Obama to fathers: Raise your children

CHICAGO Two weeks ago, the senator and his family left Trinity United Church of Christ, following controversial comments by Rev. Jeremiah Wright and appearance at the church by Fr. Michael Pfleger.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee took his family Sunday to the Apostolic Church of God near his home in the Kenwood neighborhood on the Chicago's South Side. While Obama said that he and his family were unlikely to settle on a new church home until at least January, it did, at times, sound as if Apostolic's pastor was auditioning for Obama and Obama for Apostolic.

The Apostolic congregation greeted Obama as if he were one of its own. Although nothing was said explicitly about the possibility of the Obama's joining the church during the service, the idea was certainly on people's minds.

Apostolic is, after all, one of the South Side's most politically powerful churches, with more than 20,000 members and a leadership that is more conservative and less controversial than Obama's former church. Retiring Apostolic Bishop Arthur Brazier's message given before Obama stepped up to the podium Sunday seemed, at times, to be directed to a national audience.

"America today is not the America of yesteryear, and I don't think it behooves us well to keep talking about the past," Brazier said to the crowd.

Obama called Brazier a great friend who has counseled and supported him in the past and beat him at the occasional game of tennis.

"I was talking to Bishop Brazier. He said, 'It's an honor to have you here.' I said, 'I'm the same young lawyer who helped you get a parking lot,'" said Obama.

However, the main theme of Sunday's Father's Day service was fatherhood itself. Obama spoke in no uncertain terms about the absence of fathers in nearly half of America's African-American households, and he spoke of his own experience as the son of a single parent.

"Some of it has to do with a tragic history, but we can't keep using that as an excuse," Obama said. "Any fool can have a child, but that doesn't make you a father. Having the courage to raise a child is what makes you a father."

Despite the sometimes harsh words, reaction the senator's speech was positive, and some churchgoers encouraged him to choose Apostolic as his next church home.

"I love that he motivated me, inspired me. I'm just excited, elated. This is a wonderful time in history," member Genean Stuttley said.

"I think it's a great church. I think it's a church he can be comfortable with, he and his family," said Dr. C. Emmanuel Ayers, also an Apostolic member.

Obama, who spent part of his Saturday filling sandbags in Iowa City, was expected to remain in Chicago with his family for the remainder of Father's Day. Monday, he is set to travel to Detroit for a rally at the Joe Louis Arena.

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