Obama, his Worshippers and the Lovelorn

Today we start with stirring words--the ones which Senator Barack Obama ended the National Democratic Convention this summer when he took the crown as the Party's Presidential candidate.

Following is an excerpt from "Barack Obama's Search for Faith" by Jodi Kantor, an article published on April 30, 2007 by The International Herald Tribune, a subsidiary of The New York Times. The article favorably explores the formation of Mr. Obama's convictions under the mentoring of The Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Mr. Obama was baptized, married and put his two daughters up for baptismn. The article contrasts the striking oratorical differences between tutor Wright and his Harvard-educated protégé who had wider political ambitions.

Mr. Wright recalled his first encounters with Mr. Obama in the late 1980s, when the future senator was organizing Chicago neighborhoods. Though minister after minister told Mr. Obama he would be more credible if he joined a church, he was not a believer.

"I remained a reluctant skeptic, doubtful of my own motives, wary of expedient conversion, having too many quarrels with God to accept a salvation too easily won," he wrote in his first book,
Dreams From My Father.

Still, Mr. Obama was entranced by Mr. Wright, whose sermons fused analysis of the Bible with outrage at what he saw as the racism of everything from daily life in Chicago to American foreign policy. Mr. Obama had never met a minister who made pilgrimages to Africa, welcomed women leaders and gay members and crooned Teddy Pendergrass rhythm and blues from the pulpit. Mr. Wright was making Trinity a social force, initiating day care, drug counseling, legal aid and tutoring. He was also interested in the world beyond his own; in 1984, he traveled to Cuba to teach Christians about the value of nonviolent protest and to Libya to visit Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, along with the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Mr. Wright said his visits implied no endorsement of their views.

Followers were also drawn simply by Mr. Wright's appeal. Trinity has 8,500 members today, making it the largest American congregation in the United Church of Christ, a mostly white denomination known for the independence of its congregations and its willingness to experiment with traditional Protestant theology.

Mr. Wright preached black liberation theology, which interprets the Bible as the story of the struggles of black people, whom by virtue of their oppression are better able to understand Scripture than those who have suffered less. That message can sound different to white audiences, said Dwight Hopkins, a professor at University of Chicago Divinity School and a Trinity member. "Some white people hear it as racism in reverse," Dr. Hopkins said, while blacks hear, "Yes, we are somebody, we're also made in God's image."

Audacity and Hope

It was a 1988 sermon called "The Audacity to Hope" that turned Mr. Obama, in his late 20s, from spiritual outsider to enthusiastic churchgoer. Mr. Wright in the sermon jumped from 19th-century art to his own youthful brushes with crime and Islam to illustrate faith's power to inspire underdogs. Mr. Obama was seeing the same thing in public housing projects where poor residents sustained themselves through sheer belief.

In
Dreams From My Father, Mr. Obama described his teary-eyed reaction to the minister's words. "Inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones," Mr. Obama wrote. "Those stories — of survival, and freedom, and hope — became our story, my story."

Mr. Obama was baptized that year, and joining Trinity helped him "embrace the African-American community in a way that was whole and profound," said Ms. Soetoro, his half sister.

It also helped give him spiritual bona fides and a new assurance. Services at Trinity were a weekly master class in how to move an audience. When Mr. Obama arrived at Harvard Law School later that year, where he fortified himself with recordings of Mr. Wright's sermons, he was delivering stirring speeches as a student leader in the classic oratorical style of the black church.

But he developed a tone very different from his pastor's. In contrast with Mr. Wright — the kind of speaker who could make a grocery list sound like a jeremiad — Mr. Obama speaks with cool intellect and on-the-one-hand reasoning. He tends to emphasize the reasonableness of all people; Mr. Wright rallies his parishioners against oppressors.

While Mr. Obama stated his opposition to the Iraq war in conventional terms, Mr. Wright issued a "War on Iraq I.Q. Test," with questions like, "Which country do you think poses the greatest threat to global peace: Iraq or the U.S.?"


Thankfully, in the twenty years that Obama was a parishioner, the outward harshness of the Reverend did not become the public demeanor of the Democratic Presidential Candidate. Can you imagine a President talking like this?



At the end of the above news story, Senator Obama distances himself from Rev. Wright. By the end of May 2008 the Senator declared himself no longer a member of Rev. Wright's church. However, when Senator Obama was a member three years earlier, he was not in the least critical about Trinity United's celebrating Lous Farrakahan as the church’s "Man of the Year."

