I'm not buying the Obama campaign spin on Michelle Obama's patriotic faux pas this week, any more than I'm inclined to believe that Barack Obama's refusal to wear our flag pin in his lapel is a meaningless gesture. Both Michelle's stated lack of pride in America until this precise moment in history, and Barack's unwillingness to don our national symbol are in perfect keeping with the doctrines of their church, Trinity United Church of Christ.
The simple truth is that if any of us exposed ourselves to the kind of teachings espoused by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for 20 years, we might find it downright impossible to do any better than Barack and Michelle in the loving-America category of citizenship.
We probably couldn't summon a whole lot of American patriotism if our brains were stuffed on a weekly basis with sermons like this:
"Racism is how this country (America) was founded and how this country is still run!"
"We (Americans) are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional KILLERS. . . . We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God. . . . We conducted radiation experiments on our own people. . . . We care nothing about human life if the ends justify the means!"
If I listened to stuff like this every Sunday for 20 years, I probably wouldn't be all that proud of my Country either, and certainly would feel it hypocritical to wear the symbol of this God-forsaken Nation in my lapel.
Trinity's Black Liberation Theology
The Chicago Tribune's religion reporter, Manya Brachear, interviewed Rev. Wright in January 2007, writing:
"Wright sought to build on the black theology of liberation introduced in 1968 by Rev. James Cone of New York, by emphasizing Africa's contribution to Christianity rather than that of mainstream white theologians."
If only it were this simple.
But it isn't.
According to Cone:
"Christian theology is language about God's liberating activity in the world on behalf of freedom of the oppressed. Any talk about God that fails to make God's liberation of the oppressed its starting point is not Christian." (Speaking the Truth; James H. Cone; p. 4)
The gospel according to Cone revolves around a single dimension of the Christian faith and necessarily interprets the very nature of "oppression" as solely material and of this world. In effect, black liberation theology reduces the entire Gospel down to a Marxist people's struggle and hijacks the Christ for political purpose.
"What else can the crucifixion mean except that God, the Holy One of Israel, became identified with the victims of oppression? What else can the resurrection mean except that God's victory in Christ is the poor person's victory over poverty?" (Speaking the Truth; p. 6)
This certainly puts an altogether different light on the crucifixion than any to which I've ever been exposed.
According to this theology, we are not individually saved by grace. God hasn't anything at all to do with salvation or sanctification.
"...sanctification is liberation. To be sanctified is to be liberated - that is, politically engaged in the struggle of freedom. When sanctification is defined as a commitment to the historical struggle for political liberation, then it is possible to connect it with socialism and Marxism the reconstruction of society on the basis of freedom and justice for all."
(Speaking the Truth; p. 33; emphases mine)
According to the writings of Cone and the preaching of Rev. Wright, America can lay no claim whatsoever to any sort of goodness, and will perhaps never be able to do so until we are all residing in one, big, happy Marxist America with the presently "oppressed" on top and the evil "oppressors" on the bottom.
When these theologians re-wrote the gospel around their political ideology, they evidently came up with a way to make two wrongs into right.
Not exactly changing water into wine, walking on water, healing the maimed, the deaf and the blind, but quite a feat nevertheless.
Obama's Own Faith
Barack Obama expends an entire chapter in his book, The Audacity of Hope, writing about faith. In a chapter of 31 pages, he gives only 2 pages to his own decision to finally "walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ" and "be baptized."
Having been raised by a "spiritual," but non-religious mother, Obama says that he had quite a bit of antipathy for organized religion, but was able to overcome this at Trinity, where he recognized that faith was more than "just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death," but that faith was rather an "active, palpable agent in the world."
Obama's statements on his own faith in his book are as vague as his now all too familiar mantra, "Yes, we can."
But Trinity United Church of Christ isn't afraid to be more specific and blunt. Where mainline Christian denominations might focus on the Apostles' Creed, stating the basic tenets of Christianity, Trinity has this:
Trinity United Church of Christ is committed to a 10-point Vision:
A congregation committed to ADORATION.
- A congregation preaching SALVATION.
- A congregation actively seeking RECONCILIATION.
- A congregation with a non-negotiable COMMITMENT TO AFRICA.
- A congregation committed to BIBLICAL EDUCATION.
- A congregation committed to CULTURAL EDUCATION.
- A congregation committed to the HISTORICAL EDUCATION OF AFRICAN PEOPLE IN DIASPORA.
- A congregation committed to LIBERATION.
- A congregation committed to RESTORATION.
10. A congregation working towards ECONOMIC PARITY.
Interestingly enough, a change has been made quite recently (in the past 2 weeks) to number 3 on this list, obtained from Obama's church website. It did read, "a non-negotiable allegiance to Africa." Perhaps the church felt that it might reflect badly upon an American presidential candidate to be a prominent member of a church espousing "non-negotiable allegiance" to another continent.
Obama continues to see some of us as "oppressed," and he spouts a very condescending attitude towards those of us who have found spiritual food in evangelical Christian churches. Writing about why these churches have been growing by leaps and bounds, he says explanation for the success of these churches could be anything from "the skill of marketing religion" to the "charisma of their leaders," but primarily points to "hunger for the product they are selling."
So, how does Obama describe this "hunger"?
"They (religious seekers) want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives, something that will relieve a chronic loneliness or lift them above the exhausting, relentless toll of daily life. They need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them - that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway toward nothingness." (Audacity of Hope; p. 202)
That's a very bleak picture of our lives.
Precisely the kind of picture Marxist revolutionaries have always painted for the masses, right before they offer up the "hope" of something new and different, and the perfect "blueprint for change" that will make it all better.
As for me, I have been at the very, very bottom of life's rungs, even downright oppressed at times, but I have never been so far down that I would look to a mere man, or any government or movement, or even a church community, for salvation. And I'm surprised that anyone with a grain of self-respect or reverence for God would swoon over the purely preposterous notion that any man or government has such power to offer.
Pope Benedict XVI seems to agree:
"Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic."