Obama resigns from controversial church

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign confirmed Saturday that he has resigned from the church where controversial sermons by his former pastor and other ministers created repeated political headaches for the Democratic frontrunner.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008

40 Comments
Posted May 31, 2008 at 7:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

None too soon!  I think it will serve Sen. Obama well to get as far away from the racism of that Church as he can. 

I am not a supporter of Sen. Obama, but I think it is very likely that he will win the election.  It is a relief to see that he has enough sense to distance himself from the racism of Black Liberation Theology and all that bitterness and anti-white retro activism.  I think Sen. Obama is a socialist, but I will now give him the benefit of the doubt that he is not sympathetic to anti-white racism or anti-semitism [praise for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan].

May 31, 7:49 pm | [comment link]
2. libraryjim wrote:

too little too late.  He should have addressed this issue as soon as it surfaced, instead of making excuses for his mentor.

May 31, 8:23 pm | [comment link]
3. Ken Peck wrote:

To the best of my knowledge, Obama does not advocate the ownership of the means of production by the government—the classical definition of Socialism.

I would also observe that given the argument that Obama should have quit his church because of the errors preached there, conservatives must quit their General Convention Church parishes for the same reason. Granted a different set of errors, but errors none the less.

May 31, 8:32 pm | [comment link]
4. wamark wrote:

This is nothing but shear political opportunism and contrivance.  Obama has already admitted that we was molded and shaped by Wright and has put an equally outrageous RC priest on his advisory council.  This is nothing but window dressing.  No doubt it will be readily consumed and disseminated by the media to show his sincerity.  To me it doesn’t reveal sincerity or strength of character.  Rather it shows and individual who is willing to throw anyone and anything under the bus to achieve his goal.  The means justify the ends…total cynicism.  He may very well be elected president…and we, as a nation, probably deserve what we may get.  The Republicans have bankrupted us financially now it appears to be the Democrats turn not only to add to our financial woes but to ice the cake by bankrupting us morally.

May 31, 8:37 pm | [comment link]
5. Jeffersonian wrote:

Obama’s steeped a little too long in that fever swamp to rid himself of the stench, much as the MSM will attempt to divert attention away from it.  He sat in the pews for 20 years, drinking in the poison and only stepped back when the lunacy got between him and his ambition. 

Character is what you do when you think no one’s looking.  When he thought no one was looking, Obama picked a racist, America-hating, grievance-peddling church.

May 31, 8:42 pm | [comment link]
6. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

Yes, Ken Peck, I think that Obama is most likely a socialist.

http://www.aim.org/aim-column/obamas-international-socialist-connections/

May 31, 8:55 pm | [comment link]
7. RickW wrote:

This is a subject where I am conflicted.  I don’t agree with the church mentioned here, these sermons are not christian.

But let us look at this from a different angle:  When in your life have you become uncomfortable by what was said from the pulpit?  You are called to give sacrificially at the very time you are planning a nice vacation.  You are challenged by a homeless man walking down the aisle on Sunday morning, asking for a job or some food or some money.  You are called to purify your hearts, yet ripped with lust and entertaining the wrong thoughts. 

It’s easy to look on these events passively (“well, if I was there…”) as some sort of spectator, when in your heart you know the guy is right and you don’t want to do it.

What about a strong pro life sermon?  You can support choice or life, but should the media drum me out of my church because it preaches pro life to the offense of the choicers? 

What about a sermon which says care for the guy with HIV-Aids, while not condoning his lifestyle choice?  Is that a reason to be drummed out of a church by people who have only attended the church by You-Tube?

The constitution says “no religious test shall be imposed”.  We can call this membership some very poor judgement or something else, but is not this a religious test? 

The gospel is an offense to those who are not in Christ.  Are we all to be pushed out of our offensive churches because of some political correctness?  Should the fact that people (or pastors) in his church might speak in tongues cause an uproar?  Remember the congressional hearing where Clarence Thomas was asked to speak in tongues?

The last thought is, if you haven’t been offended in church lately, then maybe you are too comfortable there, and the Holy Spirit might want to bring you to a place where you can be offended.

From the Romney declaration, the Huckabee insinuations, and now the Obama church flee, we are in a dangerous time.