Although Senator Obama keeps saying he has no truck with radicals like Farrakahan, in the first week of October the Honorable Minister Farrakahan of the Nation of Islam called him the Messiah:



In an earlier blog, Lord Obama, there are youth acting pretty weird for their hero, but they may not be "the instruments" that Farrakahan is talking about.

So far no one has made much of a foreign supporter, Mu'ammar Al-Qudhafi, who, unlike Obama's Chicago crony Bill Ayers, at least paid retribution for his terrorism against the United States.



Senator Obama can't control who's for him or against him. To balance the bad boys cited, I'd like to reprint what an American college girl, Maggie Martens, wrote about her Presidential pick in the
October 8, 2008 issue of the Smith College Sophian:

"I Will Follow Him": Obama As My Personal Jesus
Maggie Mertens

Issue date: 9/18/08 Section: Opinions

Obama is my homeboy. And I'm not saying that because he's black - I'm saying that in reference to those Urban Outfitters t-shirts from a couple years ago that said, "Jesus is my homeboy." Yes, I just said it. Obama is my Jesus.

While you may be overtly religious and find this to be idol-worshipping, or may be overtly politically correct and just know that everything in that sentence could be found offensive, I'm afraid it's true anyway.

As with many spiritual enlightenments, mine came in the middle of a bleak, hopeless period of my life. The innocent, idealistic world of politics that had shaped my childhood, the one that taught me how the president is a good guy, one who makes you feel safe, gives a speech on TV every once in a while and one you'd feel honored to shake hands with, had been slowly whittled into a deep rooted cynicism to anything politically related.

The crush of the Bush victory over Gore was only the first mar on my previously consummate ideal of the American administration. And the tragedies just kept continuing: Bush's response to the Sept.11 attacks, the invasion of Iraq, the tax cuts for the rich, the downward spiral continued squashing my scant hope that the political world and state of our country could be saved.

Then I found my miracle. Stumbling through my hopeless world, afraid to turn to anyone with my political questions of morality, my concerns about the afterlife of the country I called home, a voice spoke to me.

Barack Obama bore to me his testimony in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention, a testimony that included believing in concepts as simple and wholesome as the Constitution; a belief the current administration had done away with entirely. I was 17 and my antipathy for politicians was already in place before I had even reached the age to legally vote for one. He, though, seemed different. I was intrigued. I would follow him. I believed however, that my discipleship would lead me on a much longer path to political change than was true. He was much too young, not white enough, not rich enough, not jaded - the country certainly wasn't ready for this, maybe in 12 or 16 years he would be able to run in the Democratic primary, I thought.

My interest was piqued, but the dark time lived on until my faith in others was renewed on Jan. 4 in the Iowa state primary. Obama had beat out squeaky clean southern boy John Edwards and former first lady and next in the line of political succession Hillary Clinton. I was in shock. And then I came to Jesus/Obama.

I donated to the campaign. I followed every primary with bated breath, and muttered my prayers to the political gods while proselytizing the miracle of my new prophet. I got a car magnet, I bought a t-shirt; a pin and bumper sticker are on their way to my campus mailbox. Then the media and right wing questioning began: what is he? A rock star, or the next president? Bono or Britney? The naysayers used his popularity among young people against him. Who had ever heard of political posters in college dorm rooms? Bumper stickers on the back of your high school neighbor's Jetta? Guess what those "Jesus is my homeboy" t-shirts were replaced with at Urban Outfitters? A smiling Obama under his own cutesy sayings like "Obama for yo Mama."

I must admit, I questioned this myself. After all, would I have ever bought a t-shirt with Al Gore's face on it? Was this all he was, the newest pop culture fad? I questioned my newfound faith - was it all only a phase, like the time I thought I was Baptist in junior high? But my inner dogmatic struggle only helped cement my beliefs as I followed politics more closely than ever before. Obama's mere presence, knowledge and enthusiasm in the political realm inspired my own desire to understand what exactly had gone wrong, what exactly he could do to remedy the mess we'd made.

Then I began to realize I wasn't the only one trying to buy a WWOD bracelet and spending my weekends scouring CNN.com. The rock star-type love for Obama wasn't just because he was pretty and in the media. Others too, had seen him as a shining light, heard that mythical voice boom out over the mountaintops; people were wearing the t-shirt because they would rather wear something representing a politician than a pop star. People everywhere, young and old, were caring again. So what's the problem here?

I've officially been saved, and soon, whether they like it or not, the rest of the country will be too. I will follow him, all the way to the White House, and I'll be standing there in our nation's capital in January 2009, when Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States of America. In the name of Obama, Amen.