When the religious narrative you tell about your life to the American public is revealed to be vastly different than the one you actually lived, you have more than a credibility problem – you have a dilemma as Obama is finding out.
And the dilemma is not just that Obama’s religious narrative is fictitious, but so too is the media spin on his pastor.
While the moral high ground to address the public’s shock with Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s condemnations on America’s foreign and domestic polices appeared to be Obama’s address on race, Obama actually ran aground with many African American Christians by anchoring the public’s outrage and his fear of losing the presidential bid on the back of one of this nation’s most revered African American ministers.
“He’s used Jeremiah, and Trinity is his strongest base. He handled the media abysmally, and the uncle reference was demeaning. Many of us said we saw it coming,” a member from Trinity told me in anonymity not to have the press come after him.
Rev. Wright was the man who brought Obama to Christ, presided over his nuptials baptized him and his daughters, and was the inspiration for his bestseller, The Audacity of Hope.
And while Obama has now denounced Rev. Wrights’ incendiary remarks, after twenty years of hearing them, suspicion nonetheless still surfaces about his professed faith as a Christian.
Although religion came to Obama late in life, and he was reared in a non-religious household, his religious convictions, – “he say?” – were formed during his 20s at Trinity while a community organizer working with local churches on the South Side of Chicago.
As a central, powerful and revered institution within the African-American community, the Black Church captivated Obama’s attention. He says he came to understand “the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change.” However, how much Obama really covets the power of the Black Church for his own political aggrandizement, rather than for its religion, now raise questions in the minds of many black Christians since his address.
While MSNBC talk-show host Tucker Carlson was the first to publicly suggest Obama’s faith is “suddenly conspicuous,” suggesting that Obama has only recently begun addressing his religious background as part of “a very calculated plan on the part of the Democratic Party to win” religious voters in the 2008 presidential race, the suspicion is now looming even larger.
If Obama, however, is indeed using religion to win votes, he unfortunately placed himself in a difficult quagmire – not only with LGBTQ and liberal voters, but also by still being a member of Trinity. Why? Because he worships in a conservative black church within a liberal denomination. And Trinity is provisionally opened to the idea of same sex marriage.
In July 2005, the UCC General Synod overwhelmingly passed a Resolution of Marriage Equality. But in August 2005, Wright spoke against the Synod’s position causing my LGBTQ parishioners to leave.
“Please tell me what is going on here? Why does it appear we are under attack? Maybe I am reacting, but this seems to be even from the folks we admire in the church that black same-gender loving issues are not important. We are still seen as gay and white,” stated a gay member of Trinity.
In the church’s magazine The Trumpet his article “Maybe I Missed Something!” shows how LGBTQ issues are not a priority in his present-day prophetic social gospel intended to ameliorate the social conditions of all God’s African-American children.
“While our denomination grappled with how to address that human problem, the denomination also, at that Synod, voted to ordain a homosexual. Guess which item made the newspapers? Maybe I missed something!”
And in his closing tirades on the issues, Wright stated this: “Are 44 million Americans with no health care insurance less important than ‘gay marriage’? Why aren’t Black Christians in an uproar about that? Maybe I am missing something!”
When the article came out in light of the United Church of Christ’s stance on ordaining and marrying LGBTQ people, it was disheartening for many to know that Pastor Wright broke rank with his liberal denomination to stand in solidarity with a more conservative Black Church position.
“Folks were very hurt by his remarks he made in the Trumpet article. I wanted to know where he really stood with us on same-gender loving issues. The chair of the same-gender family wrote him if the church will address black heterosexism and black homophobia. He said we have done that over the thirty years and that his sermons should speak for his support on these issues. In his articles he said he was not putting same-gender loving person’s down. Just showing how society only appears to be focused on those issues and not the issues that impact Black issues. I reminded him I am a black female out lesbian. I do not choose to be one or the other which is all of my being,” stated a lesbian member of Trinity
I wonder now how much of Obama’s views on gay civil rights are shaped by Trinity? Or, if not, does he use those Christian views to avoid giving us our full civil right?
Or perhaps Obama is playing us as much as he has played his pastor?!
So it is also not surprising when Obama appeared on CNN’s “Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer, Obama stood where his pastor does on the issue.
“Well, I think that marriage has a religious connotation in this society, in our culture, that makes it very difficult to disentangle from the civil aspects of marriage. And as a consequence, it would be extraordinarily difficult and a distraction to try to build a consensus around marriage for gays and lesbians. What we can do is form civil union that provide all the civil rights that marriage entails to same-sex couples. And that is something that I have consistently been in favor of. And I think that the vast majority of Americans don’t want to see gay and lesbian couples discriminated against when it comes to hospital visitation and so on.”
Many African American Christians are now suspecting Obama of using the “race card” to win their votes, at the expense of pitting their interests against gays.
For example, when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama campaigned at the Salem Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side. It’s the 22,000-member black mega-church of Rev. James Meeks, who has called homosexuality an evil sickness. Outside of the hallowed walls of church the Rev. James Meeks is State Senator James Meeks.
Obama knew to pander to his base.
When news first got out about Wright’s Afrocentric theology and Sunday sermons that disparagingly speak ill of whites and Israel, Obama began immediately to distance himself. Yet these same sermons were not a problem for Obama when they were spiritually nurturing him into becoming a public figure. Now Obama will no longer continue to speak and write about the special relationship with his pastor, because it has run afoul of his ambitions.
In explaining his relations to the media about Wright, Obama described him as a crazed uncle we all have in our family. And in his address Obama stated that he “can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.”
However, I beg to differ.
There is a distinct difference between the biological family you are born into and the church family you choose to worship with.
And so too is there a distinct difference between telling the truth to the American public and telling us a lie.
If Obama can throw his pastor under the bus, what will he do to LGBTQ voters on his way to the White House?