WASHINGTON - He named a best-selling book after a pastor's sermon and was outspoken as a candidate about the value of faith in public life. He infused stump speeches with phrases like "I am my brother's keeper," and made his journey to Christianity a central theme of the life story he shared with voters.
But since President Obama took office a year ago, his faith has largely receded from public view. He has attended church in the capital only four times, and worshiped half a dozen times at a secluded Camp David chapel. He prays privately, reads a "daily devotional" that aides send to his BlackBerry, and talks to pastors by phone, but seldom frames policies in spiritual terms.
The greater privacy reflects not a slackening of devotion, but a desire to shield his spirituality from the maw of politics and strike an inclusive tone at a time of competing national priorities and continuing partisan division, according to people close to the White House on faith issues.
"There are several ways that he is continuing to grow in his faith, all of them - or practically of all them - he's trying to keep as private and personal as possible so they will not be politicized," said Pastor Joel C. Hunter, who is part of an inner circle of pastors the president consults by phone for spiritual guidance.
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