Friday, May 2, 2008

Nope. Not tired yet.

Barack Obama has been trying to get past the Jeremiah Wright embarrassment by waving the "The voters are tired of this issue" flag to the media - per the recent comment by his wife (and is it just me, or does she interrupt him an awful lot and make an awful lot of substantive pronouncements? Who's running for president here - or is this a two-in-one deal?!).

"We hear time and time again voters are tired of this," she said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.


I'm not tired of it. I'm still trying to understand it. Let me recap.

20-some years ago, Barack Obama met Jeremiah Wright, who apparently was instrumental in his conversion to "Christianity". What "Christianity" means, under Jeremiah Wright, appears to one of the main issues. But let's set that aside for the moment.

Moving back to the time-line: for the past 20 years, Obama has been a parishioner at the church founded, directed, and run by Wright. Wright performed the marriage ceremony when Obama married, and baptized the children that were born to the Obamas. Presumably, the Obamas attended the church, listened to the sermons, and interacted with Wright - who apparently became a close friend, if not like a member of the family. Fast-forward 20 years, and we have the revelation of the worst examples of the specifics of what Wright's church stands for, to Obama's complete surprise. Then followed Obama's attempt to smooth it over with the 'crazy uncle' example, calls for bringing the nation together rather than tearing it apart, Wright's National Press Club appearance bringing the divide right back to the forefront, and - finally - Obama's denunciation of Wright.

Since then - besides the "the voters are tired of it" excuse - we've heard that Obama shouldn't be judged by what Wright says, that Obama doesn't have to have exactly the same beliefs and opinions as does his spiritual father, we've heard excuses for what Wright might have felt and for what he said, we've heard of the inappropriateness of judging another's "faith", we've heard that this is a device to "distract" us from the "real" issue, which is the change that voters supposedly want, and Obama's long-standing commitment to "promoting common understanding" and sharing common dreams (of more 'change', undoubtedly).

OK. . . . if Obama has a long-standing commitment to bringing different people together, why has he - for 20 years - been a member of an "unashamedly black church" [see the church's website, here] whose primary commitment is to its "mother continent", Africa? What about whites? Hispanics, Russians, American Indians, India-Indians? All the other people groups?

Nope. Blacks; 'Christians'; Africans.

Obama tries to gloss over questions of "Liberation Theology" - supposedly the 'theology' of the 'black church' - as just so much mumbo-jumbo that really only theologians understand. But this brings me back to the question I set aside at the beginning: just what kind of "Christianity" did Obama embrace under Wright? With respect to the so-called black church's liberation theology, Obama said:
I am not a theologian. So I think to some theologians there might be some well worked out theory of what constitutes liberation theology versus non-liberation theology.

I went to church and listened to sermons. And in the sermons that I heard — and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black churches — there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle, the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness, a social gospel.

Now: if there is a "black" Christian church, is there also a "white" Christian church? And if there's a "black" social gospel, is there a "white" one? More to the point, is there a "social gospel" separate to the gospel of Jesus Christ in Christian churches of whatever description?

I'm just trying to get my mind around what would happen if President Bush's pastor of 20 years - let's say - suddenly started talking about the white church and its goals, aspirations, theology, and loyalties.

How is it that Obama can actually be heard to claim to be a mediator between people when he's attended a self-proclaimed black church - loyal to blacks and their "mother continent", Africa - for 20 years?

We don't tolerate white churches - politically, anyway.

And Jesus?

I don't think he sees colour. I don't think he has 'black' churches or 'white' churches. His body is the 'church triumphant', and insofar as either Wright or Obama talk about a 'black' church, I think they must be talking about a different kind of church - a human church - and not the church of Jesus Christ.

In the new testament, letters to individual "churches" are addressed geographically: the church that meets in Rome; in Ephesus; in Corinth; at the house of Aquila and Priscilla (I am not making this up: see Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 16, verse 19 and the book of Romans, chapter 16, verses 3-5.)

But the message was always the same - merely sent to different addresses. In fact, some of the letters carry the command that they are to be sent on to churches meeting in other locations. In addition, in his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul chastises the forming of factions:
One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? . . . the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God [and] we preach Christ crucified. . .

In his letter to the church that met in Galatea, St. Paul marveled that they had turned so quickly away from the gospel of Jesus to follow somebody else's 'gospel', "which is really no gospel at all." [Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter 1, verse 7].

Did you know that 'gospel' means good news?

What 'good news' have we heard from Jeremiah Wright?

From Barack Obama?

Has any of it involved Jesus Christ?

Has any of it involved really good news?!

So: no. I'm not tired of this issue yet. I don't think we've reached the main issue. This is not about Jeremiah Wright, it's about the new face of racism and bigotry.

In a way though, that's nothing new. Just the latest example of why the 'gospel' of Jesus was - and is - so vital.

From a political perspective, though, could we maybe now stop talking about Barack Messiah?! And I - personally - would be relieved if Barack would quit already with the 'black-preacher-speak' speech delivery. If Wright does nothing more than remind Barack that he is a politician - and not a preacher - that might not be such a bad thing.

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