Well, Barack Obama has left Trinity United Church. He has demonstrated that he is morally qualified to be president.
Oops. It’s 2008, and NOT 1985, when the move would have demonstrated that he actually had a functioning moral compass.
Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago was no more toxic last Sunday than it was over twenty-three years ago when a young Barack Obama first arrived. In his 1993 memoir “Dreams from My Father,” Barack Obama recalled a vivid description recalling his first meeting with Wright back in 1985. The Rev. Wright warned Barack Obama that getting involved with Trinity might turn off other black clergy because of the church’s radical reputation. It’s not that Obama didn’t know about the radicalism at Trinity. It’s that he didn’t care.
Obama has said that Jeremiah Wright was instrumental in attracting him to the church he joined and has acknowledged he titled his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after one of Wright’s sermons. One of Wright’s sermons, “The Audacity to Hope,” was so inspiring to Obama that he titled his book “The Audacity of Hope” after it. That message, by the way, contained the phrase, “white greed drives a world in need.”
So you can only imagine how Jeremiah Wright must have felt when Barack Obama threw him under the bus and denounced his views when they were the exact same views he had been preaching the day Obama came to the church 23 years before. Obama was fine with them before they became national public knowledge, and disapproving of them after. But Wright had been preaching the same message when he married Barack and Michelle Obama; he’d been preaching the same message when he baptized their daughters; he’d been preaching the same message when Barack Obama asked him to serve on his campaign’s spiritual leadership council. And in point of fact, he had been preaching the same message the day Barack Obama dis-invited him to speak at the event announcing his candidacy for president.
Of Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama, one of these men has been consistent his entire career; and that man has been Jeremiah Wright, not Barack Obama. Jeremiah Wright didn’t just begin saying this stuff at age 72; he’s been preaching the same message to the same choir for well over thirty years. Does anyone actually believe that Jeremiah Wright just discovered his message?
Wright spoke out to defend himself and the views he had held over his long career in ministry. He said that Obama was denouncing him because he was a politician, and was saying things that politicians say and doing what politicians do. Obama attacked the man who he had once so proudly endorsed as his spiritual mentor following that revelation, saying, “What I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing.”
Which is, of course, exactly the sort of thing that would make a posturing political demagogue angry.
With this prelude, let me interact with Barack Obama’s press conference announcing his withdrawal of membership from Trinity. But let me begin by asking the questions that pointedly WEREN’T asked at the press conference:
* How on earth can you possibly justify having remained in that church environment for 23 years?
* Are you suggesting that Jeremiah Wright just recently discovered these views, and in no way harbored them all along?
* How can you have endorsed Jeremiah Wright, calling him your spiritual adviser, your uncle, your mentor, your moral compass, and then disavow this man who has been preaching the same message all along? How are you not responsible for his teachings and views when you so completely endorsed the man for so many years? What about other friends and spiritual advisors you have similarly endorsed over a period of years, such as Rev. Michael Pfleger? What about Rev. Otis Moss, who you again endorsed this very day? He embraced Pfleger as a friend of Trinity, and then specifically thanked God for Pfleger’s hateful remarks immediately after he made them! How on earth can you claim not to in any way be responsible for these peoples’ views when you have endorsed the people who have been saying these things for years?
* Do you endorse Malcom X and Louis Farrakhan as your church has officially done? Why on earth would you remain in a church that would endorse such figures of hate and divisiveness?
* As an ostensible intellectual, are you completely ignorant of the teachings of the black liberation theology embraced by Trinity? Are you ignorant of where it derived from or what it represents? How do you – as a self-acknowledged intelligent man – justify sitting under the teaching of what is clearly a blatantly racist and anti-American theology?
Now let us look at Obama’s version of reality in his leaving Trinity Church as given in his prepared remarks:
We have many friends among the 8,000 congregants who attend there. We are proud of the extraordinary works that the church continues to perform throughout the community, to help the hungry, and the homeless and people in need of medical care.
