Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone from the news cycle the past two weeks has been Obama's racist, seperatist and anti-American preacher of twenty years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. When last we left off, Obama was repudiating remarks made by Wright at a National Press Club meeting, claiming that he had no idea what black liberation theology was and that he had never heard Wright utter such racist screed during his twenty years sitting in the pews of Wright's church, Trinity United. Stanley Kurtz has made it his mission to test Obama's veracity on this and is now convinced that Obama is lying to America.

This from Stanley Kurtz writing at the NRO:

Since repudiating his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., at an April 29 news conference, Barack Obama has done everything in his power to minimize the nature of his relationship with Wright. Supposedly, Obama found Wright’s recent and controversial remarks at the National Press Club shocking, unfamiliar, and out-of-character. In fact, we now know that Wright’s controversial remarks were entirely in character, and that regular church attendance, and even limited familiarity with church publications, would have made Wright’s radical views entirely evident. Indeed, a bit of digging now turns up information that makes it next-to-impossible not to conclude that Obama has long been familiar with Wright’s radicalism.

As Obama himself notes in a 2004 newspaper interview, within the constraints of his schedule, he regularly attended weekly services at Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. In that interview, Obama characterized his relationship with Wright as that of a “close confidant.” We know that the doctrines of “black-liberation theology” are included in new-member packets, and are taught in new-member classes, which Obama and his wife attended. . . .

It is clear Obama was aware of Wright’s views; indeed, the specifically political character of Wright’s liberation theology is what drew Obama to Christianity.

Further, a careful reading of the 2007 run of Trumpet Newsmagazine — a church newspaper (and later a slick, nationally distributed magazine) that Wright founded in 1982 to “preach a message of social justice to those who might not hear it in worship service” — suggests that Wright’s theology and politics have more in common with black-nationalist sources (both Christian and Muslim) than with those of conventional Christianity. In particular, Wright is closely allied with a radical and highly controversial Catholic priest named Michael Pfleger, and with Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan. While his specific ties (if any) to Farrakhan are unclear, Barack Obama appears to be very much a part of the broader Wright / Pfleger / Farrakhan theological-political nexus.

In 2006, Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at a conference sponsored by Jim Wallis and the “religious left” magazine Sojourners. Obama spoke of his early sense of personal isolation in the absence of membership in a community of faith. “If not for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted that fate,” said Obama. The specifically political character of his new church is what drew Obama out of his skeptical isolation and into religion:

But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn to the church.

For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of African-American religious tradition to spur social change. . . . the black church understands in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge the powers and principalities. . . . I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; it is an active, palpable agent in the world. It is a source of hope. . . .

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and affirm my Christian faith.

In other words, Obama’s membership at Trinity UCC resulted from his familiarity with Wright’s political views. Even Obama’s phrase “challenge the powers and principalities” is a particular favorite of black-liberation theologists.

We know from Obama’s own account in Dreams From My Father that Wright personally warned him, from the time of their first meeting, that many considered Wright too politically radical. Yet Obama not only joined the church, but also cooperated with Wright on political matters.

. . . In the course of their close, 20-year-long partnership, Obama and Wright must have had chances to meet and converse on a great many occasions. A recent one we know of came in late February or early March of 2007, when Obama and his wife, Michelle, were honored guests at “Legacy of a Liberating Legend,” a gala in tribute to the career and retirement of Jeremiah Wright. The gala is described in the “Teesee’s Town” column in the Chicago Defender of March 5/March 6, and is pictured in a feature story in the May issue of Trumpet. According to the Defender, Obama halted campaigning to celebrate with his “mentor,” Wright.

. . . Obama himself has appeared on numerous Trumpet covers, is featured in many stories, and was personally interviewed by a Trumpet reporter. The radical doctrines of black-liberation theology pervade this publication, just as they shape Wright’s sermons.

Trumpet frequently discusses the works of James Cone, the founder of black-liberation theology, who considers Wright and Trinity UCC to be the premiere exemplars of his system. (In the print edition of NR, I described Cone’s radical views and explained how the history and theology of Trinity UCC embody them. Some of this ground is also covered in an extended Investors Business Daily editorial; according to IBD, Obama “refuses to respond to even written questions about Cone and black-liberation theology.”)

The nature and status of this kind of Christianity is complex and controversial. There is a profound difference between “black-liberation theology” and Christianity as conventionally understood. Trinity itself recognizes this difference, to the point where Wright, his followers, and his theological mentors often present conventional American Christianity as both false and evil.

. . . It’s also clear that, in 2007, Wright was convinced that Obama would be a strong force in favor of Wright’s basic political agenda. In the ascent of politicians like Obama, Wright argued, “God has shown me that Uncle Toms do not have the last word.” For Wright, Uncle Toms include not only black conservatives like Clarence Thomas, but all blacks who forswear leftist politics. So Wright is expressing faith in Obama’s underlying sympathy with the hard-left agenda.

