Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wheel... Of... THEOLOGY

Original Link: http://rabblerouserruminations.blogspot.com/2008/06/wheel-of-theology.html

Once again, Obama is trying to win over Evangelical Christians, an effort he made in Kentucky with seemingly little success, considering the landslide win for Hillary Clinton there. But that is not stopping him, oh no!! According to David Brody at CBN, he has even created a group to help him with this base, especially the young folk. His group is "The Joshua Generation Project." All righty - there's just one problem with that name, though - it is VERY close to the name of an already established wing of the Home School Legal Defense Association, a name they have had since 2003: "This is an improper invasion of our trademark and we've retained legal counsel to notify the Obama campaign to stop this," HSLDA's co-founder, chairman, and general counsel, Michael Farris, told Roll Call on Monday morning. The conservative group plans to notify the Obama campaign later today." Oopsie doopsie!! Once again, Obama is busted for using someone else's work. (Hey - maybe the Home School People can use this as a "teaching moment" on why it is important to do come up with your own ideas!!)

But that is not all. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, is also weighing in on Obama, and his theology. In this article, Dobson Accuses Obama Of 'Distorting' Bible, we get a pretty good feel for how The Rev. Dobson feels about Obama. And I hasten to add, I have absolutely NO love lost for this man, but he DOES represent a fair number of American Evangelical Christians. The article reports (and all quotes below on Dobson are taken from this article): "As Barack Obama broadens his outreach to evangelical voters, one of the movement's biggest names, James Dobson, accuses the likely Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible and pushing a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.

The criticism, to be aired Tuesday on Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program, comes shortly after an Obama aide suggested a meeting at the organization's headquarters here, said Tom Minnery, senior vice president for government and public policy at Focus on the Family."

Wowie zowie. "Fruitcake Interpretation" of the Constitution?? Apparently, The Rev. Dobson has not bought into Obama's spin that he is a Constitutional scholar!! But wait, there's more! Apparently, according to the article, Obama mentioned Dobson in a speech he made in 2006, and said: "Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?" Obama said. "Would we go with James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?" referring to the civil rights leader. "

Well, I think we know where OBAMA falls on that, or at least we can extrapolate from his twenty years at TUCC (more on that below). But it seems to me that criticizing the leader of an organization with which one then wants to join hands and sing "Kumbayah" is not the smartest idea in the world. Because James Dobson isn't buying what Obama is selling: "Dobson took aim at examples Obama cited in asking which Biblical passages should guide public policy—chapters like Leviticus, which Obama said suggests slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination, or Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, "a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application."

Now THERE'S some biblical interpretation for you! And what does Obama have to say about that? "Folks haven't been reading their Bibles"

Just bringing them all together, Obama is! Yep, Mr. Unity sure does have a way of doing that, doesn't he? He wants to insert himself into this group, and thinks insulting them is the way to do it! Once again, from the article, "I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said. "... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

C'mon, Reverend Dobson! Tell us how you really feel!! Oh, wait - he does! The article continues: "Dobson reserved some of his harshest criticism for Obama's argument that the religiously motivated must frame debates over issues like abortion not just in their own religion's terms but in arguments accessible to all people.

He said Obama, who supports abortion rights, is trying to govern by the "lowest common denominator of morality..."

Gee - The Reverend Dobson does not even MENTION how Obama claims to be Pro-Choice, then says about those of us who are, in his most patronizing way possible, do not understand how painful a decision abortion is. Wow, talk about insulting! How dare Obama assert such a demeaning statement! How many women has HE escorted to a family planning center through throngs of Operation Rescue people going after the woman making the hard choice?? Hearing horible things yelled at her, the taunting, the berating? Just wondering. But I digress...

The article concludes with this paragraph: "Obama recently met in Chicago with religious leaders, including conservative evangelicals. His campaign also plans thousands of "American Values House Parties," where participants discuss Obama and religion, as well as a presence on Christian radio and blogs."

Well, that is certanly interesting! What do you think those Conservative Evangelicals will have to say about Obama's personal theology? The theology of Black Liberation of which we have heard so much of late? How do you think they will respond to the following quote by Professor James Cone from the NY Times article,
A Fiery Theology Under Fire in which he states,
“You might say we took our Christianity from Martin and our emphasis on blackness from Malcolm...”

Oh, yeah - THAT should go over REAL well! While we are in the midst of two wars, based (erroneously in Iraq, not in Afghanistan) on retaliation against religious militants, we have a presidential candidate who for over 20 years has been a member of a church whose services are based on a theology linking Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

The article continues, "As a young, black and decidedly liberal theologian, James H. Cone saw his faith imperiled.

“Christianity was seen as the white man’s religion,” he said. “I wanted to say: ‘No! The Christian Gospel is not the white man’s religion. It is a religion of liberation, a religion that says God created all people to be free.’ But I realized that for black people to be free, they must first love their blackness.”

Dr. Cone, a founding father of black liberation theology, allowed himself a chuckle. “You might say we took our Christianity from Martin and our emphasis on blackness from Malcolm,” he said."

Yes, that should really help that discussion along! How in the world could Evangelical Christians have a problem with a candidate who has supported, both by his presence and by his donations, this kind of theology? How long will it take for them to make the leap between Black Liberation Theology and its militancy with fundamentalist Islamic militancy?? I am in no way saying they are the same, mind you, just pointing out the leap many will make between the two, ESPECIALLY when Obama's relationship with Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam is fully explored. It will not take long. Heck, I did it in two sentences! James Cone made the conection to militancy in one in the NY Times article: "“Deep down in all of us is that Malcolm X who cries out in such strong language,” said Dr. Cone, who is a professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary."

The Ny Times article also makes the connection between religion and militancy: "...For a black audience, its theology spoke to the centrality of the slave and segregation experience, arguing that God had a special place in his heart for the black oppressed. These theologians held that liberation should come on earth rather than in the hereafter, and demanded that black pastors speak as prophetic militants, critiquing the nation’s white-run social structures."

For Obama to now claim that he did not always agree with his pastor, his mentor, his confidant, rings a bit disingenuous to me. In my experience, if parishoners do not agree with the message of the minister, or the church as a whole, and TUCC certainly seems to have embraced both Black Liberation Theology AND the Nation of Islam, they do not stay. They CERTAINLY do not contribute over $20,000 in one year, either. And if they do not agree with the message of the minister, I can also guarantee, they WILL say something, especially if the relationship is one of being in the Inner Circle, as it appears Obama was. His relationship with Wright was described by HIM as being familial. That he would have sat in the pew for 20 years, given large sums of money, been in the inner circle with the Senior Minister, and disagreed with the message of the minister and church all along seems far-fetched to me. People have left churches for a lot less, I can tell you. But Obama stayed - for years, only leaving when it began to hurt him politically. It wasn't that his THEOLOGY changed, it was that his political aspirations were facing challenges. Such integrity (that's sarcasm, by the way).

Once again, Obama is trying to reinvent himself, this time as a more mainstream Christian so that he can engage Evangelicals, and try to pull their votes away from McCain (again, assuming the Superdelegates do not come to their senses and nominate Clinton). Once again, he underestimates the intelligence of voters, as well as their communities, their belief systems, and their moral values.

And I am not just talking about white Evangelicals or even Pentecostals. The article claims that only about 25% of Black pastors adhere to some form of Black Liberation Theology. That leaves 75% who do not. The article continues: "Bishop Harry Jackson, a Pentecostal who presides over a 3,000-member church in suburban Washington, D.C., stands at the far pole from Mr. Wright. He defines himself as ultraconservative on matters of theology and politics and allies himself with conservative Republicans. He preaches a Prosperity Gospel, which holds that God wants black Americans to experience material success without guilt. (SIDE NOTE: evidently, given The Reverend Wright's retirement home, and Barack Obama' shome, they, too, ascribe to the theology of Prosperity!! Ahem.)

Most black liberation theologians revile this philosophy. Still Mr. Jackson would not deny the powerful currents of liberation theology; even his congregants put their toes in those waters from time to time.

“Most black church members want to see their ministers involved in defending the race and improving civil rights,” Mr. Jackson said. “The anger and bitterness that bleeds through in Reverend Wright’s comments are something that many blacks can sympathize with, even if they don’t want to hear it in the pulpit.” Black liberation theology may have taken modern flower in the 1960s, but its roots (no less than those of more conservative black theologies) extend deep into America’s historical cellar and its legacy of slavery."

I should add that there are some positives to Liberation Theology, both black, and other Third World theologies, especially as they operate to comfort the oppressed. That is no small thing, in my opinion. But when they are used to attack others, to denigrate, to demean, to humiliate, well, that to me does not speak for a theology that is essentially based on love, in the words of Jesus (Cor.13:13). And it does not speak well of its adherents or proponents. No, indeed.

It will be interesting to see how Obama spins as the Wheel of Theology spins. Will he continue to distance himself from his church home of 20 years as he attmepts to transform his image to a more mainstream branch of Christianity? Will his connections with Wright, Farrakhan, Meeks, McClurkin, et al, continue to find daylight and expose him for the chameleon he is? Will he (finally) get sued for using someone else's words? Will he finally be held accountable for his participation in, and support of, a theology that is exclusive and militant, which bludgeons those who have worked hard for the very community now attacking them? One can only hope. One can only pray, that truth will out, and Obama will get his comeuppance. "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24) Amen to that...

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