I have tremendous regard for the great young pastor who has taken over – Rev. Moss – and continue to admire the work that Rev. Wright did in building up the church. But it’s clear that now that I’m a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity – including guest pastors – the remarks will be imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long held views, statements, and principles.
We obviously saw an example of that in the recent statements by Father Pfleger, who is someone I have known, who I consider a friend, who has done tremendous work in Chicago, but made offensive statements that had no place in our politics and in the pulpit; that unfairly mocked and characterized Senator Clinton in ways that I think are unacceptable.
It’s also clear that Rev. Moss and the Church had been suffering from all the tension my campaign has visited on them. We’ve had news organizations harassing members at their homes and their work places. We had reporters grabbing church bulletins and calling up the sick and the shut-in in an attempt to get news about the church. We’ve had news organizations scrutinizing Rev. Moss’s sermons and attempting to make political hay out of even the most innocuous or innocent remarks by him. That’s just not how people should have to operate in their church. It’s not fair to the other members of the church who seek to worship in peace.
Barack Obama speaks of the politicization and news coverage of his church as though both he and the church are somehow victims. It is true that no president in recent memory has ever had his church become such an issue. But, in the words of Rolling Stone Magazine (which is liberal to its core):
This is as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from, as much Malcolm X as Martin Luther King Jr. Wright is not an incidental figure in Obama’s life, or his politics. The senator “affirmed” his Christian faith in this church; he uses Wright as a “sounding board” to “make sure I’m not losing myself in the hype and hoopla.” Both the title of Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, and the theme for his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 come from Wright’s sermons. “If you want to understand where Barack gets his feeling and rhetoric from,” says the Rev. Jim Wallis, a leader of the religious left, “just look at Jeremiah Wright.”
The thing that makes Trinity United Church so incredibly relevant politically is because it is 1) such an intensely radical church environment, and 2) because Barack Obama is so intimately connected with a pastor who has been demonstrated to be a purveyor of anti-Americansism and racial hatred. You’re just not going to find anything like that in an examination of the church affiliations of John McCain, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and on and on. None of our presidents who have come before would ever have dreamed of joining such a radical church, or so deeply embracing such divisive pastors.
As I have pointed out before:
When Jeremiah Wright talked about “white greed” in his now-famous “Audacity of Hope” message, he was perfectly expounding on black liberation thought. When he claimed that white America deliberately created the AIDS virus as a genocide against blacks, he was accurately exegeting black liberation ideology of class based warfare against the oppressed black class. Or, expressed negatively, when he said that anti-crack cocaine penalties were instituted by racist legislators for the purpose of incarcerating as many blacks as possible, how was that in any way contrary to his central theological beliefs? When Wright denounced Israel as a Zionist state that imposed “injustice and … racism” on Palestinians, how was this not in perfect accord with his theology? When Wright railed against “AmeriKKKa” in his sermons, just how was that contrary to black liberation thought? And when Wright lectured American society that it deserved 9/11, was this in any way out of bounds with either the teachings of black liberation theologians or the Marxism from which they derived their message?
As for his “many friends among the 8,000 congregants who attend” at Trinity, is Barack Obama referring to those thousands of cheering congregants who gave the hate of Michael Pfleger a standing ovation, and who similarly rose to cheer the rants of Jeremiah Wright? Michael Pfleger, by the way, is not merely a “guest speaker,” but a regular speaker at Trinity. Was he referring to the Rev. Otis Moss, who called Pfleger a “brother beloved, he is a preacher par-excellence, he is a prophetic powerful pulpiteer” before his message and said “We thank God for the message, and we thank God for the messenger. We thank God for Father Michael Pfleger. We thank God for Father Mike” after the message? How on earth could Barack Obama continue to call Otis Moss a wonderful young pastor and speak of his tremendous regard for this man who so embraced and applauded anti-American hate and anti-white racism?
In the same message in which Pfleger mocked Hillary Clinton and spoke of her feeling that she was entitled to the presidency because she was white – and that many white Americans were crying with her – Pfleger also said, “Racism is still America’s greatest addiction. I also believe that America is the greatest sin against God.”
