While some election commentators are looking carefully at the level of devotion Sen. Barack Obama has to Islam, it is the strong African-centered and race-based philosophy of the senator's United Church of Christ that has some bloggers crying foul.
Obama and Wright
Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago is where Obama was baptized as a Christian two decades ago, even borrowing the title for one of his books, "The Audacity of Hope," from a sermon by his senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
The first paragraph of the "About Us" section of the church's website mentions the word "black" or "Africa" five times:
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian. ... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.
Focus on the African continent continues in two of the 10-point vision of the church:
- 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.
- A congregation working towards ECONOMIC PARITY.
Commented Florida blogger "Ric" in discussing vision No. 4: "Commitment to Africa? I thought Christians were to have a commitment to God alone?"
The blogger continued: "First off just by this 10-point layout describing Barack Obama's church, we see that on some issues they are not clear. Even though it sounds good to the reader, it still leaves one guessing and not knowing where they truly stand as a congregation.
"Second, the church seems to place Africa and African people before God, and says nothing about other races in their community or a commitment to help the people in their community.
"Third, the church seems to promote communism by the term they use called 'economic parity.' Is this what Barack Obama truly believes?"
On another page on the website, Pastor Wright explains his theology, saying it is "based upon the systematized liberation theology that started in 1969 with the publication of Dr. James Cone's book, 'Black Power and Black Theology.'
"Black theology is one of the many theologies in the Americas that became popular during the liberation theology movement. They include Hispanic theology, Native American theology, Asian theology and Womanist theology."
Wright rebuts those who might call his philosophy racist, saying, "To have a church whose theological perspective starts from the vantage point of black liberation theology being its center is not to say that African or African-American people are superior to any one else.
"African-centered thought, unlike Eurocentrism, does not assume superiority and look at everyone else as being inferior."
The church's official mission statement says it has been "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!"
The Jan. 6 Sunday bulletin had an announcement about how to register for the winter Bible study held by the "Center for African Biblical Studies."
Another page in the 36-page bulletin announced the "Black and Christian New Member Class." All those wanting to become full-fledged members of Trinity "MUST complete your new member class!" warned the announcement, which included a schedule of class times. There was no mention of what class a prospective member might take if he or she were not black.
Demonstrating the church's quest toward "economic parity," one of the associate pastors, the Rev. Reginald Williams Jr., wrote a blurb in the bulletin decrying the powers that be for not making "fresh food stores" available in the black neighborhoods of Chicago.
Wrote Williams in a discussion of infant mortality in the black community: "In West Englewood, one of the five worst areas in the city, McDonald's restaurants abound, while fresh food stores are lacking. The same resources should be made available in each and every neighborhood in this city.
"This is an issue which we must all attack. We must push our policymakers for programs for health education, good stores for proper nutrition and access to health care."
The thought for the day on the same page was a quote from former Rep. Shirley Chisholm: "Health is a human right, not a privilege to be purchased."
Obama recently talked about his faith with the Concord, N.H., Monitor.
"I've always said that my faith informs my values, and in that sense it helps shape my worldview, and I don't think anyone should be required to leave their religious sensibilities at the door," Obama told the paper last week. "But we have to translate those concerns into a universal language that can be subject to argument and doesn't turn into a contest of any one of us thinking that God is somehow on our side."
The candidate told the Monitor he doesn't buy everything his pastor proclaims, saying: "There are some things I agree with my pastor about, some things I disagree with him about. I come from a complex racial background with a lot of different strains in me: white, black, I grew up in Hawaii. I tend to have a strong streak of universalism, not just in my religious beliefs, but in my ethical and moral beliefs."
Obama's popularity has soared in the last several days, with journalists from NBC even admitting to getting caught up in the "feel good" aura of the campaign.
As WND reported, the network's Brian Williams noted on MSNBC yesterday: ""[Reporter] Lee [Cowan] says it's hard to stay objective covering this guy. Courageous for Lee to say, to be honest. ... I think it is a very interesting dynamic."
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