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UCCtruths

Every denomination needs one of these...

Obama Insults His Own

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

By Pastor Ted Weis, Congregational Church, Little River, KS

You know that Presidential candidate Barack Obama is under heavy criticism after uttering the following put down about rural Pennsylvanians:
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them... And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
You know too that Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ. But do you know, and ironically, does Obama realize how many of these rural and religious Pennsylvanians he insulted are members of his own denomination?

According to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and their report, "Religious Establishments in Rural Pennsylvania":
The religious establishments with the most congregations in Pennsylvania’s rural counties were: the United Methodist Church, the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., and the United Church of Christ. These same congregations were also the top five congregations in urban counties.
Looking at the delegate distribution from the 26th General Synod, nearly 15% of the United Church of Christ's 1.2 million members reside in Pennsylvania. That's 182,779 people. In fact, the UCC is so big in Pennsylvania it has not two, but four Conferences in the state-- Penn Central, Pennsylvania Northeast, Pennsylvania Southeast, and Pennsylvania West. With the exception of Penn West, each of these conferences are among the top 10 in delegate ranks at Synod.

Obama's unguarded words, spoken at a closed fund raiser in San Francisco on April 6, likely hit the intended target of dipping into the pockets of some rich elitist Democrats. But the spray of the buckshot has at least one Pennsylvania UCC member fretting.

The UCC Pennsylvanians who are fans of the "God Is Still Speaking" commercials likely won't take offense. They understand Obama is talking about those other churches-- the ones with bouncers and ejector seats. However, it was the UCC that once had on its rolls a historic church in rural Kansas called Beecher Rifle & Bible Church.

Obama knows his words have hurt him politically-- he's still spinning what he meant to say.

There's a lesson for us all:

The tongue is like a rifle-- you can always reload, but once you pull the trigger, you can never put that shot back into the barrel.
posted by Living the Biblios, Tuesday, April 15, 2008

27 Comments:

Oh yes, God forbid Obama notices that home prices are failing, gas prices are skyrocketing, and people in rural communities are feeling the pinch. Pointing out reality is simply offensive, apparently.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:17 PM  
Thanks James.

For allowing opinions from every side to the table.

I can't do that on the UCC blog.
I can't do that on several other blogs.

I can do that here.........so thanks.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:50 PM  
Anon 1)
It's not just Obama has noticed that some folks have endured economic difficulties. That's not offensive. What's offensive is that he says that this results in bitterness which makes them cling to guns, God, and xenophobia. So faith in God becomes a crutch? If you stop spinning long enough, you'll know what so many find objectionable in his speech.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 3:19 PM  
In addition to UCC churches being a large % of these rural Pennsylvania churches, the ELCA and PCUSA are churches with which the UCC has a "formula of Agreement" that states they are essentially in agreement on the substance of the faith. So he's insulting even more people...
commented by Anonymous Martin, 4:14 PM  
OK, so let me get this straight. It's "offensive" to notice that people in poverty tend to be more religious. It's also "offensive" to notice that gun ownership is higher in poorer, rural communities compared to affluent, rural communities. Are you sure your problem isn't with sociology instead of Obama?
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 4:59 PM  
Anon (1&5),

What I find offensive is that you're trading in stereotypes, with little, if any evidence to support the stereotypes. I don't live in PA, but I do live in a state with similar demographics in the midwest. If anything, more affluent rural residents have MORE guns, since they can afford them. Religious observance seems pretty constant through class in rural areas. However, it seems that, you, like Sen. Obama, like to trade in stereotypes, and furthermore, you miss the point. Sen. Obama claims that this pain leads to seeking solace in guns, God, and xenophobia (meaning that we shouldn't be concerned about ILLEGAL
immigration, I suspose). Most folks in PA that I've heard from resent that. Sure, they've had bad times, but they don't use guns and God as the opiate for the masses.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:18 AM  
Who's The Elitist?
Becoming an elitist is not something I worry about. It's more like my life's ambition.

Just once I want to go into a fancy restaurant and not obsess over the prices. Or wear a suit and tie and not feel like I'm choking. I've never been able to dress appropriately. Last time I felt really comfortable was circa 1975, when my uniform was a pair of overalls, no shirt.

The other night I was invited to a very nice, extremely fussy restaurant in Georgetown, and it was great except for the fact that I was expecting at any moment to be exposed as an imposter, as someone who had snuck into the place disguised as a plausible patron. I kept thinking the Mayter D would pull me aside and say, "We know who you are. And Taco Bell is the other side of the river."

