Friday, March 14, 2008

Of Obama and Pastors and Grace

I haven't been cross-posting anything I write for Donklephant. But I feel strongly about this topic and wanted to put my words up here as well. The original post is here and I ask, if you feel like linking to this piece, please link to the Donklephant version. Thanks and here's the post:

As we’ve already covered, Barack Obama has condemned the controversial words of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But what now – particularly what now for those of us who aren’t Obama supporters?

My feeling is those who want to use this as a political bludgeon will continue to do so, regardless of what Obama or anyone else says. There is a profound difference between matters of the spirit and matters of the state, but we’ve so often and so purposefully intertwined the two that few can even grasp the difference between a pastor and a political advisor (and that goes for some pastors themselves).

Theology is not my forte, but I know this much: there is no easy reconciliation between the eternal spirit and the transient body. And there is nothing more temporary or less divine than politics. Pastors often wrestle with how our faith should influence our choices as citizens. There is nothing wrong with that. But when they start adulterating theology to achieve political ends, they move themselves and their congregations away from the divine and into the corrupting world of the physical. For some pastors, the move away from the divine is momentary, a sermon here, an off-hand remark there. For others, it defines their entire religious career.

Christians often talk of grace. The concept is both simple and theologically complex. But I think an apt definition for grace is the complete absence of politics, not just of governmental politics but of all the worldly power struggles that so define our lives. Grace is seeing another human not for how they may benefit us or harm us but for their eternal selves, for their equal and equally divine presence in the Body of Christ. From grace comes love as well as compassion, mercy and forgiveness. But there is often very little grace when we twist ourselves up in the political.

Rev. Wright exhibited gracelessness when he said we should sing “god damn America” and when he blamed 9/11 on America’s perceived imperialistic sins. But we should not further that act of gracelessness by continuing to tar Obama with the pastor’s words. The Senator has unequivocally condemned them and has gone so far as to say, spiritually, he believes in universal compassion and he believes that’s what his church teaches.

Religion is attacked often in this country, and people are even attacked for suggesting religion is attacked. But those who attack religion often get it wrong. It’s not religion that’s to blame for intolerance and sins of pride. It’s the politicization of religion that’s to blame. Politics corrupts. But I would like, for once, not to play politics with a man’s faith. Let’s judge Obama for his policies, for his plans for this nation, for his leadership experience or lack thereof. Let’s take his condemnation of his former pastor’s words at face value and move on. If we who lean to the right can’t do that for a religious liberal how do we ever expect those on the left to do it for us and our religion?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry - just can't let this one pass. Obama's speech was nothing more than an updated 21st century version of Clinton's manipulation of definitions. Its all well and good to condemn his pastor's comments - but to then to continue to embrace him?!? To say "I con no more disown him than I can black people" - that's like a German person today saying they disavow Hitler's policies but then saying "I can no more disown Hitler than I can the German people" - Bullshit. Leadership takes courage. Obama's speech was a nicely nuanced package. Call it what it is. White people disowned and disavowed David Duke. Had a national white leader made a similar speech to Obama's but said the same things about David Duke - do you for a second think Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or the national press would have given the same free pass?

If we want to racial healing in this country its time for candid dialogue absent any demogagory (sorry - spelling is wrong). Challenging and african american's views does not make one a racist, or at least it should not- yet its near impossible to challenge one without being accused of racial bigotry. Candidness must be both ways - white america has to stand up and say - slavery was wrong. Jim crow laws were wrong. discrimination of any type is wrong. But black america needs to abandon crutch of discrimination and move into healing vs. perpetuating its anger and resentment. How much longer is black america entitled to the angry black man excuse? Continuing to carry grudges and using those grudges as excuses will not lead to racial harmony.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

This post was written before the speech and is more about religion and Christian grace than about politics.

However, I think it's going well over the top to compare Rev. Wright to Hitler. I understand why people think less of Obama for his association but I wish more people would at least admit to the complexity of the situation.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Carole said...

Your comment itself shows amazing grace!

>>If we who lean to the right can’t do that for a religious liberal how do we ever expect those on the left to do it for us and our religion?

Judging Obama for his policies and plans is more than fair.


9:20 AM  
Anonymous the-undercover-centrist said...

Shouldn't the race for the next potential president be about policies, ideas, ability and leadership? Not about race? or Gender? or whose pastor said what? These things don't matter in the long run! Obama is going to be the leader of the free world not his pastor.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Kartiek Agarwal said...

I agree with almost all you have to say with one exception. You say that religion is not to blame for intolerance. I personally do not agree to this viewpoint, and have my reasons in thinking so. Nonetheless, what I do believe is that education can change every man for the good, and that since Obama is a well educated man, we can must appraise him as a politician on the basis of his various political, economic views and not on any sort of religious/cultural prejudices.

9:34 PM  

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