May 31, 8:58 pm | [comment link]
8. Jeffersonian wrote:

With all due respect, RickW, this isn’t a question of Obama’s church being on one side or other of a controversial public issue or two that happen to overlap with Christian belief. 

My priest makes me uncomfortable all the time, but because he challenges me to be a better Christian and a better person.  He doesn’t exhort us to perpetual grievance, racial hatred, lunatic conspiracy theories or the damnation of our nation and I would suspect that any sermon exhibiting these vile sentiments would find the Vestry inviting him to depart the parish forthwith.

May 31, 9:09 pm | [comment link]
9. Watcher On The Wall wrote:

Even though he has disavowed & unaffiliated himself from this “church”, I think the stain will remain. It was a divorce of convenience. However, I think this is the least of his worries as the true intentions of he & his wife become more clear. Basically, he’s a leftist, socialist rookie full of bad ideas and no experience. Avoid at all costs.

May 31, 9:18 pm | [comment link]
10. Sidney wrote:

This certainly shouldn’t stop the Republicans from continuing to use the church against him.  Make Obama repeat over and over again that he resigned from the church, and it will remind people that it was a thoroughly political move.

Will he get away with it?  The media certainly will do its best to help out.  Robert Byrd, senior Democrat senator from West Virginia, seems to be doing rather well as a ‘former’ KKK member.  And Ted Kennedy is doing well as a ‘former’ 40+ year member of the all-male Owl Club at Harvard.

May 31, 9:36 pm | [comment link]
11. NewTrollObserver wrote:

The emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual tensions that Black people can release, in a Christian environment of understanding and nourishment, within Black churches, can be easily misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misrepresented by the mainstream media and GOP operatives. For instance, Rev. Wright’s “damnation” sermon was not preached every Sunday (and I have yet to see evidence that he preached it more than once): the jeremiads of the Hebrew prophets is pretty hard medicine to take, once they are translated into modern terms, with modern actors and players. Yet, the age of YouTube has meant that 10-second sound bites that previously were only encountered in church, delivered within a 30-minute sermon that provided the Hebraic, Christian, and ethical-moral context, can now be taken out of that milieu, and placed—bare naked, if you will—in a secular, political realm that has little motive in understanding the salvatory-liberatory situation of prophetic con-da/emnations against injustice, oppression, and evil. But once in that political context, the politician has two options: (1) attempt to engage in the larger sermon and the theological background in which those edited statements are understood; or (2) attempt to engage the edited statements in the now-political context in which they have entered. Senator Obama probably realized that a lengthy theological exegesis of, for instance, “con/damnation”—involving the history of Puritan jeremiad that lies at the foundation of our nation’s history, a history that Rev. Wright, as a Black Liberation Theologian, finds quite useful in his own ministry in the South-Side of Chicago, interestingly enough (but, then again, the UCC does descend from those Puritan forefathers)—would distract him from his real interest in effecting political change within a nation priding itself in its disestablishmentarianism. The Senator is not a theologian, so his choice to engage such statements from a political context makes some sense. Such an engagement need not be interpreted cynically. Rather, I suggest that Rev. Wright’s role in demonstrating to the Senator that one could be Christian and a holder of compassionate progressive political action, is something that the Senator will take with him, regardless of the Senator’s future church affiliation. What the recent unpleasantness probably forced Obama to face is the fact that the rest of America isn’t Chicago, or Illinois, and isn’t aware of the historical background of Trinity UCC or Rev. Wright, not to mention the cultural distinctiveness of many Black churches. Churches influenced by Black Liberation Theology, though also inclusive of a compassionate progressive politics, are also inclusive of a certain type of language that many non-Black Americans are uncomfortable hearing at all, let alone in a Sunday morning church service. Black Liberation Theology may have inspired Rev. Wright, who thus inspired Senator Obama’s conversion to Christianity, but that doesn’t mean that the Senator himself is a Black Liberation Theologian, or believes in the distinctives of that sort of theology. I would suspect most Black people are very sympathetic to that theological project, and are more understanding than the average non-Black American, of pastors who preach from that perspective. (Yes, a MLK Jr. was good, but he also needed to be balanced by a Malcolm X. And MLK Jr. himself, lest we forget, became persona non grata in his later years, in the eyes of the media and political leaders.) The racial divisions in America have healed quite a bit, but it still runs raw in many places. Black people have their own ways of dealing with this, ways that may find expression in churches across the nation, ways that are not fully understood if taken out of the church-Christian context. The Senator awakened to the fact that the views of his former pastor—though understandable within their contexts, and within African-American historical memory and survival—were now not “in church”, but in the political arena. The Rev. Wright, in his Bill Moyers interview, said that he had to do what a pastor does, and Obama had to do what a politician does. Some have taken this as a sly disparagement of Obama. Perhaps it was, but I saw it as an astute observation of the precious separation of church-and-state in the American political arena. Obama is a politician, and proudly so. And what politicians do, or at least should do, in America, is find common ground, solve problems, and move ahead.

