Friday, March 14, 2008
Who is his pastor?
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A forum for discussing matters of moment, from a curmudgeonly perspective. (The ideas posted here do not necessarily represent those of any organization with which I am a part). Rude and insulting remarks will not be published, but civil disagreement is welcome.
Former pastor, as the article you cite clear says the pastor retired last month.
I was just waiting for the Groothuis Anti-Obama Machine to heat up again when these old clips surfaced of his pastor, and sure enough, it didn't take that much time. The Anti-Obama Machine wants people to think that this reflects on Obama some way, but I can tell you that of all the churches I've attended I've never agreed with any pastor I've ever had 100%.
Go to http://www.tucc.org/black_value_system.html and read his home church's statement of faith. The use of the word 'black' is a bit overused in my opinion.
The anti-Obama machine is based on facts and logic. O has been deeply involved with this pastor for many years. His comments are not small things, asides that we can gloss over. See also the "black values" statement of the church, a church that does not believe in integration!
It's not that anybody expects Obama to agree with his pastor 100%. However, Obama has attended that church under that pastor for something like 20 years (longer than he's been in public office). Jeremiah Wright married Barak and Michelle Obama, and he baptized the Obama children. Clearly, there is a significant level of loyalty to Wright and his spiritual teachings on the part of Obama. The fact that these teachings are overtly racist (and extremely hostile) in conjunction with the fact that these teachings have been coming across the Wright pulpit for *years*--years that Obama has been sitting in the pews absorbing this stuff (and donating thousands of dollars all the while)--leaves some explaining to do on the part of the Obama campaign.
You swing, jazz cat.
Some other responses from David Kuo here:
The anti-Obama machine is based on fear, not logic, otherwise there would be as many attacks going Hillary's way since, in the end, they are very similar on issues.
I think to get a true picture of Obama's beliefs it might be wise to actually read his two books (which I haven't done yet, but will, and I'm sure you anti-Obama folks can't be bothered to read what the man himself wrote) rather than listen to his pastor. Obama has made several statements this very evening repudiating what his pastor has said in those sound clips. Guilt by association is not logical, it is political and fear-mongering.
On Obama denouncing the comments, he said he did not know Wright ever said or believed those things. One does not attend a church for 20 years without knowing the outspoken beliefs of the pastor, unless:
1) you did not actually attend or rarely attended the church
2) you are an entirely dense individual
3) you were fully aware of these radical pontifications and had little to no problem with them until they became public
Any of these are interesting options, to say the least.
Hello Dr. Groothuis.
When you say that the anti-Obama machine is "based on facts and logic", you must be thinking about the case you make against him. Others have already falsely accused Obama of being a Muslim, of being unpatriotic because he once did not hold his hand on his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance (when in fact the incident took place during the national anthem), and, subtly, of being a threat to the United States because his middle name is Hussein. (Incidentally, the position of one's hand during *one* ceremony seems hardly a good measure of a person's patriotism, or lack thereof. Much like sporting an American flag pin on your jacket does not make you an unimpeachable patriot).
Even your case against him is not as airtight as you think it is, at least from a “facts and logic” point of view. For example, you have repeatedly stated on this blog that abortions will rise under President Obama, because of his pro-choice stance. This is an illogical accusation, because abortions have steadily declined in the United States in the last thirty years, even under President Clinton, whom you loathe without restraint.
Your latest accusation against Sen. Obama is, as Tom Hinkle points out, a case of guilt by association. "A New York Times writer claims that Obama's pastor is a bigot." Since you linked to the article, without comment, we must infer that you agree with the author. Since the author never uses the word "bigot" in his article, a more literally accurate statement from you would have been "A New York Times writer reports that Obama's pastor made racially divisive statements, which, in my opinion, qualifies him as a bigot". Sophistry aside, let's move on.
This is the Merriam Webster definition of a bigot:
: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
Is Obama's pastor a bigot, by that definition? Quite possibly. But so is RJ Rushdoony, the father of Christian Reconstructionism, who wrote the following:
On page 61 of The Institutes of Biblical Law: "The background of Negro culture is African and magic, and the purposes of magic are control and power... Voodoo or magic was the religion and life of American Negroes. Voodoo songs underlie jazz, and old voodoo, with its power goal, has been merely replaced with revolutionary voodoo, a modernized power drive."
"The white man has behind him centuries of Christian culture and the discipline and the selective breeding this faith requires... The Negro is a product of a radically different past, and his [genetic] heredity has been governed by radically different considerations."
On page 257 of Institutes, Rushdoony says
"The burden of the law is thus against inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural marriages, in that they normally go against the very community which marriage is designed to establish.
Unequal yoking means more than marriage. In society at large it means the enforced integration of various elements which are not congenial. Unequal yoking is in no realm productive of harmony; rather, it aggravates the differences and delays the growth of the different elements toward a Christian harmony and association."
On page 25 of Politics of Guilt and Pity
"After a century and a quarter, or less, the Irish are a leading power in the United States, and the Negroes remain on the lowest strata. The basic difference between the Irish and the Negro has not been color: it has been character. The Negroes demand more aid, i.e., more slavery and slave-care, and dwell on their sufferings. The Irish have instead looked to the present and future and helped shape America."
I could go on, but you can sense where I am going with this.
