The EFM Feature

There’s an amazing op-ed in today’s Washington Post on Senator Obama’s church. The argument therein, made by Colbert I. King, appears to go something like this:
1. Black churches had to be started because of the racism of white Christians.
2. Pat Buchanan says a church that calls itself “Unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian” is racist.
3. Pat Buchanan — and all members of the “right-wing commentariat” — don’t care that Sunday worship is such a segregated hour.
4. Because Senator Obama’s church is a result of that history, and because conservatives are such terrible people, all critiques of his church are off base.
5. Therefore, it’s great that he’s still going to that church.
Mr. King is certainly right that white Christians have committed many sins against our black brothers and sisters. But that’s about the only thing in his piece that makes any sense.
For one thing, I’m not sure how Mr. King has gotten to know exactly what’s in Pat Buchanan’s heart about the racial makeup of church congregations, but I guess I don’t have any contravening knowledge. Putting that aside, it’s utterly silly to imply that no white conservatives care about this issue. Come to my church, Mr. King, and I assure you you will meet some people who don’t vote the way you do but have the same heart to see God’s family united, regardless of race. Or look around at pretty much any orthodox congregation here in the D.C. area — virtually all of them, even some of the tiniest of churches, have special outreach ministries to the many Hispanics who have moved here.
More importantly, no one really thinks the heart of the issue with Senator Obama’s church is its idea that its members ought not to be ashamed of being black or apologetic about being Christians. That is a red herring. If not for statements such as “God d**n America” by its leader, there’s no way this controversy would have blown up. Moreover, if you examine the church’s doctrinal statements, there’s much more that’s troubling. People aren’t concerned simply because the church is proud of its black identity; it’s that if you look at its theology, it seems that that identity has displaced the Gospel.
And Mr. King seems to endorse that very idea at the end of his op-ed. He writes:

I also know, as Clark has pointed out, that church plays a religious and cathartic role unlike that of any other institution in the black community. It’s a haven, a place for emotional release and personal affirmation. The pastor is given much leeway, so long as the church is held together as a family.

Look, I know that everybody needs an emotional release sometimes. And personal affirmation is important. But that’s not why God created the church — and the mere fact that these things are present at Senator Obama’s doesn’t mean it’s doing its job.
No, what should prick your emotions and affirm you in a Christian church service is the fact that God loves you so much that he sent his only son here to die for your sins — and that if you will only turn and follow him, you will have eternal life. Whatever’s said about times like 1787 in Philadelphia — or today in Chicago or Washington — should take a back seat to what happened nearly 2000 years ago at Calvary.
That aspect is totally missing from Mr. King’s defense of Rev. Wright et al. — and every other one I’ve seen. And that’s a big part of why this is a worrisome issue when one considers the idea of a President Obama. Not only does his church appear to confess false doctrine and to be confused about its true purpose — bad for Citizen Obama and his family — but it also seems to be based in wrongheaded, divisive ideas that would produce truly terrible governance. That’s something voters can rightly take into account, Mr. King’s attempts to lionize Senator Obama notwithstanding.

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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