May 31, 9:39 pm | [comment link]
12. Jeffersonian wrote:

Where’d you C&P;that great belch of kultursmog from, #11?

May 31, 9:45 pm | [comment link]
13. vu82 wrote:

Newtroll serves up a nice salad of political gibberish.

But the point is that Sen. Obama is inexperienced, naive and a product of this “Black Liberation” or whatever nonsense school of thought. His record in the Senate is very limited- and what is available is scary Trotskyist. Hook him up with the current House Speaker (another scary person way out of her depth from anything other than a power politics standpoint) and a moderate change in the Senate and the “American Empire” heads to its grave even faster than its predecessors.

Perhaps interesting History but I worry for my children and grandchildren.

May 31, 10:23 pm | [comment link]
14. Br. Michael wrote:

Just another hypocritical politicion.  He may win, but he’s just another hypocrite.

May 31, 10:41 pm | [comment link]
15. Drew wrote:

I guess he’s not clinging to Trinity UCC anymore.

May 31, 10:45 pm | [comment link]
16. Ken Peck wrote:

Perhaps interesting History but I worry for my children and grandchildren.

As well you should, since they will be paying for the mistaken policies and incompetence of the current administration, which McCain (who has his own problems with religious leaders) promises to continue if elected.

May 31, 10:56 pm | [comment link]
17. Ricky Bobby wrote:

Bottom line…its too late…what htey say is what he believes and we all know it…

May 31, 11:03 pm | [comment link]
18. Rocks wrote:

According to his press conference:
Obama would have stood up and objected if the pastor had attacksed gays from the pulpit.
On looking for a new church he said he wants some good music, activism and to go to a nice brunch afterwards.

He’s an Episcopalian and just doesn’t know it yet.

May 31, 11:19 pm | [comment link]
19. Ricky Bobby wrote:

Maybe he should join a confused church to go with his dysfunctional political party.

June 1, 12:16 am | [comment link]
20. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

#11 Forgot to type [fnord] [/fnord] around his text.

June 1, 12:19 am | [comment link]
21. Katherine wrote:

#6, I followed the link, which proves that left-wingers in Chicago have connections with real Socialists, but not that Obama is one.  He is the most liberal U.S. Senator serving, and that’s enough.

The excuse that Trinity just does what black churches do won’t fly.  There are plenty of black churches whose main job is religion and not black separatism and hatred of whites.  Trinity’s mission statement and its website, before the controversy broke into the news, made its hatred a prominent feature.  Obama was either not smart enough to notice, or agreed, or was only there for political expediency rather than the deep faith he claimed.

The Great Change Agent turns out to be just another left-wing Chicago machine politician.

June 1, 12:24 am | [comment link]
22. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

#21 Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3

June 1, 12:45 am | [comment link]
23. Katherine wrote:

Here’s Obama’s explanation for leaving Trinity Church:

Well, you know, after the National Press Club episode, as I said, I had a long conversation with Michelle and also had a long conversation with Reverend Moss. We prayed on it and you know, my interest has never been to try to politicize this or put the church in a position where is subject to the same rigors and demands of a presidential campaign. My suspicion at that time, and Michelle, I think, shared this concern, was that it was going to be very difficult to continue our membership there so long as I was running for president. The recent episode with Father Pfleger I think just reinforced that view that we don’t want to have to answer for everything that’s stated in a church. On the other hand, we also don’t want a church subjected to the scrutiny that a presidential campaign legitimately undergoes. I mean, that’s … I don’t want Reverend Moss to have to look over his shoulder and see that his sermon vets or if it’s potentially problematic for my campaign or will attract the fury of a cable program.

