Thursday, March 20, 2008

Explaining Obama's Church

obama's "a more perfect union" speech struck a chord with many of us and others can't understand why obama associated himself with pastor wright. some will actually try to understand while others could care less. they are so full of hate that they see only what they see.

i find that the real divide in this country isn't necessarily race but rich and poor and the various groups that fall in those groups. a wealthy black person is more likely to say they've transcended race than a poor black person.

i also find it remarkable that obama CHOSE to be part of a church that was socially oriented, one that focuses on the alleviation of poverty, one rooted in helping to make its community better.

as this story in time reports, obama could've went to a nice, quiet church. but he's genuine and at the heart of his campaign is his ideals of lifting the poor instead of giving more to those who already have wealth. attending that church helped him understand.

this from time.

...That desire for a more challenging faith helps explain the appeal of Trinity, despite its potential for controversy. The church, which has ministered to poor South Side families and Oprah Winfrey alike, isn't fringe, but neither is it a likely home for someone plotting a political career in Chicago. "If you're black and you're trying to get ahead in politics, you're not going to join Trinity," says Dwight Hopkins, a Trinity member who is also a professor at U. of C.'s Divinity School. "Not because it's radical — it isn't radical in its context. But it would be safer to join a North Side ecumenical church — the sort of place where people are quiet. They stand up, sit down, listen and leave."

As Obama's political career blossomed, he could have quietly left Trinity for one of those more staid black churches, but he chose to stay. In his speech, he said he disagreed with Wright strongly, and yet he didn't leave the church (or even criticize his pastor until Wright's sermons became a campaign issue). He didn't explain why he stayed, but by trying to show black and white resentment as the backdrop for Wright's comments, Obama suggested that his response to controversy isn't to walk out of the room but to try to understand what's fueling the fire. He also drew a distinction between political advice and spiritual guidance, arguing that many Americans know what it's like to disagree with something their pastor or priest or rabbi says.

By asking voters to understand the context of Wright's anger, though, Obama is counting on voters to accept nuance in an arena that almost always rewards simplicity over complexity. Politicians tend to offer deliberately banal choices: Either we move forward or we fall backward, either we let the economy falter or we help it grow, either we succumb to our enemies or we defeat them — the choice is up to you, America! Obama's formulation was different. Explicitly asking Americans to grapple with racial divisions and then transcend them — that's a bolder, riskier request.

After he delivered his speech, Obama found his wife Michelle backstage. She was weeping. He shared a quiet, emotional moment with her. Then Obama was all business again. "What's next?" he asked, as if anyone knew the answer.

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