Home > Commentary > The Barack Obama “Controversy”: A Christian Response

The Barack Obama “Controversy”: A Christian Response

Barack ObamaBy now most of you have read and watched on TV about the recent controversy with Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and the incendiary remarks of his pastor (or former pastor, or whatever he actually is to Obama). I’ve seen many “Christian” responses to the Obama controversy, and I find them sorely lacking. I felt it was time that I join the growing chorus by adding my own discordant voice.

I pretty much never blog about politics. I despise politics. It is the only thing I know that divides as quickly and easily as the Gospel. And divisions over politics are, in my mind, utterly useless and worthless. To this day there are people in my family and friends who still think the Democrats “are for the working man” even though the Dems long since ceased to be about such a concept, supporting things which actually undercut the working man. There are people in my family and friends who still think the Republicans are “God’s Party” and strong government though most of the Reps would make me ashamed to call them brothers in Christ, and the current administration is proving to be an example of how not to practice strong government (it’s been pretty weak).

Yet I’m going to break silence and comment on Barack Obama. How should we as Christians respond to this controversy?

Let’s start by how we should not respond.

First, let’s not delude ourselves into thinking we know exactly what Obama should do. Much of the “Christian” criticism (if not all of it) has come from white believers. Excuse me? Since when does a white person get to authoritatively tell a black person how to deal with their own culture, language, and biases? No, white believers need to sit down and shut up. If anyone is to criticize, it must be black believers who understand the culture and worldview that this controversy displays.

White people, I have observed, simply do not adequately understand the type of frustration and mindset that has developed from centuries of being treated as an inferior being. This leads to “foot-in-mouth” syndrome — pretty much nothing a white person could say about this could be taken seriously. And it will unnecessarily open the white critic to charges of racism.

Second, let’s not think that we can answer this biblically, even if in fact we can. Again, criticism that has attempted to do this biblically has come from white believers. Such criticism, while it may be correct in principle, fails miserably in practice, simply because it does not address the unique situation it seeks to criticize. It does not address the context of the black church, black culture, and the black worldview these encapsulated therein. The criticism I have seen thus far is applicable to a white church setting, not a black one. Again, we must leave such criticism to biblically faithful black pastors and theologians. White critics need to, once again, sit down and shut up.

This whole farce (yes, farce) of white commentators continually reminds me of hearing people trying to tell Deaf people how to handle their own affairs, something Deaf people have historically fought against. Deaf people want to handle things themselves as Deaf people, with no interference from the hearing. A hearing person, in Deaf culture, has no right to influence Deaf ways uninvited. In other words, if we feel we need help from the hearing, we’ll ask for it. Having recently in the past year been the target of such malfeasance from a hearing individual, I have become very sensitive to this issue in my own community, and I can only imagine how much my black counterparts must be bristling to hear white people issue their proclamations about this controversy.

So, how can believers respond to this controversy?

I’m convinced after reflection that there is only one true and biblical way a white Christian (or any Christian for that matter) can honestly, effectively respond, and that is through prayer.

Yes, prayer. I’m not going to throw out any proof-texts because, quite frankly, I’m tired of the proof-texting white Christians have done about this whole controversy. The Scripture I’d use if I did ought to be obvious (I believe Jesus said it first and Paul repeated the principle). Barack Obama is no friend of God nor the Gospel. His positions on the issues make that glaringly clear. Yet even in that I will pray for Obama.

I will pray that God will raise up faithful black pastors to respond effectively in ways no other man of God outside of that community could. I will pray that our society’s penchant for guilt-by-association (GBA) not harm Obama unwarrantedly. I will pray that Obama will only be blessed and strengthened by God for having to endure this controversy, as he is not the guilty party in this controversy. Ultimately, I will pray that Obama will receive the Gospel of God, repent, and believe.

I will pray for this black pastor, that God will put joy in his heart. I will pray that he will be moved to speak with grace. I will pray that he will seek to build up rather than tear down society. I will pray that he will be moved by God to speak faithfully instead of speaking from his racist, biased, unscriptural worldview. I will pray that this pastor will repent and become a true man of God from this day forward.

And yes, that is exactly what I think of his words. But Barack Obama should not have to suffer for this pastor’s sin, nor should he have to put up with loud white people who think they know everything.

  1. March 19, 2008 at 5:50 am

    But I’m guessing you wouldn’t be quite so happy if Whites sat down, shut up, and didn’t vote for him. LOL!

  2. March 19, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Thank you for the advice to your white brothers and sisters in Christ.
    Prayer is definitely appropriate because it relieves us of the anger we feel towards another.
    I have a christain response for the Rev Wright issue, which is, Jesus and the fig tree.

    If you have no objection here is my link.

  3. March 19, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I can tell that the rhetoric of recent days has been hurtful. Would you object to a piece critiquing broadly the liberation theology that seems to undergird Rev. Wright’s preaching?

  4. March 19, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    jonolan, in all honesty, nothing would make me happier this election if nobody voted for Obama.

    Winslie, thanks for your kind words.

    Guillaume, I have no objection to such a piece. I do think that all these attempts to make Obama in cahoots with Wright unless he “fixes the problem” are misguided, though.

    I do admit I’m still fascinated with Liberation theology. How can something which has so great a goal, a goal which is so God-honoring, be so corrupted by liberalism? It’s just sad!

  5. March 19, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Cool. Your post sounded “defensive” of Obama to me and I thought you were a supporter – my mistake.

    I must note though that, since Whites are Americans Obama could be our President as well. That gives us not only the right but the duty to question anything and everything about him. We’re not going to “shut up.”

