Early this month, at the invitation of Rick Warren, Obama spoke to a hall full of conservative Christian evangelical activists gathered at Saddleback Church in Orange County. Warren, author of the bestseller "The Purpose Driven Life," is among the most successful and popular preachers in the world. Saddleback is his city on a hill, a sprawling campus set above the smooth, clean boulevards of the most suburban of places. His is the kind of congregation where Warren's joke about the authoritarian rule of suburban homeowners associations brings a knowing laugh.
It is definitely not the sort of place you would expect a liberal big-city Democrat to feel at home.
Warren has an aphoristic style of preaching. Remarking on opposing political inclinations, he said: "People ask, 'Pastor Rick, are you right-wing or left-wing?' I'm for the whole bird. One-winged birds fly in circles."
To keep the bird flying straight, Warren had also invited one of Obama's Senate colleagues, Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback is one of the most conservative members of the Senate, and a favorite of the folks who fill Warren's church.
This day, the right wing of the bird flew first. Brownback has a boyish, plain-country countenance. He knew the crowd and the place and was winning in his talk.
Brownback teased Obama about straying beyond his natural habitat. He recalled that he and Obama had spoken together previously in front of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. Just the mention of the NAACP drew a nervous chuckle from the crowd. Brownback might as well have said he had parachuted in behind enemy lines. He said he had been given a polite reception, then had yielded the stage to Obama, who received a raucous welcome, as if Elvis had come on stage.
Brownback then turned toward Obama and told him today would be different. "Welcome to my house," he said; the crowd roared.
When Obama followed Brownback to the Saddleback lectern, he thanked him, but added that he had to correct one thing the Kansan had said: Obama said he felt very much at home in Pastor Rick's church.
"Sam," he said, "this is my house too. This is God's house."
That simply and quickly, Obama was again completely at home in a room full of strangers, and they with him. - DO READ ALL OF 'WHAT IS IT ABOUT OBAMA?' FROM THE LA TIMES