I wish I knew what to do on a sailboat. I don't really like sailing because I never know how to tie the knots, and the owner of the sailboat is invariably someone who, on the water, turns into Captain Ahab, who takes his skippering super serious and starts barking commands with words you don't understand, like "Tack to the starboard aft!" or "Skank the jib!" And you get wet and seasick and the water is deep and filled with toothsome creatures. And you'll find yourself heading farther and farther from land, and Ahab will be feeling more confident of his powers as a mariner, and will begin threatening to go all the way to Bermuda. Sailing always winds up as a hostage situation.

We shouldn't be too quick to demonize elitists. I'm pretty sure Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an elitist at some level, and he did more for poor people and the elderly than any president in history.

And those very folks -- let's be delicate here in our phrasing and just refer to them as "the rabble" -- also revered John F. Kennedy, the noted president and elitist. They loved his charm, his youth, his beautiful wife, the way he knew how to look good in a tux.

Hillary Clinton calls Barack Obama an elitist, but she's not exactly someone who drinks the water from the fingerbowl. She hasn't lived in anything other than a mansion since the first Reagan term. When she and her husband pick a vacation destination, they always ask, "Where can surround ourselves with the most rich people and Hollywood celebrities? And shouldn't we poll-test the destination first?"

Sure, ideologically she's not an elitist. She sees poor people and disadvantaged people and thinks: I can help them. And they can vote for me. So let's not call her an elitist ("opportunist" does come to mind, however).

At the CNN Compassion Forum Sunday night, he said, "you know, Scripture talks about clinging to what's good." This works only if you close your eyes to the rest of Obama's original sentence, since surely he wasn't saying it's a good thing to cling to xenophobia and racism. Which is to say it doesn't work at all. Obama also admitted that he didn't choose his words carefully when he spoke about small-town values in San Francisco. But this was more than a slip—it was an extended riff.

it's so easy when you don't have the whole context or just want to nay-say and not consider both sides.
commented by Blogger Luke, 12:27 PM  
All you Obama swooners: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/ThomasSowell/2008/04/15/a_living_lie?page=full&comments=true
from the article:

"Voting records analyzed by the National Journal show him to be the farthest left of anyone in the Senate. Nor has he sponsored any significant bipartisan legislation -- nor any other significant legislation, for that matter.

Senator Obama is all talk -- glib talk, exciting talk, confident talk, but still just talk."

.......... and .......

It is understandable that young people are so strongly attracted to Obama. Youth is another name for inexperience -- and experience is what is most needed when dealing with skillful and charismatic demagogues.

Those of us old enough to have seen the type again and again over the years can no longer find them exciting. Instead, they are as tedious as they are dangerous."

DANGEROUS. Yes, indeed. INEXPERIENCED. Yes, indeed.
FAR-LEFT, and NOT BIPARTISAN. Yes, indeed.
A LIVING LIE: Apparently.

Some of us are (or should be) old enough to know better!

Article by Thomas Sowell, author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy. (just in case you are not familiar with Mr. Sowell, he is a renowned black economist.)
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 2:45 PM  
Luke,

You should really give credit to the original authors of some of those paragraphs.

John Dickerson for starters.......
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 3:10 PM  
Then Joel Achenbach......
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 3:13 PM  
"If anything, more affluent rural residents have MORE guns, since they can afford them. Religious observance seems pretty constant through class in rural areas."

"Many cities have tough laws limiting who can own a gun; most rural communities don't. People who live in the country can often hunt nearby; city dwellers have to drive, often for hours, to get to places where hunting is legal. So it's not surprising that people in rural areas are far more likely to have grown up in a culture where guns are commonplace. And that's reflected in the split in opinions about guns between Americans who live in cities and those who live in rural areas.

For example, more than 60 percent of big-city residents (those in cities with 500,000 people or more) favor gun control; only about 40 percent of rural residents do. Those percentages flip on the question of whether having a gun in the home makes it safer: Sixty percent of rural residents say it does, but only 40 percent of big-city people agree."
http://www.chron.com/content/chronicle/nation/guns/part1/gunside2.html

"religion is of more importance in the rural than in the urban community"
http://www.jstor.org/pss/1041578