  6. March 19, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Sorry Squire,
    I’m with Jonolan on this one. Please read my article before you comment, because although I agree with the concept of prayer I am diametrically opposed to it, regarding Rev wright

  7. March 19, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    jonolan, no mistake on your part, I was defending the man somewhat. I just think it’s silly for him to be held accountable for the remarks of a pastor he is not even under anymore, if it’s true he’s no longer a member there. I’ve been in churches where I didn’t agree fully with the pastor but that in no way insinuates I owe people an explanation for the stuff I and they don’t agree with.

    And btw, that is truly funny, he can indeed be the “white” president! But I stand by what I said — we need someone who actually knows what they’re talking about to critique this thing. Otherwise we’re just another talking head.

    Winslie, so you’re opposed to asking God, as I do here, to bring Rev. Wright to repentance for what he said, that he might change his heart?

  8. March 20, 2008 at 7:51 am

    I do not want to turn into some crazy flamer and should state at the outset that I am black but from UK, therefore do not experience churchianity through the eyes of Rev Wright or as an African-American.
    I am going to take the time to reply because in a way, I envy you, that you are American, because you right there, where history is being made and you have the choice to either build or destroy.
    The “sin”, I can see that pastor Wright committed; if we ignore words that are particularly unpatriotic to the American nation, is PRIDE.
    I believe he allowed his cult status get to his head and was playing to the camera. Obama rightly calls his statements “incendiary”.
    Secondly, I found his body language to be glorifying himself i.e drawing attention to self rather than glorifying God, but then I am not African-American, who am I to judge?
    He perhaps is trying to articulate the feelings of the downtrodden black person in the street and uttering words they are unable to, although they would like to. That is surely the role of the shepherd.
    Give him time. I would suggest that he will repent, and I hope it will not be for political expediency.
    I am puzzled why you arrive at your conclusion “Barack Obama is no friend of God nor the Gospel. His positions on the issues make that glaringly clear. Yet even in that I will pray for Obama.”
    As much as you don’t want verses to be used as rapiers and I agree with you, like you, I too do not like verses taken out of context and used as battering rams. We are however speaking about a pastor preaching in his church and I would suggest that we need to take a good look at Jesus and the Fig tree. If you can explain Jesus’ words, then perhaps you can do the same with Wright.
    Pastor Wright is the only person who knows why he felt the need to be offensive.
    I agree with Obama “- [t]o simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality…….
    This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years……..
    … This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected”
    I believe you are a considerate person and my request as stated at the beginning is that you make the best of this golden opportunity and may you find peace in the choices you make, because we will all (globally) feel the effect of these choices.
    I conclude on a subjective note, that Barack Obama is a beacon of inspiration and helps me rise above my victim state.

  9. Valorie Hall
    March 21, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    The Barack Obama/Rev. Wright Controversy

    I grew up in a church very similar to the one Barack Obama belongs to. The preachers in my church delivered sermons comparable to the now controversial messages of Rev. Wright. These sermons served a very important purpose. Our ministers were acting as our therapists. They were giving us an outlet to release the rage we felt inside about how we were being treated in our country and the unjust governmental policies. Our preachers knew if they did not address this rage aggressively, many of us would end up in jail.

    Rev. Wright is a black man who grew up at a time when he was not even considered a human being. He is a wounded soul who has been able to help many other wounded souls make it through just one more day.

  10. Valorie Hall
    March 22, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    RACIST – a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others

    Rev. Wright does not qualify as a racist. There is no evidence that he believes that the black race is superior to the white race.

    The Black Value System urges members to follow a list of 12 concepts such as a commitment to the black community, commitment to the black family and dedication to the pursuit of education and excellence. Most white and affluent young black Americans do not understand the mindset of black people who live in a poverty-stricken community. For these forgotten Americans, they need special attention. Many are ashamed of the color of their skin. They see pimps and drug dealers as role models. It is within this community that Trinity United Church came up with the Black Value System. The desire of this program is to build pride in being black not superiority. This program wants to encourage black children to get a good education and not become teen parents, drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes. The Black Value System is not to promote superiority of black people but to help eliminate the self hatred that many feel coming from this community. I believe Barack Obama stayed at Trinity United Church for 20 years because he has witnessed the many changed lives of black people who are now full participating members in the American economy thanks to Rev. Wright.

  11. Valorie Hall
    March 22, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Rev. Wright Quotes:

    “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye…and now we are indignant, because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

    “Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

    “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color”, referring to AIDS origins theories, and “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people…God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme”

    US Government performs human experiment on 400 black men.

    “For 40 years, the U.S. Public Health Service has conducted a study in which human guinea pigs, not given proper treatment, have died of syphilis and its side effects,” Associated Press reporter Jean Heller wrote on July 25, 1972. “The study was conducted to determine from autopsies what the disease does to the human body.”

    The Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began the study in 1932. Nearly 400 poor black men with syphilis from Macon County, Ala., were enrolled in the study. They were never told they had syphilis, nor were they ever treated for it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several illnesses, including syphilis, anemia and fatigue.

    At the start of the study, there was no proven treatment for syphilis. But even after penicillin became a standard cure for the disease in 1947, the medicine was withheld from the men. The Tuskegee scientists wanted to continue to study how the disease spreads and kills. The experiment lasted four decades, until public health workers leaked the story to the media.

    By then, dozens of the men had died, and many wives and children had been infected. In 1973, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a class-action lawsuit. A $9 million settlement was divided among the study’s participants. Free health care was given to the men who were still living, and to infected wives, widows and children.

  12. Ike Hanson
    March 28, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Just browsed some commments on some ‘christan’ website, unbelievable.

  1. March 19, 2008 at 5:47 am

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