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President Barack Obama's faith has often been called into question by political opponents. As a sleight, he was often called a Muslim during the 2008 campaign. In fact, Obama had been a member of a Christian church in Chicago for two decades. That membership later became a liability during the campaign when fiery sermons from his former pastor Jeremiah Wright surfaced.
Through that controversy and in the intervening years, Obama has turned to Joshua DuBois as a spiritual adviser. DuBois was a young campaign staffer, the director for faith outreach. In the midst of the bruising 2008 presidential campaign, DuBois was quietly praying for his candidate and decided to let him know, sending Obama an e-mail devotional – a short message featuring scripture and inspiration to start the day.
"I was thinking, 'I wonder who is looking out for his soul, his spirit?' Shot him an e-mail, wasn't sure what kind of response I was going to get, or if I was going to get fired, or what would happen if I sent this note," DuBois said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
"He wrote back in a few minutes and said, 'This is exactly what I was looking for," said DuBois.
That message – a short meditation on the 23rd Psalm – started a daily tradition for DuBois. Every morning for the past six years, he has continued that practice, more than 2,000 times.
DuBois joined the administration as the director of faith and neighborhood partnerships, helping to shape policy, and acting as a bridge between faith leaders and the President.
Obama is not someone who wears his religion on his sleeve, but DuBois said religion, spirituality, and Jesus Christ are important to the President.
"I for one would rather have a leader who lives out a sermon than preaches one. I've seen him live it out in his daily life," said DuBois. "It's not something he wears on his sleeve, but he does very carefully cultivate his Christian faith."
But Obama has also been criticized for not picking a church.
"We recognized very early on when you bring the whole package of the presidency, all the Secret Service, all the lines and the barricades and so forth to a local congregation - so instead of picking one congregation, he's visited several," said DuBois.
There's the burden the President brings to the congregation, but then there's also the burden that the preacher or minister can bring to the politician who visits. Politicians don't necessarily want everything that a certain reverend says to be ascribed to them.
"We've even seen that with subsequent visits, that after he attends, the opposition research or the press go back through someone's sermons over the past few years and not only attack the President, but attack the church as well," said DuBois.
Obama knows that all too well. During the 2008 campaign, videos of controversial sermons by his long time Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright surfaced. It lead to an ugly public split between the two, with Obama leaving the church.
With politics, policy, and war, the business of being the president can be altogether unholy.
"It's about having a moral compass always pointing toward what you think is right," said DuBois. "As long as you feel within your own soul that the moves you're making are right with God, and right with yourself, that's the best we can ask for. So my job was to push him towards that relationship with God, to where they could have their own discussion about what was right and then he could make the best decision he can."
Earlier this year DuBois left his role in the administration. There was just one condition for his departure – that he continue to send daily devotions to the President.
This week DuBois published, "The President's Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama," a new book featuring some of devotions he sent the President.
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The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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