Sunday, June 01, 2008

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

You said, Sen. Obama, in explaining your decision to leave your church after 20 years:

"My faith is not contingent on the particular church I belong to and I do not believe that I am going through a religious test," he said.
But you are, actually; as much a "religious" test as any test of your faith or belief or church membership would be. If there was a "religious test," it would only be whether or not you were a member in good standing of a particular church; it could only examine externals, such as your attendance record; your contributions record; your confession and profession of the creeds; your life free from any of the more blatant moral lapses which are so commonly used to define (and distort) the life of a "truly religious" person. What other test could there be?

The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse--
who can understand it?
I the LORD test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings. Jeremiah 17:9-10

So if this isn't a religious test, if FoxNews isn't beating this dead horse relentlessly in order to establish a test of your fitness for the Presidency, just what is it?

Are you simply too polite to say?

Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Trinity are community building blocks that the right wing has turned into bricks to be thrown at presidential candidate Obama from now until the general election ends in November—and perhaps beyond.

So in an attempt to turn manufactured right-wing ammo into blanks, Obama has completely separated himself from his minister and his church. What worries me is this: Can we expect a President Obama to cave in to the whims and will of the right on policies and issues he knows are important, if this nation is to move forward in a progressive and compassionate manner? Can we expect him to genuflect to negative reports by an uninformed, misinformed or ill-willed media? Is the candidate of change willing to go-along in a willy-nilly get-along fashion?
You know your church better than Monroe Anderson does, and he knows it better than the national media does:

Obama knows what Trinity is about. I’ve only set foot in the church twice in my life and I know what it’s about. It’s nothing like it’s being portrayed in the national media. Nor is Rev. Wright.

Obama knows that Rev. Wright and his church and Father Pfleger have been forces for good on Chicago’s South Side for three decades. Both Trinity and Father Pfleger should have known the Catholic priest’s racially-tinged mocking Hillary Clinton performance would only be perceived as another weapon to use against Obama. They should know, as I know, that they ultimately left the Illinois senator with little political choice.
But why should they leave you with a political choice at all? Why should it be their responsibility to leave you with a political choice? When did they decide to enter politics? When you did? Is that the price politicians must pay now, to demand all their friends and family and even pastors and church members, always leave them with a political choice, one they can sell the way advertising sells us new cars and new sneakers and new smells to make us think we are more attractive? Is that all you are, Senator Obama: another product being offered for our purchase? Is Trinity UCC no longer your church, but just your paisley scarf some stylist chose for you, and you can just discard the whole ad campaign because it's aroused the ire of some fringe group of nutcases?

Is this any way to run for the office that will give you the power and authority to run our country?

I've been in the pulpit, and it's a place of public appearance, too. I know how distorted visions of what you are doing or mean to do or have done, can be. I know how people see you in ways you never imagined you'd bee seen, how people say you said things you never said. I've never had them turn on my family yet; not quite. My daughter who was a mere child the last time I had a pulpit, is a teenager now, and I'm sure she could set some church tongues a-wagging. Probably some of my friends would, too; or even what I've said in this blog, from time to time. That's happened, in fact. And do you know what I learned? There are some hills not worth dying on, some battles not worth fighting. But some hills are worth the battle, some battles worth the fight: and you have to be careful how you pick them.

I'm not sure you've been very careful this time. And once again, you've disappointed me. If Trinity UCC has been good for its community, why can't you say that? Why can't you defend them? Why can't you stand up for your church? Did they mean that little to you, for 20 years? Was it a "marriage of convenience"? Are you a fair-weather friend? Do you not need them any more, now that you're on a national stage?

I disagree with you: this is a religious test, and that is the problem. I agree with The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, a practicing Baptist minister and President of the Interfaith Alliance, and the statement he issued about this:

"No candidate for the presidency should ever have to resign from or join a particular house of worship in order to be a viable candidate for that high office. To make such a decision for political reasons dishonors religion and disrespects the constitution. This is a sad day in American politics and even sadder in American religion. Senator Obama is at the center of the storm, but all who wed religion to partisan politics share responsibility for this tragic development."
And while I agree with you that:

" ... These controversies have served as an unfortunate distraction for other Trinity members who seek to worship in peace, and have placed you in an untenable position as you establish your own ministry under very difficult circumstances,"
I still don't understand these words, your words to the Rev. Otis Moss III:

"Our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own views."
Especially since those views were not new, were not created for the National Press Club or the NAACP, were not formulated as a response to your desire for higher public and political office.

The heart is devious, beyond all fathoming. Perhaps yours is being tested. Perhaps this test, you've failed. I'd rather not think so; but I don't know what else to think.

Or I do; and I'm too polite to say.


Well, now I see you really did say this:

In the meantime we will visit other churches. There are a number of churches if we are at home in Chicago that I visited in the past. The important thing is I am not going to approach it with the view of figuring out how to avoid political problems. That’s not the role of church. My -- again what I want to do in church is I want to be able to take Michelle and my girls, sit in a pew quietly, hopefully get some nice music, some good reflection, praise God, thank Him for all of the blessings He has given our family, put some money in the collection plate, maybe afterwards go out and grab some brunch, have my girls go to Sunday school. That’s what I am looking for.
Now I know I'm too polite to say what I think. Your former church said this:

"Though we are saddened by the news, we understand that this is a personal decision. We will continue to lift them in prayer, and wish them the best as former members of our Trinity community.

"As in the prayer of the Ephesians, the entire Trinity family asks that the nation entrust Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha to God's care and guidance, so that Christ may continue to dwell in their lives, in their hearts, and in their work. We ask now for God's peace to be with them."
In order that Christ may continue to dwell in my heart, my life, and my work, I'll do my best to remember you deserve that much.

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