Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Not much to do with faith?"

I want to write something about Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. I wanted to try hunkering down to deal with the really difficult stuff involved with what's been happening. But until I truly set aside time to do that, I figured I could at least deal with some of the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel stuff.

Here's an excerpt from an article that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal:

Much has been said, in an effort to excuse the toxic content of Pastor Wright's sermons, about the ways in which his speeches are part of the "black tradition." But most black churches are Baptist, Methodist or independent. They have religious doctrines with a long history. Trinity, on the other hand, belongs to the United Church of Christ, a mostly white denomination defined almost entirely by its social-justice agenda.

This is how the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's (white) general minister and president, recently defended Pastor Wright: "Many of us would prefer to avoid the stark and startling language Pastor Wright used in these clips. But what was his real crime? He is condemned for using a mild 'obscenity' in reference to the United States. This week we mark the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, a war conceived in deception and prosecuted in foolish arrogance. Nearly 4,000 cherished Americans have been killed, countless more wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqis slaughtered. Where is the real obscenity here?" It's easy to see Mr. Obama's attraction to the UCC, and it doesn't have much to do with faith.

This little nugget can be found discussed both at UCCTruths and Street Prophets, with highly different reactions...ahem.

Anyway, didn't the WSJ used to be a highly respected, high-quality newspaper? This opinion is from one of their "Taste" writers. Aside from that, the entire article smacks of giddiness over finally being able to talk about how Obama is black. That is made no clearer than in the quote above.

Let's start with Obama and Trinity being part of a mostly white denomination. Here's where those who strongly tout the UCC's freedom and autonomy for individual churches can point out that we have black, Asian, Latino, American Indian, and Filipino churches with no problem at all thanks to our polity (not that most denominations' polity is any factor in racial makeup of local churches).

Who gives a rip about what denomination Trinity is? So "truly black" churches can only be Methodist, Baptist, or Independent? In the UCC, a local church's culture is determined at the local level. Actually, that's a pretty universal thing. Not all Methodist, Baptist, and Independent churches are black, either. Far from it. It's absurd that this needs to be pointed out at all. All this particular point does is pigeonhole denominations by race.

Which leads me to my next point: her suggestion that Trinity is "less black" because "the UCC" is predominantly white...that's just stupid. Again, predominant local church culture is the rule. Go tell the members of Trinity that they're less black. I dare you.

You could also read up on the American Missionary Association, a proud part of the UCC's history.

Finally, Obama's attraction to "the UCC" started long ago, before either Iraq war, as Pastor Dan points out at Street Prophets. Rev. Wright, to borrow a phrase, led Obama to Christ. It has everything to do with faith. She just assumes that her readers will follow her train of thought between Rev. Thomas' statement and her non-sequitor about "nothing to do with faith." Her readers apparently are to just assume that Obama joined because he agrees with "the UCC" politically.

The author mentions that Obama first wandered into Trinity to help make connections for the inner city work that he was doing. People often wander into churches for reasons unrelated to faith and end up making commitments to follow Jesus. I thought that'd be something to be celebrated.

Okay, so having shot a few barrel fish, I really will try to put something up about the more serious concerns and issues out there.


Gene said...

It's a little late and highly dubious to start poking around which faith our political candidates belong to. If the mainstream media is going to completely gloss over the relationships the Right has with the likes of Falwell, Robertson, Haggard, and Donahoe, then they should leave this alone as well. All of those have said things far worse than anything Rev. Wright has said.

If we're going to hold one relationship with a pastor up for public scrutiny, then we should hold ALL of those relationships up to a consistent level of scrutiny-the Bushes, the Clintons, the McCains, and the Romneys.

Jeff Nelson said...

Agreed, Gene. How much has the media scrutinized McCain's wooing of John Hagee, a guy who has said plenty of nut-jobby things?

Hillary reminds me of John Kerry when it comes to acknowledging any kind of faith commitment. So we can criticize Obama's church affiliation while criticizing Hillary's seeming lack of church affiliation or emphasis. I guess some people really can have their cake and eat it, too.

Or we could, you know, talk about the actual issues instead. Nah, that'll never work.

UCCtruths said...

First, I don't like Hagee - his whole end times stuff in Israel creeps me out. That said, I think there's a world of difference between McCain sucking up to the right wing versus the 20 year relationship Obama had with his pastor.

As I mentioned on UCCtruths, I think Obama's speech was GREAT and I think his hands are clean of Wright's hate speech and lies.

I still think the matter needs closer review in the UCC: Wright may have done some great things for the south side of Chicago, but when you stand in a pulpit and claim AIDS was created by the government for genocidal purposes, you deserve all the backlash that comes at you. As a denomination, we could affirm Wright and Trinity UCC without affirming his bogus claims.

At some point you don't circle the wagons around someone telling a blatent lie. It's this same mentality that gives certain conference ministers the freedom to spread unfounded accusations of church stealing and it would be refreshing to hear someone in leadership say "We are first called to be honest even in our criticism against an injustice".

Wright and Thomas have hurt the denomination in the way this whole thing has been handled.

Unknown said...

I'm aggravated by the excuses being made by Obama and others for this Reverend Wright's tirades. Some people try to dismiss it as not that big a deal. Others justify it with talk about real rage in black communities, disadvantaged black youths, etc.

People in general, and Whites in particular, should be enraged by this Reverend Wright. He has a serious, real hatred of America and Whites. He is in a position of leadership as a pastor, and he uses that position of leadership to spread his hate. I don't understand how people accept this quack as a reverend or even a Christian. And to have this Reverend Wright as a part of his life for 20 years and say it's not that big a deal - who is Obama kidding?

This Reverend Wright, and Obama's relationship with him, all of this is NOT OK. This is a serious flaw and fault. I hope Obama's political opponents can exploit it.

Jeff Nelson said...

Obama hasn't offered excuses for Wright's tirades, nor has he excused them as "not that big a deal." He has condemned them without demonizing the person.

The only political opponent who has decided to use the Wright angle is Hillary, to the surprise of no one.

I'm really starting to sour on this election season.

Anonymous said...

I began to sour on this election season about 2 years ago.