President Obama Interviews Marilynne Robinson in NYRB

"Just have a conversation with somebody I really like and see how it turns out."

With all the interviews President Obama has been participating in of late, it only makes sense that eventually POTUS would want to switch roles and dole out the questions. He does just that in the Nov. 5 issue of The New York Review of Books, going full literary in an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson, of Gilead and Housekeeping fame.

The interview, available online now, is transcribed from an audio interview from Sept. 14, when Obama met with Robinson in Des Moines, Iowa. And boy was the president happy to be doing something non-political in Iowa, to “just have a conversation with somebody I really like and see how it turns out.” No big.

The NYRB, that tease, has split the already-quite-lengthy interview in two, with the second half to be published in the subsequent issue.

Christianity and faith feature largely in part one of the interview, including in this exchange in which President Obama seems to call out, in not-naming-names fashion, politicos whose religiosity leads toward xenophobic tendencies (emphasis ours).

The President: How do you reconcile the idea of faith being really important to you and you caring a lot about taking faith seriously with the fact that, at least in our democracy and our civic discourse, it seems as if folks who take religion the most seriously sometimes are also those who are suspicious of those not like them?

Robinson: Well, I don’t know how seriously they do take their Christianity, because if you take something seriously, you’re ready to encounter difficulty, run the risk, whatever. I mean, when people are turning in on themselves—and God knows, arming themselves and so on—against the imagined other, they’re not taking their Christianity seriously. I don’t know—I mean, this has happened over and over again in the history of Christianity, there’s no question about that, or other religions, as we know.