pitched battle with someone else, you know, there's a temptation to go beyond the boundaries of what your faith says about how you should treat other people."

"Having to fight those battles, winning some and losing some of those internal battles, I think really served to strengthen my own Christian faith — as I think it has done for many people of diverse faith backgrounds in D.C."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Capital Fringe Fest's 'Bethesda' Hits Close To Home

The annual Capital Fringe Festival, which aims to bring new energy and artists to the D.C. area performing arts community, is back. This year's program includes one play that hits close to home.
NPR

'Captain Pizza' Saves The Day, But Doesn't Save Himself A Slice

A pilot found himself hungry during a midflight delay. But instead of just buying a pizza for himself, he bought 50 pizzas for the entire Frontier Airlines plane.
NPR

Administration Officials Defend Funding Request To Stem Border Crisis

President Obama has asked for $3.7 billion to deal with the southern border crisis. There are predictions the number of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. could reach 90,000 by October.
NPR

NSA Implementing Fix To Prevent Snowden-Like Security Breach

A year after Edward Snowden's digital heist, the NSA's chief technology officer says steps have been taken to stop future incidents. But he says there's no way for the NSA to be entirely secure.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.