The EFM Feature

Well, have you guys been following the dust-up over Senator Obama’s pastor?
As you may recall, we casually mentioned Senator Obama’s church — and its “distinctive” theology — a few weeks back. Since then, there have been some real revelations. First, the Wall Street Journal published a story exposing the fact that various ministers of Senator Obama’s church have essentially endorsed him from the pulpit — plunging the church into IRS scrutiny. Then, various outlets explored other aspects of some of the lead pastor, Jeremiah Wright’s, sermons. The lead from one article speaks for itself:

Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor says blacks should not sing “God Bless America” but “God damn America.”

He’s also said this, as reported in a WSJ op-ed:

We’ve got more black men in prison than there are in college. Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president, no matter how hard you run Jesse [Jackson] and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body. . . .
America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. . . . We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers . . . We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi . . . We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.

And, for just one more example, he’s referred to our country as the “U.S. of K.K.K.A.”
In light of all the controversy, Senator Obama has basically kicked his pastor to the curb on the Huffington Post, calling his words “inflammatory and appalling” and saying he “vehemently disagree[s]” with, “strongly condemn[s],” and “categorically denounce[s]” the statements at issue. And then he adds this Clintonian statement:

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.
Let me repeat what I’ve said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

Basically, he’s trying to weasel out by saying he never heard his pastor make these exact statements. But as Ronald Kessler pointed out (in the WSJ op-ed I mentioned earlier), Senator Obama’s relationship with his church — and this pastor in particular — is both long and close. It’s pretty ridiculous for him to pretend that he didn’t know his pastor said and believed stuff like this:

Hearing Mr. Wright’s venomous and paranoid denunciations of this country, the vast majority of Americans would walk out. Instead, Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle have presumably sat through numerous similar sermons by Mr. Wright.
Indeed, Mr. Obama has described Mr. Wright as his “sounding board” during the two decades he has known him. Mr. Obama has said he found religion through the minister in the 1980s. He joined the church in 1991 and walked down the aisle in a formal commitment of faith.
The title of Mr. Obama’s bestseller “The Audacity of Hope” comes from one of Wright’s sermons. Mr. Wright is one of the first people Mr. Obama thanked after his election to the Senate in 2004. Mr. Obama consulted Mr. Wright before deciding to run for president. He prayed privately with Mr. Wright before announcing his candidacy last year.

Oh, and by the way, Rev. Wright is now no longer a formal part of Senator Obama’s campaign.
Now, why do I bring all this up?
Well, partially because I think the view of America evident in these statements is abhorrent — and just flat-out deserves to be condemned. But I also bring it up because there’s a key issue embedded here that we discussed often over the course of Governor Romney’s campaign: how theology is and isn’t relevant to politics.
As you’ll recall, we argued that the theological niceties of Mormonism that offend many evangelicals — such as its rejection of the Trinity — were not relevant to a presidential race. But that doesn’t mean no theology is relevant. That which would impact the way a person governs is quite relevant. And that’s what we have here with Senator Obama. If he agrees with his pastor’s very clear viewpoint, it’s obvious that he’d govern in a very left-wing, divisive fashion. And if he doesn’t, what’s he been doing sitting under this kind of teaching for so long?
By the way, I also think his treatment of Rev. Wright is noteworthy. For most of the campaign, he’s held this man up as a mentor — and used his relationship with him and his church basically to underline why people like us should trust him. Now, in the face of controversy, he’s — well, as I said, kicked him to the curb on the basis of his controversial statements. And I just find it very difficult to believe that he was totally unaware of this stuff until now. Frankly, it’s not all that hard to extrapolate simply from the statement of faith on the church’s website — which make its perspective pretty clear. Nor does it quite make sense that he had no idea what this man, who he claims has played a tremendous role in his life, thinks on these subjects. Which would suggest that he knew all of this, played up his relationship with Rev. Wright anyway, and now is abandoning him because it’s politically beneficial.
Then again, his whole campaign message has been “change,” so maybe this is what it looks like…

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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