Once again, the faith of a Presidential candidate has been called into question. This time it’s Barack Obama. Under question is the political doctrine of the teachings of the Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ (UCC) which Barack and his family have attended for years. Two articles at American Thinker raise concerns about the Liberation Theology preached within the walls of the UCC.
One article by Lee Cary states Obama’s spiritual mentor was Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright who in turn was heavily influenced by Dr. James H. Cone, a strong proponent of Africentric theology and radical Black Power. Cary wants the public to understand that “while Barack is the softer, social justice side of black liberation theology, Michelle is the harder anti-white-supremacy side.” Cary thus associates Michelle Obama with black hardliners who fundamentally distrust and devalue whites and anything they may have accomplished. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain and the liberation of Kuwait are allegedly dismissed as the victories of (white) racist capitalist America over other equally corrupt systems. The evidence cited for Mrs. Obama’s views is a recent public comment that “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”
Another article by Kyle-Anne Shiver quotes The Audacity of Hope, in which Obama states,
…whatever preconceived notions white Americans may continue to hold, the overwhelming majority of them these days are able – if given the time – to look beyond race in making their judgments of people.
Shiver then states, “The question now… [is] whether Obama can measure up to the same standard he sets for white people.” Shiver shares her impressions of a personal visit to Trinity UCC in Chicago. Shiver found (as did Cary) that the sermons and bookstore were exclusively Afro-Centric. Shiver not only questions why a candidate for President does not worship in a congregation that includes all races, she implicitly questions whether Trinity UCC is too overtly politicized to be considered a religious organization at all. (I also heard comments to this effect in a radio interview with her this afternoon in Seattle.) Shriver notes:
Now, I have worshipped hand-in-hand with my black brothers and sisters in my own Catholic Church, as well as in predominantly black congregations of protestant denominations. It is our one faith in our one Lord that holds sway in our hearts and minds.
I would like to respond to these two articles. First of all, I’m white, Mormon, and tend to vote Republican. I don’t have a dog in this fight except for the idea some might consider me a racist due purely to the fact that I am a white, Mormon, Republican. There is no point trying to reason with people who think that way, and that’s not the issue I want to address here anyhow.
I would like to respond to the idea that there is something alarming about a political candidate who attends a church that relegates God to the back of the bus in favor of radical, social activism.
It is reasonable to ask whether the candidate adopts the political teachings of an organization such as the UCC. For example, does Barack see the world through the lens of class-warfare such that whites are the source of all evil? How should the government address racism? What responsibilities do all races have for combating the problem? Those are legitimate questions that I hope Barack answers. In the meantime, I acknowledge that his remark about whites looking beyond race strikes me as positive, not negative. Acknowledging prejudice to be a human problem (not just a white problem) is being realistic. And acknowledging racism as an issue for a black Presidential candidate is not the same as pinning all the world’s problems on white oppression.
But some people are raising another question which I think is wrong. That is: Can a candidate who belongs to a political-activist-centered church really have God in his or her heart? I assert that this question is politically irrelevant. Isn’t weighing a candidate’s faith just another way of judging the candidate’s religion against the yardstick of our own? “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) I take that to mean humans are not good judges of religious purity. Our founding fathers wisely inserted Constitutional stipulations against religious correctness for office holders.
Mitt Romney’s candidacy was at times driven to distraction by comments and questions about Mormonism. On the political left were some of the very people who claimed Bill Clinton’s extra-marital affairs had no bearing on his performance in office, and yet they suddenly insisted on discussing details of Mormon theology and history. And on the political right were some very people who worry about surrendering US sovereignty to a one-world-government, and yet they seem to expect other Americans to conform their relationship to God to some kind of majority rule.
Let’s not repeat such irrelevant, foolish and un-American behavior.
When looking at a candidate’s religious background, it is important to consider universal qualities such as honesty, fidelity, a sense of justice, and guiding principles of political ideology. I would be alarmed about Barack’s religion if he encouraged voters to think he was God’s chosen candidate. Thankfully, he doesn’t. And I don’t care whether he believes in God in exactly the same way as I do. What matters is how the teachings of his faith would most likely influence his actions in government.