Barack Obama and the United Church of Christ
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
To it's credit, the UCC isn't grandstanding on Obama's membership with Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago while media outlets absurdly speculate about his attendance at a Muslim school in Indonesia - when he was a little kid.
To me, this is a non-story on a number of levels.
First, Obama doesn't exactly come off as a religious zealot and he certainly does not come off as someone driven by a religious agenda - so why are questions coming up about his faith?
Secondly, he seems like a decent guy... a "nice guy". While he's still a rookie Senator, he has plenty of positions on the record that someone could legitimately challenge or question... so why should his faith mean anything?
Lastly, lets not forget the last time a UCC Presidential candidate's faith was questioned. Howard Dean, another Presidential candidate who was hardly a religious icon, was creamed in the media when he mixed up Old Testament books with the New Testament books. Although the incident demonstrated Dean's lack of knowledge about the Bible, it hardly illuminated anyone to his qualifications as President.
There is another reality here that should concern UCC members. There is an attempt by some in the media to wrongly connect the views of UCC leaders and specific churches to Obama. Yesterday's editorial in Business Investors Daily is probably most inflammatory:
Obama said he was drawn to Christ after college while working with black churches on inner-city projects. Soon he knelt "beneath the cross" at one of them, he said in a recent speech, and "embraced Christ." If he were Muslim, this act alone would be punishable by death.The problem is that the editorial doesn't connect the belief system at Trinity UCC to Obama. As a Presidential candidate, Obama certainly exposes himself to questions about his beliefs, but shouldn't he be judged by what he says and how he acts?
Trouble is, Obama embraced more than Christ when he answered the altar call 20 years ago at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Southside Chicago. The 8,000-member church describes itself as "unashamedly black" and holds classes in "African-centered Bible study." He also pledged to honor something called the "Black Value System," which is a code of nonbiblical ethics written by blacks for blacks.
This is what should give American voters pause.
According to its Web site, Trinity puts the "black community" first. Black members are encouraged to pursue education and skills exclusively to advance their community, and allocate their money exclusively to support "black institutions" and black leaders.
In short, it preaches from the gospel of blackness and black power. There's little room for white Christians at Obama's church. It disavows the pursuit of "middleclassness" — code for whiteness — arguing that middleclassness is a conspiracy by white leaders to keep talented African-Americans "captives."
We might as well accept it now that we will see more mistakes like this in the media as pundits try to piece together what Obama's belief system. To draw any conclusions about Obama based on his membership at Trinity UCC would be a huge mistake. As much as it disturbs the national offices of the UCC, the membership of the church isn't as monolithically liberal as our leaders portray us to be in the media. From Wikipedia:
In 2001, Hartford Institute for Religion Research did a "Faith Communities Today (FACT)" study that included a survey of United Church of Christ beliefs. Among the results of this were findings that in the UCC, 5.6 percent of the churches responding to the survey described their members as "very liberal or progressive," 22.4 percent as "somewhat liberal or progressive," 23.6 percent as "somewhat conservative" and 3.4 percent as "very conservative." Those results suggested a nearly equal balance between liberal and conservative congregations. The self-described "moderate" group, however, was the largest at 45 percent.In essence, it would be premature to attach the values of a single church or our national leaders on Obama.