The problem is not the content of the church’s beliefs or programs but rather the attention they attract.  So my first alternative, that Obama didn’t know (which is what he has claimed) is not true.  He agrees, but has to bail out because it looks bad.

June 1, 1:14 am | [comment link]
24. KevinBabb wrote:

By resigning now, Obama shows himself to be, using the technical term, an unprincipaled weenie.

The Viet Cong couldn’t break John McCain in six years, although they stabbed him and fractured his arms.  It took the press six weeks to break Obama.

One aside…I am always surprised that the press doesn’t attack Roman Catholic politicians for belonging to a church that, from a secular viewpoint, seems to discriminate pretty strongly against women.

June 1, 1:32 am | [comment link]
25. KevinBabb wrote:

Sorry, that’s “unprinicipled.”  As far as I know, Obama still supports his school prinicipal—but that may be next month’s scandal.

June 1, 1:33 am | [comment link]
26. azusa wrote:

‘I can no more turn my back on Pastor Wright than - no, scrub that.
This has been my church for 20 years where I - no, scrub that.
Under the bus NOW!’

June 1, 1:45 am | [comment link]
27. Drew wrote:

I’m not entirely sure of what the policy of the UCC is, if any, but some churches will not merely permit a member to resign.  Instead, they must seek a letter of transfer to some other church and until notification of said letter is received they remain members of the original church (it’s a matter of accountability and not just leaving the sheep standing in the middle of the field).  The Obamas, then, may actually still be a part of Trinity UCC!

I am aware the the policy that I refer to above has been abused by TEC and others, but it really does make sense in the context of healthy, orthodox churches.

June 1, 2:00 am | [comment link]
28. Katherine wrote:

KevinBabb, the Roman Catholic church doesn’t call for discrimination against women in the secular realm.  It merely declines to ordain them to Holy Orders.  Obama’s ex-church calls for secular black separatism and exceptionalism.

Drew, the UCC in general is (a) congregational and (b) not theologically orthodox.  Because it’s congregational, there are exceptions to (b), but as a denomination it represents “progressive” non-creedal theology.

June 1, 3:01 am | [comment link]
29. Hakkatan wrote:

“The constitution says “no religious test shall be imposed”.  We can call this membership some very poor judgement or something else, but is not this a religious test?”  (RickW, #7)

The Constitution means that the government cannot pass a law saying that only members of a certain religion/denomination can be elected to office, or that certain religions/denominations are excluded from consideration.

The Constitution does not mean that we, as individuals, cannot use religion as a factor in making our choices.

June 1, 5:47 am | [comment link]
30. Drew wrote:

#28 I’m aware of the situation with the UCC (they don’t call them Unitarians Considering Christ for nothing).  There may be a few, I would imagine mainly rural, congregations left that still believe something but they are few and far between. 

I was merely pointing out that simple resignation is often not an option.  In point of fact his merely doing it in that matter has technically placed him outside of Christ’s church.

June 1, 8:17 am | [comment link]
31. Katherine wrote:

I think in the UCC that one belongs to the congregation, not to the denomination.  At this point, therefore, the Obamas are unchurched.

June 1, 9:17 am | [comment link]
32. vu82 wrote:

#16. The mistaken policies and big government nonsense to which I refer date back to FDR. While it’s true that the current administration has done a poor job at controlling the Federal cancer that’s not new. I don’t think that the solution is to replace them with people with whose political raison d’etre is to increase the size of Big Brother. That won’t help my children.

June 1, 9:40 am | [comment link]
33. Ken Peck wrote:

vu82 wrote:

While it’s true that the current administration has done a poor job at controlling the Federal cancer that’s not new. I don’t think that the solution is to replace them with people with whose political raison d’etre is to increase the size of Big Brother. That won’t help my children.

“A poor job?” It has been unquestionably the worst administration since Harding! It has amassed more debt in 7 years than in the previous 2 centuries. It has gravely wounded our national defense and security. It has ridden roughshod over our civil liberties and flaunted the law of the land.