. . . Other articles on Obama are dotted throughout Trumpet. A piece in the May 2007 issue praises Obama for “his ability to help the hapless Democrats talk about religion and values.” Yet a reading of Trumpet can’t help but raise questions about how the Christianity Obama imbibed at Trinity UCC relates to Christianity as conventionally understood. From the standpoint of the black-liberation theology that informs Trinity’s worship, there is a yawning gulf between authentic, liberating Christianity and conventional American Christianity. According to the black-liberation theology’s founder, James Cone, Christianity as commonly practiced in the United States is actually the false Christianity of the racist Antichrist. Any Christianity not imbued with “liberating” leftist revolutionary zeal is dismissed by Cone as the work of “white devil oppressors.” While that sort of radicalism may seem an outdated relic of the late Sixties, a reading of Trumpet 2007 shows that, for Wright and his followers, little has changed since then.

. . . In the August 2007 issue, taking a leaf from Cone’s book, Wright himself goes after traditional Christianity with a vengeance: “How do I tell my children about the African Jesus who is not the guy they see in the picture of the blond-haired, blue-eyed guy in their Bible or the figment of white supremacists [sic] imagination that they see in Mel Gibson’s movies?” Authentic, politically liberating Christianity, says Wright, “is far more than the litmus test given by some Gospel music singers and much more than the cosmetic facade of make-pretend white Christianity.”

But if Wright is tough on white Christians, he is equally hard on the many black Christians who fail to share his vision. In fact, it’s clear from Trumpet, and from the broader literature of black-liberation theology, that Cone’s and Wright’s radical religion appeals to only a tiny minority within the black community. Wright bitterly denounces unliberated, non-Africentric, “‘colored preachers’ who hate themselves, who hate Black people, who desperately want to be white and who write and say stupid things in public to make ‘Masa’ feel safer.”

So Wright (like Cone) sees his own form of Christianity as profoundly different from Christianity as typically practiced by most American whites and blacks. For religious allies, Wright looks not so much to Christians, but to those of any religious persuasion who share his politics.

Also, while James Cone sharply dismisses even white liberals as unhelpful devils, Cone did hold out a legitimate place within black-liberation theology for white revolutionary radicals. Cone’s gauntlet has been boldly taken up by Catholic Father Michael Pfleger, a true Christian in Wright’s view.

Obama’s ties to the priest are clear. During his 2004 senate race, Cathleen Falsani of the Chicao Sun-Times interviewed Obama about his religious views (it is this article that revealed Obama’s as-often-as-possible attendance at Trinity, and called Wright a “close confidant”). According to Falsani, the future presidential candidate cited “the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church in the Auburn-Gresham community on the South Side, who has known Obama for the better part of 20 years,” as a key source of spiritual guidance. The piece also includes words from Pfleger himself, praising Obama.

Pfleger is just as far as Wright is from the majority of American Christians. Although Pfleger is white, he heads a largely black congregation on Chicago’s South Side. Like Wright, Pfleger follows the black-liberation theology of James Cone. As the June/July 2007 Trumpet cover story opens, Pfleger is preaching a guest sermon at Wright’s Trinity UCC. Pfleger compares the average American Christian to the criminals who were crucified alongside Jesus.

As the story continues, we read: “And drum roll please. [Pfleger] also manages to weave into the midday homily at Trinity . . . his deep and abiding dislike for President George W. Bush. And with this mostly African American congregation, Pfleger is in good company.” In light of this, Trumpet author Rhoda McKinney Jones calls Pfleger “Afrocentric to the core.”

Trumpet goes on to highlight the politics of this “radical and revolutionary priest.” Not only has Pfleger pored over James Cone’s books, but, Pfleger affirms, “I got very educated by the [Black] Panthers — very educated.” According to Trumpet, Pfleger “counts the mighty as close confidants and friends,” especially Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan, and Sen. Barack Obama. Trumpet also quotes Wright expressing his confidence in Pfleger.

The story goes on to highlight Pfleger’s chronic problems with the Catholic Church, which seems always on the verge of removing Pfleger from his congregation. Pfleger’s invitations to Louis Farrakhan to speak at St. Sabina, for example, have roiled the church. Jones relishes Pfleger’s attacks on Catholicism as commonly practiced. Pfleger is quoted describing the community of his birth as “in-bred, white, Catholic, democratic . . . and a bubble of fantasyland.” According to Pfleger, the Catholic Church has lost its way. He also rails against “prosperity-pimping” and “all this crazy and perverted theology that people are buying into.”

. . . Obama was a part of this nexus. Despite current attempts to rewrite history, Obama was close to Wright for years, and fully entangled with him, both theologically and politically. Pfleger’s influence over Obama, whose work as a “community organizer” had him in frequent contact with South Chicago’s churches, is second only to that of Wright. Obama has worked on a great many political causes with Pfleger, and Pfleger was a key early backer of Obama’s failed 2000 bid for a seat in Congress.

. . . The full story of Barack Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright has yet to be told. It is already evident, however, that Obama’s recent attempts to minimize that relationship are smoke and mirrors. Obama leans left — far left. He is not the moderate, bipartisan figure he claims to be. That is what his history reveals. The mentors who knew Obama best supported him because of their confidence that, given the inevitable political constraints, Obama’s success would best advance their shared hard-left agenda.

Read the entire article. The gulf between Obama's life and how he presents himself seems as wide and as deep as the Grand Canyon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He's a Saul Alinsky disciple. He sees the church as a means of organization and a stepping stone to the revolutionary end he hopes to achieve.
His definition of "change" includes "revolution".

Check out "Rules for Radicals", if you haven't already. We all need to be familiar with it as we all should have been aware and familiar with "Mein Kampf". It falls in the category of "know your enemy".