The EFM Feature

I’m about to do something I really hate doing — and that’s disagreeing with David French. Ugh.
David made a lot of excellent points in his recent post. And as always, he was eloquent and convincing. Furthermore, it’s tough to quibble with something that was sent in from Diyala Province. However, if there’s anybody who loves a vigorous give and take, it’s David. So here goes, brother.
I totally disagree that the crux of the issue about Senator Obama’s pastor is whether he should leave the church. I’m as good a Calvinist as any and agree with David on who really chooses where we worship. I’ve never said that Senator Obama should leave his; I am ambivalent on the question and find David’s reasoning rather persuasive. At most, I have criticized an op-ed that defended him for not doing so, but the only reason I did that was the shoddy reasoning it used, not its conclusion — with which I may or may not agree.
So if leaving the church isn’t the issue, what is? Easy: Senator Obama’s worldview is. Especially given how short his tenure in elected office has been, that’s crucial. And again, I think David is missing the real issue.
The real question isn’t whether Senator Obama agrees lock, stock, and barrel with Reverend Wright’s outlandish statements about, say, AIDS. As David points out, there is no evidence he does. But it is worth probing why he would parade around telling everyone how important this church is to him and how this pastor has been such a mentor to him knowing that these kind of statements were out there. It just is not tenable to claim he didn’t, given his long — and, by his own proud statement, close — association with both church and pastor. It’s also notable that it took a storm of controversy for Senator Obama to say what every mainstream American believes — namely that these statements by his pastor are way out of line. Note that he refused to admit anything was awry for days. Then he wrote for the Huffington Post; then he made his speech in Philadelphia.
Frankly, I think it’s clear he had heard statements like them before — and that they didn’t initially strike him as being way out of line. And you know what? That is worth a close look. I don’t want a president who doesn’t think it’s absolutely absurd to call our nation the “U.S. of K.K.K.A.” Whether he feels led to stay in the church where it happens or not is irrelevant, and whether he distances himself only after days of bad press is not all that revealing.
And you know what? When we take a close look, we can get at least a glimpse at an answer. And David, my friend, you should be able to see it more clearly than anyone else because of the work you do in higher education.
Think about it. The Obamas attended elite universities (Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton) in the 1980s and 1990s, later than any other president in history and anyone else who might be elected this year. President Bush, President Clinton, and Senator Clinton all received their undergraduate degrees in 1968 or 1969; Senator McCain graduated from the Naval Academy a decade earlier. The tumultuous Sixties were the advent of campus radicalism and political correctness. But by the Eighties, it had triumphed. That’s when the Obamas were in the academy. They’re the first prospective First Couple to have been educated in that environment — where extremely negative views of America are overwhelmingly common and virtually all the hip, up-and-coming scholarship revolves around race, class, and gender.
There is reason to believe they imbibed deeply from that mentality. Senator Obama continues to be a bit of a cipher on any issue that can’t be expressed in vague generalities, but take a look at Mrs. Obama’s thesis from Princeton, “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community,” which The Politico obtained. Or see her previous statements regarding her country. It’s not conclusive, but it does point toward a view of America and society that is quite different from, say, what one would have found in Annapolis in the 1950s.
Now — do these things mean that Mrs. Obama, much less Senator Obama, agrees with Reverend Wright 100 percent? No; of course not. But they may illuminate why they don’t seem to have been instantly repulsed when they heard the kind of teaching that, it’s clear, Reverend Wright delivered on a consistent basis.
Sorry, David, but I think they could have done that quite charitably, but still done it. I honestly don’t think they thought Reverend Wright’s remarks were a huge deal until a public furor told them so. And I continue to think that is a worthy topic that we can explore without indulging unhealthy notions about the (big “C”) Church.
After all, Senator Obama himself urged us to “judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be president of the United States.” Doesn’t all of this say something about his values?

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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