Taking a chomp out of the mess that is US politics, one issue at a time...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Barack Obama Goes To Church, Have You Heard?

Heaven forbid Barack Obama goes to church.  A church with a black Reverend no less.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his black rights activist speeches have made headline news recently.  Because his sermons are something new?   Or untrue?  Or especially decisive?  No; Rev. Wright has been publicly scrutinized because he is the spiritual leader of presidential hopeful, Barack Obama.

And on to the age-old argument of Church vs. State.

The sermons most scrutinized of Wright’s are those publicly supporting Obama and denouncing Hillary Clinton and her easy life, “Hillary Clinton was not a black boy raised in a single parent home.” (CNN)  In addition Wright has been recorded criticizing America’s actions regarding terrorism and our country’s racist history.

But Jeremiah Wright is certainly not the first American to speak out against the hypocrisy that has ruled our nation for years.  And he is definitely not the first religious leader to push his political views on a congregation.  (Four years ago, my church handed out pamphlets reminding the community how “good Catholics” are supposed to vote.)

The issue is that Barack Obama has admitted his devotion and following of Wright’s church.  He even went so far as to credit one of Wright’s sermons for the title of his novel, The Audacity of Hope. (CNN) And as a presidential hopeful, Obama’s religious affiliations are everyone’s business.  No one claims to separate every action and decision from their values and we can only assume that Obama has shaped some of those values by the words of Jeremiah Wright. 

So what does this mean for the future of our country?  If elected, is Obama going to shape public and foreign policy around the notion of black supremacy?  Denounce the founders of our nation because they were rich white men?  I doubt it.  Despite some of the more controversial beliefs of his Reverend, Barack Obama is still the levelheaded, inspirational leader he has been since the beginning of this presidential campaign.  And in his defense, he has announced his disagreement with a number of Wright’s beliefs, including Wright’s political advocacy of Obama in his sermons.

All of this being said, it now resides in the hands of the voting public as to whether Obama’s “spiritual guide” remains a news headline and an influential factor in this primary campaign.  People have to decide if they believe that Obama can differentiate between the radical religion and rational beliefs. 

I, for one, don’t know anyone who agrees full-heartedly with his or her religious leader.  I go to a Catholic church that believes abortion is murder and the Republican Party part of the religious right.  On the other hand, I am very much pro-choice and a full-fledged, liberal democrat.  And as much as I enjoy attending church, I remember to take everything my priest, and the man who baptized me, says with a grain of salt.

It is undemocratic that Reverend Jeremiah Wright touts his support of Barack Obama at religious gatherings.  By doing so he crosses the line between religious leader and political advocate and for that, he deserves the scrutiny of the people.  But Obama is not at fault.  He has maintained the wall between Church and State throughout his campaign, mentioning religion only when it comes to his values and inspiration.  Not once has Obama used religion as a reason or as a means for pulling out of Iraq, for remodeling our nation’s health care, for revamping our education system.

The backlash that Obama has suffered because of Wright is unjustified.  And this recent attack appears to be more of a strategic political move against Obama than a valid critique of his character. 

I have no doubt that an investigation into the religious leaders of past and present politicians would reveal some startling and radical beliefs.  And know that every Catholic politician has listened to countless sermons classifying abortion as murder and the use of contraception as sinful.  However that does not mean that every Catholic yearns to see Roe v. Wade overturned.  And certainly the majority of American Catholics use some form of contraception in the current day and age.

And so, ultimately the State wins.  Religion, while important to one’s belief system, cannot govern a country so racially and culturally diverse as ours.  Any politician who attempts to use religion has such will commit political suicide.  And while Barack Obama is free to attend any kind of spiritual gathering he so desires, people can be comforted in the fact that he is not an idiot.  Obama will not run our country from a pulpit. 



Charles said...

No one has a problem with the fact that Barack Obama goes to church. Let's just get that out of the way. You're right, that is irrelevant. The real problem here, the problem that pundits all over America have so easily pointed out, is Mr. Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright puts his judgement in question. That is a far more pertinent matter.

Most of America would agree that some of the things Rev. Wright has said from behind his pulpit and atop his soap box are offensive, misguided, and wrong. What does it say about Obama's character then, when he chooses to publicly support instead of denounce the opportunistic preacher?

I'm not a Hillary supporter and, to be honest, I don't even really mind that she was bashed by Rev. Wright. The real tragedy is that Barack Obama, a man that seeks the highest office in the land, tolerates such behavior. Let's hope not, but if he's elected he will be the president of all of America; not just black America, or deomcratic America, or the great state of Illinois but the entire United States of America. Do you want a president that is too weak to stand up to those close to him and rebuke them for painfully divisive words and actions?

Vote Obama for President of the Fractured States of America.

Rex345 said...

As strong as Obama has remained in his support of Rev. Wright, he has ALSO publicly chastised him for various sermons, including those that publicly supported Obama over Clinton. He has said multiple times that Wright is a good man and one he respects, but that does not mean he has to agree with everything he says. I certainly don't agree with everything my priest says; that does not mean I feel it necessary to publicly denounce that aspect of my life. And of course he tolerates that behavior; we live in a country founded on ideals like free speech. Obama can disagree with Wright all he wants and he has, but nothing he can legally do can stop Rev. Wright from preaching what he believes.

Tall Asian Guy said...

No Way! I thought Obama was a filthy Muslim!

*completely sarcastic in all accounts

Daniel Tola said...

I think you picked the tamest quote from Rev. Wright. Search the internet a little and you'll find some VERY racist and ant-american ones. No one is saying that your religion dictates your decision making. I think we left that one behind when JFK, the first catholic president, was elected. People got over the irrational belief that the Pope would rule from afar. However, JFK never campaigned with the pope in his limo and he never had the pope give speeches on his behalf and he never demonstrated a personal relationship between him and his religious leader. Candidates regularly fire or disassociate themselves from people in the campaign when they choose to act out in a way that might harm the candidate's image. Obama hasn't done this and I have to wonder why that is. So after hearing Rev. Wright's sermon of hate and his wife's professed hatred of America - I don't think I'll ever vote for him.

The Chipped Stele said...

I think it would be a mistake to equate Barack Obama's beliefs with those of his (former?) pastor. And a great deal of recent criticism directed at Rev. Wright in the past month has been misguided in my opinion. For instance, I do not think it is offensive for him to point out Hillary Clinton's privileged position growing up as a white middle-class American.

Nevertheless, I think that Rev. Wright is way over the top when he suggests that AIDS may have been created by the U.S. government as a scourge on the African-American population. I also do not believe that the anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan is a great man. The more I listen to Rev. Wright, the more he strikes me as a dilettante (at the recent NAACP conference in my hometown of Detroit, he was introduced, among other things, as a "linguist" and an "Egyptologist"). He acts as if he has some special insight into American history. As far as I can tell, he does not.

I intend to vote for Barack Obama in November and I am glad that he is now distancing himself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I think it is unfortunate that people are choosing to conflate Obama's views with Wright. I suspect Wright may have been doing some good community work in Chicago and this is what initially attracted Obama to Wright's church. I also suspect most of Wright's preachings are not quite as bombastic as the bits played over and over in the media.