A few days after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination during his 2004 Illinois Senate campaign, he sat down for an interview with Cathleen Falsani, a religion columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. Falsani wrote a 2004 column based on the interview, but the full transcript appeared only recently on Steven Waldman’s Beliefnet blog. Christianity Today subsequently reprinted it.

It’s no secret that Obama was less guarded in interviews before he initiated his campaign for the presidency, and this transcript only reinforces the point. The comments in response to the Christianity Today reprint display a range of evangelical opinions on Obama, his faith, and their own. But the more critical comments also suggest why the transcript was withheld until now.

What do you believe?

I am a Christian.

So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith.

On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences.

I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10.

My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim.

And I’d say, probably, intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.

(A patron stops and says, “Congratulations,” shakes his hand. “Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Thank you.”)

So, I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there’s an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.

And so, part of my project in life was probably to spend the first 40 years of my life figuring out what I did believe – I’m 42 now – and it’s not that I had it all completely worked out, but I’m spending a lot of time now trying to apply what I believe and trying to live up to those values.

The full transcript is available at Christianity Today and Beliefnet.