March 15, 2008

Politicizing the Pulpit: Obama's Credibility and Wright's Ordination In Question

We haven't known much about Obama, but this week we learned that he has a serious credibility problem.

No doubt Trinity UCC on Chicago's south side has been doing some marvelous practical ministry in the inner city, and I'm unaware of any attempt by media to invalidate this work. The UCC is trying to spin this story another direction. The character of Jeremiah Wright is altogether another issue, and while the United Church of Christ is a denomination that leans way to the left, it would serve them well to consider their ordination policies and revoke the ordination of Jeremiah Wright and renounce his teachings. Wright's comments reveal a racist posture that doesn't assist in healing racial divisions, rather it exploits them. Wright, in making these inflammatory statements and in propagating black theology, has brought the issue of racial divides back into the limelight even while Obama pledges to be post-racial.

Are we really suppose to believe that Obama, who regards Jeremiah Wright as a spiritual mentor and allowed him to be a member of his campaign, has been mostly unaware of Wright's views and the content of his sermons? I cannot be convinced that this is the case, given his 2 decades of membership at this church. Either Obama and his family rarely attend church and his membership and involvement is strictly on paper, or he has chosen to support the teachings of this movement. So what kind of change can we really expect from Obama given his willingness to look away from the words and character of this spiritual mentor of his? Seems like politics as usual to me.

Out of the mouth of a pastor especially, these statements bring shame to the nature and role of the church is and Wright's role in the office of pastor:

"Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain't! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty."

"Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary would never know that."

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and the black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas has now been brought back into our own front yard. America's chickens are coming home to roost."

This isn't a matter of a fallacious guilt by association, Jeremiah Wright has served as a pastor and spiritual mentor to Obama, and if Obama was unaware of the views taught during these 20 years, his ability to assess people must be called into question. At this time, Obama needs to resign his membership at Trinity in order for any evangelical to begin taking him seriously as an honest, thinking person who also happens to profess being a Christian. I realize the counter-arguments to this appeal, that Obama is running for President, not Chief Executive Theologian. But since his church has politicized the pulpit and his pastor was a member of his campaign team, and because Obama has been running his campaign on a spiritual platform, speaking freely about his faith and the role of it in his life, he owes it to himself and to his campaign to pursue a life of integrity....that can't happen with a continued association with a church that has yet to renounce the teachings of Jeremiah Wright and a congregation who was noticeably enthralled by this message of hate. The whole issue speaks to Obama's judgment and character.

Pastors, as we understand the office in Scripture, are not dictators. They are accountable to the elders whom they work with in the church and to the congregation. We are called to be Bereans, people who are always studying the Scriptures and testing the teachings of our leadership against the testimony of Scripture. The Bereans of Trinity UCC need to step up......if there are any.

It seems inevitable that we are going to have a democrat in the White House in 2009. If it is going to be Obama, I would hope that he would give us a better idea of what to expect out of him - or perhaps he has and we really need to worry about his integrity and real (in)ability to lead. At this point, it looks like politics as usual, but even worse as he uses his faith as a way to shroud his views. At least with Hillary, what you see is what you get, at least moreso than with Obama.

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