Feel free to read the above articles. They reflect the consensus developed over the last 150 years in social science research. Of course, we wouldn't want facts to get in the way of your ideology. :)
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 6:03 PM  
I am the Greek Orthodox former UCCer from previous posts. I think Clinton and Obama are both destroying their chances of winning against McCain, by their insulting talk in response of each others statements. However, I just read today that there is a Libertarian candidate who is going to run, who may do to McCain what Nader did to the Democrat candidate in 1990, that is win enough votes to spoil McCain's chances of winning. So, we better pay attention to Obama versus Clinton, since there is a good chance one of them will be our President. And, of the two, I choose Clinton. Part of the reason I dropped out of the UCC is that I felt the UCC was trying to force things down my throat, such as Obama, gay marriage, and opposition to Israel. I don't appreciate a so-called "church" trying to force anything down my throat. The only political issue the Orthodox church tries to force down my throat is opposition to abortion, and I am already against that. By far, the UCC is more political than any far-right fundamentalist church, and in my opinion, the UCC is no longer a church, but a left-wing political organization. The Orthodox church by far stresses sacred tradition and worship over any political agenda. They never, never mention any political candidates, during worship or literature. Many Greek Orthodox are even Democrats, I suppose because new immigrants tend to need the government to help them out. My in-laws are Democrats, but they say the Greeks invented democracy, and they think the Democratic Party stands for democracy. They speak English poorly, and don't really understand much of American politics other than to think that because you are a Democrat you favor democracy more than the Republicans. I'm not trying to stereotype recent immigrants, any more than Obama tried to stereotype small town Pennyslvanians. However, if he could do it and get away with it in the opinion of his many supporters, maybe so can I!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10:49 PM  
you got me! but last time i posted a link, no one read it but shot off their opinions without support.

just figured i'd save ppl the trouble.
commented by Blogger Luke, 8:41 AM  
lol Luke.

I really liked it too. Thought the author was very good. I envy the ability to write that well.

Peace.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11:08 AM  
Luke:
I believe the comments were on comparisons of poor rural vs. more affluent rural areas, not with urban areas.

Also, George Will, in a recent column, said that the "elitist" tone among certain Democrats didn't happen until Stevenson. FDR may have been patrician, but never dressed down his "inferiors;" JFK had more of a common touch. Stevenson was the type of guy, who when told by a supporter that he had the support and votes of thinking Americans, lamented, "But I need a majority of voters to win." Doofus. Americans responded by spanking him twice, badly, in elections.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:01 PM  
Wasn't GW described by someone as "the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with"? He's got a great 'aw, shucks' kind of persona going for him.

Did you know John Wayne rolled up the bottoms of his Levis so his walk would be more noticeable in the movies? Do you know he developed that walk that so many assumed was part of his persona? Do you know we are sheep who because they can read believe they are independent beings somehow living beyond the influence of the culture and systems in which they are immersed
?
commented by Blogger Don Niederfrank, 7:42 AM  
Did you know that in the same George Will column mentioned in a comment above Will proposed the new liberalism was based, at least in part, on a belief that:

“Because the manipulable masses are easily given a "false consciousness" (another category, like religion as the "opiate" of the suffering masses, that liberalism appropriated from Marxism), four things follow:
First, the consent of the governed, when their behavior is governed by their false consciousnesses, is unimportant. Second, the public requires the supervision of a progressive elite which, somehow emancipated from false consciousness, can engineer true consciousness. Third, because consciousness is a reflection of social conditions, true consciousness is engineered by progressive social reforms. Fourth, because people in the grip of false consciousness cannot be expected to demand or even consent to such reforms, those reforms usually must be imposed, for example, by judicial fiats.”

To my eye, the above provides a plausible explanation for some of the actions by at least some of the office holders in the national setting of the UCC.
commented by Blogger jeffnfairchild, 9:17 AM  
Jeff,

I agree. But every group of idealist in power believe this.
commented by Blogger Don Niederfrank, 11:45 AM  
Don:
I see lots of sheep in both camps. If you want an example of scary sheeple behavior by a bunch of "Obamamaniacs" that carries into cult obsession you might want to check this out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghSJsEVf0pU

That's a bit scary.

p.s. Jeff's quote re: the "false consciousness" and the justfication to govern without the consent of the governed is pretty spot on about a good number of liberal/progressive elites.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11:53 AM  
Off topic.....

Where are we supposed to have a "conversation" on race on-line?

The UCCblog doesn't publish anything that isn't "rah-rah-rah-rah-ucc-rah-rah-rah".

Oh yea......WE are just supposed to listen......the problem is.......that is what I've been doing since 2003..........
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11:57 AM  
Well, I'm glad you quote a completely objective source such as George Will for a description of contemporary liberalism. Perhaps we can ask Angela Davis to give us a history of the GOP?
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:37 PM  
anon:
You make me laugh: George Will = Angela Davis? Will, though conservative, is a respected writer. Davis was a flamethrower radical.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 8:15 PM  
Angela Davis is a respected academic in my community and is head of an entire department at a well-respected large state university.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:40 PM  
anon:
Only in radical enclaves in CA can Angela Davis be a respected academician, and only there can one be a professor of "Consciousness." She was lucky to be acquitted of the plot to murder that judge back in the 70's ( the poor guy looked terrified as he had that rifle--registered in her name--taped to his neck). I respect her as much as I respect ex-Weatherman Ayers, persons who never uttered a mea culpa for all the violence they perpetrated.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 3:15 AM  
I'm good friends with ex-Weatherman Ayers and find him to be a noble American who fought in the best interests of our country. We should all be proud that there are Americans committed to justice and democracy such as Ayers and Davis.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:12 PM  
According to the quotation offered in this discussion, Obama said the following:

