Barack Obama and Black Theology
And this is where Barack Obama is seen to be devoid of integrity. Certainly, he has the political, psychological and communicative skill to appeal to diverse audiences. But only if he operates with ‘selective invisibility’ and exploits their censorious naïveté.
Barack Obama could not have existed in the modern age; he is a product of postmodernity. He is black with white ancestry; a professing Christian of Muslim extraction; a man who has the support of both Jews and Hamas. He is the embodiment of the American dream - and of the dream of Martin Luther King Jnr in particular. Neither Dr King nor Rosa Parks could ever have imagined that, 40 years on, their sacrifices would produce the first African American President of the United States.
But President Obama’s appeal to all people is not remotely the same as that of St Paul, whatever some politicians may insist. Paul embodied a principle common to all who would provide leadership to a community of pluralism comprised of a divergent and mutually-exclusive truth claims and behaviours. A leader must construct bridges both of understanding and of persuasion in such settings. But such reaching out never compromised the foundational prerequisite to effective leadership - core conviction. For Paul, accommodating the views of others had nothing to do with diluting the gospel message, compromising its ethical demands, or creating doubt about its central tenets. Paul never modified the message of Christ crucified to make it less of a scandal to Jews or less foolish to Greeks.
President Obama will dilute, compromise and create doubt in order to avoid offending and appearing foolish. And people will see in him only what they want to see. They may not see what they need to see. Some may not look at him at all. But all will find him accommodating.
But what is this accommodation?
This is a crucial question in issues of global and national security, because his primary responsibility will be to protect the people and interests of the United States. Would the man who said he would sit down and talk with the Iranians also have invited those who masterminded the atrocity of September 11th to the White House?
Through the implications of President Obama’s relationship with Dr. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, it is possible to at the very least question his devotion to the United States. Dr Wright has articulated what has been inculcated in President Obama – we have his ‘God damn America’ sermon, his sympathy with ‘Black Theology’, and his admiration of Marxist regimes in South and Central America. Dr Wright is President Obama’s spiritual mentor, and he has condemned the United States to Hell with that same expression of anti-Americanism which has long been expressed in the African American tradition, both religious and secular.
Consider the words of Malcolm X (1925–65) – ‘God’s Judgment of White America’:
Before your pride causes you to harden your heart and further close your ears, and
before your ignorance provokes laughter, search the Christian Scriptures. Search
even the histories of other nations that sat in the same positions of wealth, power, and authority that these white Americans now hold...and see what God did to them. If
God’s unchanging laws of justice caught up with everyone of the slave empires of the
past, how dare you think White America can escape the harvest of unjust seeds planted
by her white forefathers against our black forefathers here in the land of slavery!
Certainly, Malcolm X does not speak for all black Americans, and it must be observed that he is also speaking from an Islamic understanding of the experience of his ‘back forefathers’, but Jeremiah Wright’s Christian understanding is no less condemnatory, and both result in the same religio-political anti-American zeal. That both this understanding of Islam and this brand of Christianity constitute President Obama’s religious DNA ought to be of concern to the world.
The liberal wing tolerates a certain brand of religion. This is a matter of direct importance to the identity of African Americans. Religion is a matter permissible to the public servant’s private life, but it must not be seen as ‘intruding’ into the public sphere. Religion must not be assessed as having a possible negative influence in the formulations of public policies and laws. This is a difficult dichotomy to maintain, at least traditionally, in the African American community, where religion and public stances on issues have had a long and mutually pervasive relationship. This returns us to a core question: What is core to President Obama’s belief system that certainly has a theological fabric? And further: What informs or defines his theological fabric?
Perhaps a clue resides in his book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ (p224):
“This is not to say that I’m unanchored in my faith. There are some things that I’m absolutely sure about - the Golden Rule, the need to battle cruelty in all its forms, the value of love and charity, humility and grace.”
It is a pity that his concept of loving one’s neighbour does not extend to the unborn. It is a pity that his revulsion at cruelty does not extend to the acts of barbarism meted out on developing human beings. It is a pity that the love, charity, humility and grace he expresses is myopic in its embrace of the woman’s ‘right to choose’ while content to discard those who are marked for death. This is what defines Barack Obama’s ‘theological core’.
There was a time when a primary concern of many African Americans was the possibility of ‘black genocide’. It was a fear which reached far back into history with the enslavement of black people, the genocide practised on the American Indians, the savage lynching of thousands of black men and women by white supremacists. Even the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war in Vietnam all constituted evidence that America was pathologically disposed to repress people of colour. More recently - and certainly from the perspective of many Muslims and Arabs - Iraq has fuelled the belief that America is guilty of terrorism and genocide.
Yet few African Americans consider the genocide they are inflicting on themselves. And it is a genocide in which Barack Obama is complicit.
Of the 4000 abortions that are performed daily in the United State, 35% of these procedures abort African American babies. African Americans make up 12% of the United States population and provide 35% of the abortions. Under the advocacy of a woman’s ‘right to choose’, Barack Obama is supporting self-genocide.
It is one thing to have a Black Theology of Liberation when one can identify the oppressor as the other, the alien, the ‘not one of us’. But how does one liberate those who cannot see their oppressor because of his ‘selective invisibility’? How does one fulfil the hopes of millions of African Americans when one is simultaneously slaughtering their innocents?
President Obama will be African American in a manner which will conceal elements of its radical characteristics and beliefs. He will be black to black people, and not so black to the white people. He will be a Muslim to the Muslims, and a Christian to the Christians. He might even become a Jew to the Jews. Such accommodation is essential for building trust and arriving at consensus. The Apostle Paul understood this, though he maintained core beliefs. When it comes to ‘seeing’ Barack Obama, the ‘seeming’ will conceal the reality. His core beliefs are evident in what he has already legislated for and against. And this record points to a theology somewhat at variance with the biblically conservative tendencies of the traditional African American Church.