I’ve never hidden my dislike for George Bush’s creation of the White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, renamed under Obama as the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. I also dissented when candidate Barack Obama talked about expanding the role of that office, should he be elected.
But while I have my own skepticism, I’ve also wondered, where is the conservative outrage over that office’s creation and now expansion in its diatribes about the growth of government, given how conservatives with platforms say the only permissible government responsibility is defense? There are few things more private and personal than religion and yet there it is – a Bush-created government entity that funnels federal taxpayer dollars to faith-based and community groups – but no demand from conservatives for its demise?
Now, the New York Times reports on the person chosen by President Obama, Pentecostal Pastor, 26 year old Joshua DuBois, to lead the office and its expansion:
The office, created by President George W. Bush by executive order at the start of his first term, is likely to have an even broader mandate in the Obama White House, said the religious leaders [who were speaking to the Times], who requested anonymity because the appointment has yet to be announced.
The White House declined to comment.
Renamed the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the office will not merely oversee the distribution of grants to religious and community groups, but will also look for other ways to involve those groups in working on pressing social problems.
Here’s an endorsement of DuBois:
“He is smart. He is calm. He is steady,” [UPenn Professor John J.] DiIulio said of Mr. DuBois, “and I think he’s very close to the new president. He’d be a good guy to do it.”
Who is the speaker? A professor of DuBois’ who DuBois “…tapped…for advice on the religion-based initiative last year and through the transition process” – who also happened to have been George Bush’s first chief of the very same office DuBois will now lead.
For more information on Pastor DuBois, here’s a profile from last summer done by the Boston Globe. An excerpt:
[During Obama’s campaign,] DuBois, who says he found his religious and political voice while a student in Boston, heads what has become the most intensive outreach effort by a Democratic candidate to people of faith in a nation where the most frequent worshipers also tend to be Republican. He oversees a staff of four, as well as six interns, who have organized about 200 town hall meetings about faith and now are launching a series of smaller house parties to discuss values and the campaign.
DuBois was born in Bar Harbor, Maine, and spent his first few years in Cambridge, but was raised in Nashville, which he considers his hometown, and then in Xenia, Ohio, where he attended high school. His stepfather is an itinerant minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He chose BU, he said, because “I wanted to see the world – to go to a bigger city – and BU stuck out as a cosmopolitan campus in the middle of a downtown area.”
…”Initially, I was not interested in reintegrating myself in a Christian community, because I figured I knew it all, growing up in the church,” DuBois said. “But what I didn’t really know was how to have a personal relationship with Jesus.”
DuBois wound up joining Schneeberg’s congregation, Calvary Praise & Worship Center, a tiny evangelical congregation in Cambridge affiliated with the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, a small, predominantly African-American denomination. DuBois, although just a teenager, started preaching when the pastor was away and was named an associate pastor. He and Schneeberg also led Bible study at a halfway house, and some days they would walk along Massachusetts Avenue, offering pizza and conversation to homeless folks along the way.
“He was just 18 or 19, but his wisdom belied his age,” said the Rev. Warren F. Collins, pastor of the church.
DuBois graduated cum laude from BU in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. From BU, he went to Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and National Affairs, where he earned a master’s degree in public affairs in 2005. He then enrolled in the part-time program at Georgetown University Law School, but he left for the campaign.
At the same time, he was quickly garnering experience in politics, as an aide to Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, and then as a fellow in the office of Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York.
He first encountered Obama on television – DuBois was at a restaurant in Washington when he saw Obama’s keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston – and he was struck in particular by one Obama line, “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States.”
“I had been struggling with whether I should go into ministry or politics, and I felt that God was leading me to find a way to do both, but I didn’t know any politician that got that intersection right,” DuBois said. “That phrase jarred me.”
DuBois decided he wanted to work for Obama, then a candidate for the US Senate. He wrote to Obama’s campaign manager and got a form rejection. After Obama arrived in Washington, DuBois twice drove to his office but failed to get a job interview. After a third appeal, Obama hired him as a Senate aide. Part of his job was addressing faith issues.
Adam Taylor, the senior political director at Sojourners, an evangelical antipoverty organization, said DuBois became “part of a loose network of progressive-minded Christians” who have been meeting in Washington for the past few years.
Taylor said that although DuBois grew up in the black church, whose adherents have traditionally voted for Democrats, he has proved deft at reaching out to “parts of the electorate that were almost written off by Democrats for decades, particularly white evangelicals and white Catholics.”
Here’s the Wall Street Journal‘s profile (dated 8/16/09) on DuBois and an excerpt regarding DuBois’ relationship with Obama:
Sen. Obama hired Mr. DuBois in 2005 to spearhead a religious outreach program in his senate office. He now consults Mr. DuBois on all faith-related issues — ranging from the fallout over remarks by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, to Mr. Obama’s controversial proposal to boost federal funding for religious groups that provide community service.
“Josh is a great friend and has really led the way for Democrats in terms of faith outreach,” Sen. Obama said in an email. “The grassroots conversations we’ve held across the country, our landmark evangelical meetings…are helping to change our nation, person by person.”
At a recent house party in Cincinnati, 15 Catholic voters packed into a small living room. They snacked on cookies and punch as Mr. DuBois played a DVD of Sen. Obama sitting in front of a fireplace talking about the role of faith in politics. When the short video ended, Mr. DuBois led a discussion about how religious voters can come to terms with voting for a pro-choice Democrat.
“Abortion is certainly a deeply moral issue, but so is struggling to afford decent health care for your family, or straining to put food on your table,” he recalls telling the group. [emphasis added]
So, first, I’d like to know if anyone wants to take bets on if and when fiscal conservatives who want to shrink government are going to start complaining about the growth and direction Obama has in mind for this office?
But additionally, here’s my worry – and I’m admitting, it’s my worry, don’t know who else if anyone else shares it but it’s reminiscent of worries I’ve voiced before, to wit: I was all over the Neel Kashkari* pick (in an NPR report, he’s described as, “very intelligent…very young” and he was 35 – DuBois is 26) when he was selected by Hank Paulson to oversee the doling out of the $700 billion bailout package last fall because I felt that his experience was inadequate for the task at hand that involved so.much.money. and so.many.corporations that we can never really track.
I assert the same worries here. Though the money involved will be only a few billion and the president making the selection is someone for whom I voted (see this post again regarding my dissent from the first announcement that Obama wanted to broaden the faith-based outreach), and the few things I’ve read indicate great potential of Pastor DuBois (though he is nearly 10 years younger than Kashkari), again – this is taxpayer money being given out to more than 3000 different faith-based groups, according to the most recent numbers and has given out at least $4.4billion ($2.2 bil in each of 2005 and 2007 numbers) in grants. Here’s a 2006 Pew report on the office and the increase of its reach.
Three thousand different entities and billions of dollars.
Okay – I’ve made my point about concerns. Go ahead fellow taxpayers – what do you think?
*Kashkari has an Ohio connection just as DuBois does – Kashkari graduated from a prep school in Hudson, while DuBois grew up in part in Xenia.
UPDATE: The most recent AP report on this appointment, in six paragraphs of coverage, not once mentions DuBois’ status as a Pentecostal pastor or his age. Come on. The guy is heading up the faith-based office – I think that pastor thing is relevant and the age of 26, heading up a federal office? Also newsworthy. Sheesh.
Cross-posted from Writes Like She Talks.