Does that make Rushdoony a bigot? I'd say it does, and I hope you would agree. (If you don't, I have bigger problems with your position than I thought.)
And yet, just a few days ago, in a post about homeschooling, you recommended two books. One recommendation was:
"On the origins of modern statism in education, see Rousas John Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education (1963). An illuminating historical study."
By recommending a book by RJ Rushdoony on education, you are implicitly endorsing Rushdoony's ideas on education, which you are free to do no matter how misguided his ideas about slavery or blacks might be. Hence your position must be, and correct me if I am wrong, that just because someone, in this case Rushdoony, said something very kooky on one subject, that does not mean that everything else he said is equally kooky. You are selectively picking what you like from Rushdoony's ideas and discarding what you don't like. (I take it that you have been strongly influenced by Rushdoony's ideas, but not without criticism, on your authority, as you yourself said in this post)
Now I ask you: Is it possible that Sen. Obama is being as selective with the ideas presented by the pastor of his church as you are with Rushdoony's? Here, by the way, is Obama's statement condemning his pastor's controversial pronouncements. I am sure that they will be judged as hypocritical by many here (as Sarah Scott has already implied in her reply to Tom Hinkle), but there is a lot of hypocrisy to go around, on all sides.
Dr Groothuis, I have the impression that your conviction against Obama, and your desire to let other people see Obama with your eyes and to scare them away from even the though of voting for him should he win his party's nomination, are blinding you to the fact that that your attacks on him are not always based on logic, or on facts for that matter. You are certainly not being as charitable as I would expect you to be, not just towards Obama, but to a fellow human being and a fellow Christian. You are always assuming the worst of him, and your attacks on him seem more visceral than logical. Sure there is room for righteous indignation, but is that all there is in Christianity?
RE: aligning with bigots: It's one thing to recommend a book, another to submit to a pastor. As an example, Doug has, in the past, recommended a book by Kierkegaard (Purity of Heart), but to my knowledge he probably would not choose the Reverend Soren as his pastor.
Having said that, Rushdoony's classic on educational philosophy and history felt more authoritative 45 years ago than it does today, and Rushdoony's later penchant of prolifically pronouncing authority on just about everything gets difficult to enjoy. And in fact, those of us who are wary of reconstructionism would do well to understand Messianic as it relates historically to Rushdoony's later and more hardened philsophy/theology in which he sought to offer a foundation for welding church and state. I took Rushdoony's newsletter at one time, because whether I agreed with him or not, he was always interesting in ways no one else was. I recommended that others do so. He was not, however, my pastor.
I believe you underestimate the power of reading.
Dr. Groothuis says, in his post on influential authors:
"while I list Rushdoony, I am not a reconstructionist (although I did read most all of his plethora of books)."
I don't know about you or Dr. Groothuis, but I could give you a list of many books that I consider influential for my intellectual and moral development. I could not, however, quote a single pronouncement from a pastor during my church-going years that has significantly changed my deeply-held convictions.
Maybe Obama is a deeply-believing Christian, or maybe he goes to Church simply because, if you are seeking political office in this country, you had better have some sort of Christian credentials (so much for the persecution of Christians and their values. There is currently *one* non-theist in Congress: do you know his name?)
Does that make Obama a hypocrite? Quite possibly. Is he alone with his guilt. I highly doubt it. In fact, I suspect that many presidents or presidential candidates have a much stronger allegiance to secret sects, the Freemasons or other secret societies than they do to the good book and its principles (including the sitting president.)
RE: the power of books vs. the power of the pulpit: Since you are arguing from experience, here's mine: I too have a list of good and influential books from my personal history. And I could also construct a list of books that I could recommend on specific issues that did not impact my life deeply (although I'm not sure anything by Rushdoony falls into this category for me; sorry, Doug). However, in my experience (since this is the ground of our discussion now), I have not sat under a pastor who has not impacted my life and thought deeply through his life and his words. Maybe you see me as an outlier on this issue, but in the case of many evangelical Christians, I believe we might find this to be a fairly normal circumstance. There are obviously exceptions to this in our lives, but the power of the leaders to whom we choose to submit our spiritual care does, in fact, offer at least as much information about us as the list of books we love. And I think it offers far more information about us than the enormous bibliography of books we have merely found to be helpful in spots.
And as for hypocrisy, we have indeed been amazed at the personal histories of great men who, upon closer inspection, are shown to be very, very human. Political ambition has always been a very seductive thing. Obama has been shown to be a conflicted person in terms of his principles. I think you are saying that this does not make him unique. The real question is not whether he is human; it is whether his points of conflict are fair predictors of how he would govern.
Finally, as a political independent and as a believer in Jesus Christ, my vote for Presidents and governors is mostly moved by the same quality that Paul sought to pray for in civic authorities: that they would leave us alone to live godly lives (1 Tim. 2:1ff). Of course, this is not my sole principle; but I think it is my primary one. Like many of the good people who blog here, I am moved by the scourges of abortion and racism and naked power. And in praying for a better world for the living and for the unborn, we are called upon to make these complicated decisions in assessing whether politically ambitious people merit our vote. I am currently not judging Christian Obama supporters, but I'm not one of them. I am also not judging Christian McCain supporters; I'm not one of them, either. As this election year progresses, my prayer is: God help me to make a decision that I don't regret.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Evangelical movement's black sheep is at it again.
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