". . . each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Who is being insulted here? I guess we could say, cynically, that the promises made by politicians are not to be believed and that people in rural Pennsylvania, or post-industrial Michigan, for that matter, should never have expected these politicos to come through in the first place. Springsteen's NEBRASKA album is a commentary on this problem as it presented itself in the economically dark days of the Carter administration-�when gas lines were longer than they are today, but gas prices were at least a bit lower. (Note the frequent references to "Michigan" on the Springsteen album and the general malaise that hovers over the album's post-industrial heroes.)

I guess these victims of bad social planning should have simply pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, so to speak. They should have just moved to places like Texas and Alabama�-where industrial jobs are on the rise (or Mexico or China, if we want to indulge in a sarcastic reference with "anti-trade" leanings).

But politicians are in a covenant relationship with their constituents. The phenomenon described by Obama is more about a chronic breach of trust. Careful readers of the Bible are familiar with this problem and the disastrous consequences that result from it. See, for example, the Elijah-Elisha cycle of stories in I and II Kings�-where people who have been forced off their lands end up in the woods begging Elisha to help them build log cabins to house the otherwise homeless (II Kings 6.1-7). In Kings the failure of successive administrations, so to speak, to address this problem, leads to revolution authorized by Elisha and instigated by Jehu (II Kings 9.6ff). In other words, leaders like Obama who aspire to positions of leadership owe "the people" the reordering of cultural priorities they promise in their rhetoric. Read the prophets. This is the recurring refrain throughout the entire collection. A variety of consequences occur when the leadership forgets "God's people" and fails to care for the "least of these"--robbing them of hope from generation to generation.

One consequence of a "dream deferred," as Langston Hughes described it, is an explosion (see Jehu's Revolution; or Birmingham, Alabama, circa 1963). Along this line it may be worthwhile to recall that before there was 9-11, the most extensive terrorist attack on American soil was executed in Oklahoma City. One sees in the survivalist words and deeds of Terry McVeigh an extreme example of the bitterness Obama is describing.

Obama is talking about a seismic shift that has occurred in America's industrial cities and rural regions�-a shift that became inescapably noticeable in the late 1970s. Obama's not saying that anyone "planned" these problems. He's not saying that the harm that has resulted from these problems was intended. What he is saying is that people in positions of power promised to address these systemic problems and never came through. Seeking refuge somewhere, some people have turned to blaming others for their problems: the poor immigrant, for example; or they have embraced a god who still loves "us" but, among other things, "hates" gay people. Or they have placed their confidence in the weaponry their second amendment right entitles them to-�finding in fire power the muscle they lack economically.

These things happen. When verbal persuasion proved ineffective, the Black Panthers started carrying guns to protect themselves and to send a message. When the economy crumbled, post World War I Germans blamed outsiders�-or the outsiders in their midst�-for their problems. Reinhold Niebuhr, traveling through the Ruhr in the 1920s, called upon the French and the British to lighten the load placed upon the Germans; to relinquish them from the punitive treatment authorized by the Treaty of Versailles; to allow more wealth to stay in the country rather than go to paying war debt. Niebuhr warned of disastrous consequences if the burden was not eased (compare Jeroboam's pleas to Rehoboam on behalf of the dispossessed in I Kings 12). The rest is history.

These problems can be avoided. People who make promises need to keep them. If they go on lying, there will be grave social consequences. That is the gist of what Obama is saying, but it is more complicated than that: his statement opens up a window on a much larger series of problems. These problems cannot be addressed in sound-bites--although that is the mode of discourse we have succumbed to in the current era. We live in a world of binary oppositions. For every O'Reilly Factor there is an O'Franken Factor. To combat FOX-News there is NPR (or so FOX-News would have us believe).

When Jesus said "I came that they might have life and have it abundantly" he was talking, at least in part, about moving beyond binary oppositions to that place where "I and the Father" and also those whom he called "friends" are "One." It was this vision that enlivened our ancestors in the faith; as ecumenical vision, it shaped the UCC. If we are committed to the "Others," including those whose positions we oppose within our own denomination, we have to move beyond sound-bite thinking. It's a media ploy designed to sell ads. It's a diminishment of our common humanity and an insult to the community's intelligence. I hope we are able to hope for more than this.
Ted Trost
commented by Anonymous Theodore Trost, 4:23 PM  
Anon 25:
Ayers is an unrepentant terrorist who regrets that he didn't cause more mayhem, destruction, and death by working outside the system and acting on the principle that the end justifies the means. If you're his good friend you are just as reprehensible.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:23 AM  

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