And I cannot help but watch and read Barack Obama’s statements – as well as the Democrat’s embrace of this man – with stunned amazement. He is not outraged by the statements themselves as much as he is offended that they have been broadcast and covered in a way harmful to his candidacy. There is simply an appalling lack of outrage over appallingly outrageous statements that we now know so thoroughly characterize the life and soul of his church.
Obama said, “I am not denouncing the church. I am not interested in people who want me to denounce the church because it’s not a church worthy of denouncing. And so if they’ve seen caricatures of the church and accept those caricatures despite my insistence that’s not what the church is about, then there’s not much I can do about it.”
Obama’s description of “caricatures” hearkens to his previous statements that his pastors’ views had been taken out of context in endless loops. But we now know that the views we have heard are neither caricatures or statements out of context: rather, Wright defended them one by one, and they accurately represent the pastor’s position. Furthermore, the church congregation that embraced these radical preachers wildly cheered and applauded all these terrible remarks – including the very worst ones. How one earth does one NOT find all the church worthy of denunciation?
And Obama said, “I have to say this was one I didn’t see coming. We knew there were going to be some things we didn’t see coming. This was one. I didn’t anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny,” said Obama. He said it has been months since he has been at the church, on Chicago’s South Side. “I did not anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subjected to such…scrutiny.”
I ask, how can a candidate for the highest office in the world be so uncomprehending? How can he show such idiotic personal judgment? How can he even condemn these remarks when he sees them as “conventional”? There is no question that he is taking a whining tone here; it’s not that outright offensive vile hate was coming out of the church; it’s that he didn’t anticipate his “fairly” conventional Christian faith being subjective to scrutiny. He still doesn’t get it. He has said he disapproves of or disagrees with the remarks that now number in the dozens; but there is simply no demonstration even yet that he was genuinely offended by anything other than the attention these many statements of hate received.
Obama’s defenders have analogized the toxic environment of Trinity with the revelations of the sex abuse of priests in the Catholic Church. But there is no similarity, unless the priests in mass after mass shouted out that they were abusing young teenage boys as the crowds screamed and applauded their approval. The abuses occurred in secret, and their revelation brought outrage; the sermons of Jeremiah Wright (and now Michael Pfleger) occurred at the pulpit in the midst of a cheering congregation.
Similarly, Obama’s defenders have attempted to create a moral equivelence between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger and John McCain and John Hagee and Rod Parsely. Again, come on! McCain barely knew these men. They weren’t his friends. They weren’t his “spiritual advisors.” They didn’t marry him or baptize his daughters. McCain didn’t write books named after their sermons. And McCain didn’t endorse them – as Barack Obama has specifically endorsed his growing list of radical reverends – they endorsed him. Only fools would accept such a ridiculous comparison.
And Obama’s defenders have said that a candidate for president ought to be able to hear divergent and even divisive views without having those views ascribed to that candidate. Obama himself said, “I do think that there is certainly a tradition in the African American church, but I think there’s a tradition in a lot of churches, to speak out about injustice, to speak out against issues like racism or sexism or economic inequality. And, you know, my hope would be that pastors who — well, let me put it this way. My hope would be that any presidential candidate can go to a church and hear a sermon and even hear some controversial statements without those views being imputed to them and being subject to the same exacting political tests that a presidential candidate or that presidential candidate’s statements would be.”
But then let all the people who hold this view go to a white supremacist church and listen to their views for 23 years. Let them bring their families into this environment, and let them say of the white supremacist church pastors what Obama has said of the radical pastors of his own church. You know that they would never do this, because they could not stomach the message. The point is that Obama – and these knee-jerk liberals who are defending him – do and have affirmed the radical, racist, anti-American message of Trinity United Church. Obama’s membership is no big deal to such people simply because don’t have a problem with the church’s teachings.
This is a church and a pastoral leadership affirmed by the church that has embraced the person and teachings of Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam. It is a church whose poison has repeatedly been demonstrated for everyone to see. And anyone who would tolerate such an environment for any length of time has no business of ever being a president of the United States.