JERUSALEM – White Christians are “make pretend” believers and conservative Christians emulate the people who killed Jesus, according to articles in a controversial magazine run by Sen. Barack Obama’s longtime pastor that paint traditional Christianity as false and racist.
Stanley Kurtz, a National Review Online contributor, concluded after reviewing two years of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trumpet Magazine that the Trinity United Church of Christ pastor practices a black liberation theology brand of Christianity that “sees his own form of Christianity as profoundly different from Christianity as typically practiced by most American whites and blacks.”
The findings raise new questions about the Christian views of Obama, a longtime Trinity member who was featured on Trumpet magazine’s cover several times and last year granted an exclusive, lengthy interview to the publication.
Obama frequently has spoken of his Christian faith in his campaign for the White House.
In one issue of Wright’s Trumpet, Obama’s face appeared on the cover alongside Nation of Islam chief Louis Farrakhan.
Kurtz said he found that the many issues of Trumpet he reviewed demonstrate Wright closely follows the ideology of James Cone, considered the founder of black-liberation theology. Cone’s main thesis is that true Christianity is specific to the black liberation experience and that traditional Christianity as commonly practiced in the U.S. is racist and against “true” Christianity.
“The black theologian must reject any conception of God which stifles black self-determination by picturing God as a God of all peoples. Either God is identified with the oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God’s experience, or God is a God of racism,” writes Cone in his defining book, “Black Theology of Liberation.”
“The blackness of God means that God has made the oppressed condition God’s own condition. This is the essence of the biblical revelation,” Cone argues.
Cone’s brand of Christianity strongly denounces Christian practice that doesn’t take a specific political approach that is largely very liberal and liberation-focused.
Wright’s Trumpet magazine is filled with Cone-style views on Christianity.
The April 2007 Trumpet features an article by black-liberation theologian Obery M. Hendricks Jr., who attacks conservative Christians as “emulating those who killed Jesus, rather than following the practice of Jesus himself,” notes Kurtz.
“Many good church-going folk have been deluded into behaving like modern-day Pharisees and Sadducees when they think they’re really being good Christians,” contends Hendricks, who writes in Trumpet that these believers have become “like the false prophets of Baal.”
“George Bush and his unwitting prophets of Baal may well prove to be the foremost distorters of the true practice of Jesus’ Gospel of peace, liberation, and love ever seen in modern times,” writes Hendricks.
In an August 2007 issue of Trumpet reviewed by Kurtz, Wright argues Jesus is “African,” and he attacks “white” Christianity as make-pretend:
“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, liberation 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.”
Wright denounces “colored preachers” who don’t subscribe to black liberation theology as people 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.”
Kurtz found that Wright embraced white preachers who toe the line of Cone and black liberation theology, such as Chicago Catholic pastor Michael Pfleger, identified by Obama himself as a close associate and a source of spiritual guidance to the presidential candidate.
Pfleger, an early supporter of Obama who leads a mostly black parish, has hosted Farrakhan at his parish a number of times, drawing the ire of the Catholic Church. Pfleger also served as a guest lecturer at Obama’s Trinity church.
Pfleger has been featured several times in Wright’s magazine, including in the June/July 2007 issue reviewed by Kurtz that describes Pfleger as “Afrocentric to the core.”
“I got very educated by the [Black] Panthers – very educated,” said Pfleger.
Trumpet magazine reports Pfleger “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.”
According to Trumpet, Pfleger “counts the mighty as close confidants and friends,” specifically Wright, Farrakhan and Obama.
Obama identified Pfleger in a 2004 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times as a key source of spiritual guidance. Kurtz notes the Sun-Times piece includes quotes from Pfleger praising Obama.
“Faith is key to his life, no question about it,” Pfleger told the Sun-Times. “It is central to who he is, and not just in his work in the political field, but as a man, as a black man, as a husband, as a father. … I don’t think he could easily divorce his faith from who he is.”
‘Inconceivable’ he wasn’t aware
Kurtz argues it is “inconceivable” Obama, featured on the cover and inside many editions of Wright’s publication, was not aware of Trumpet magazine. Kurtz found the magazine features Wright’s radical views “everywhere – in the pictures, the headlines, the highlighted quotations and above all in the articles themselves.”
Wright’s version of Christianity as detailed in Trumpet and also evidenced by his sermons raises new questions about Obama’s Christian views and whether he sees mainstream Christianity in America as different from his own faith.
Echoing Trumpet’s depiction of Jesus as “African,” Obama’s church’s website stresses in its mission section, Trinity United Church of Christ was “called by God” to be a congregation that is “not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that does not apologize for its African roots!”
Just this week, Obama reportedly introduced himself to a rally of Kentucky voters as a Christian candidate of faith.
He told the Chicago Sun-Times in a 2004 interview on religion he has a “deep faith.”
“I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.
“That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there’s an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived,” he said.
Obama said he has a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” and as proof told the Chicago Sun-Times he walked the aisle of Wright’s church.
Obama has spoken generally in interviews about his Christianity but has not broached the topic of black liberation theology.
Joshua DuBois, Obama’s director of religious affairs, told CNSNews.com last July Obama’s political views are “an outgrowth of his reading of some of the seminal parts of the Bible about doing unto the ‘least of these’ just as we would have done unto Christ.”
“He takes very seriously the numerous passages in the Bible that talk not only about poverty, but of people of faith taking God’s words and extending them beyond the four walls of the church,” DuBios said.
Obama’s campaign did not return a WND call and e-mail seeking comment on whether the politician subscribes to black liberation theology.
But Kurtz found a 2006 speech Obama delivered at a conference in which the presidential candidate spoke of how he came to his faith due to the political and black-focus of his church:
“But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn to the church,” said Obama.
“For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of African-American religious tradition to spur social change. … [T]he 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,” Obama said, “that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and affirm my Christian faith.”
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