And the solution to the problems created by this administration will not be to elect a hothead determined to pursue the very same policies which have gotten us into this mess in the first place.

I seriously doubt that McCain and the Republicans will be able not to “increase the size of Big Brother.” They’ve not done it in the past. Nor, for that matter, will reducing the federal bureaucracy significantly alter the economic misadventures of the Bush administration, the short-term and long-term costs of the Iraq fiasco, the failing value of the dollar, the economic squeeze on the middle-class.

Nor will it feed the hungry, shelter the homeless or heal the sick.

June 1, 10:01 am | [comment link]
34. vu82 wrote:

KP,

Well although we are united in our displeasure with the current administration we disagree about the best choice for the next.

As an old school Tenth Amendment Libertarian I think the real thing to fear is a united Democratic government- so I prefer McCain as a veto pen if nothing else. Sadly neither party has any centrist tendencies at present so keeping them from doing much of anything is for me the best option.

I can sense that you have faith in the Obama option. To me it’s a crapshoot as he has not really had to define himself- perhaps he will later in the year. His media attractiveness is not important to me. At present we have only his voting record- as mentioned above the farthest left in the Senate. Not encouraging to someone of my political leanings.

At any rate you are fairly likely to get your wish and I will hope that the Russian Roulette game goes well for all of us.

June 1, 12:17 pm | [comment link]
35. KevinBabb wrote:

Katherine #28: When I said that the RC Church seems to discriminate against women “from a secular viewpoint”, I meant that if one analyzes the bar to women’s ordination using only secular means of analysis (e.g., “there are women lawyers…women doctors…women judges…why not women priests, as a matter of gender equality?”), then the RCC church seems to be discriminating against women.  If you look at the question from an ecclesiastical/scriptural viewpoint, the issue is much more nuanced, and not nearly so clear.  (My two main spiritual leaders are active bishops ordinary, one who supports WO, and the other who opposes it. I love them both and lean on them equally for spiritual guidance.).

I recognize that in terms of lay participation in thing such as parish counsels, the Roman Church, at least in the US, makes no gender-based distinctions.

June 1, 1:05 pm | [comment link]
36. azusa wrote:

Do people grasp the significance of Obama’s action?
He has turned his back on the defining focus of most of his adult life.
And he has done so for the same reason he joined Trinity: political opportunism.
As even his ardent supporters like JimWallis will recognize, Obama is pretty much a secular person whose interest in the church was primarily as it furthered social programs, not the furtherance of holiness and personal salvation.
It served its purpose and now was becoming an embarrassment, so it had to be ditched. Such is Christian fellowship.

Grater love hath no man than that he lay down his friends for his life.

June 1, 3:21 pm | [comment link]
37. Dave B wrote:

Obama’s biggest asset is his ability to read a tela prompter.  If he does not have a scripted speech Obama stammers, miss speaks, and makes gaffs.  He is intellectually lazy shown by his communications about German concentration camps (in both speeches and books) with out even looking up the history of these camps.  He is an opportunist shown in his ability to first defend then turn his back on friends, associates or who ever gets in his way.  Opra left this church after a couple of years because she realized it would not fit in with “mainstream” America, it took Obama twenty years to make the same realization.  This election should have been a cake walk for the Dems but they just may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

June 1, 4:24 pm | [comment link]
38. Pete Haynsworth wrote:

What are the chances that he and Michelle will join TEC?
It’ll be interesting to see how they align/express their faith going forward.

June 1, 4:29 pm | [comment link]
39. Ed the Roman wrote:

Over the next five months, I expect it will come out more and more that this church had ALWAYS been “like that”.

Which will leave typical voters (you know, the ones who aren’t running this stuff up a vein starting last summer) deciding that either Obama really believes this stuff, because he had it spoon fed to his children all their lives, or he is a wee bit less quick on the uptake than most Harvard lawyers.

More bluntly, a moron or a liar.  Pick one.

June 1, 9:39 pm | [comment link]
40. libraryjim wrote:

Ed,
Why do we have to pick just ONE, if both may apply?

JE

June 2, 9:19 am | [comment link]
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