2008-08-23

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest

In my Avis Rental car yesterday, I was treated to an XM Radio discussion on POTUS08 with the author of "The Faith of Barack Obama"; there were several misstatements of Black Liberation Theology as well as what Obama's faith means to him and although I do not have as large a podium as an internationally - indeed, intergalactic - broadcast radio program, I do want to address those with you here in this letter.


First, clearly Black Liberation Theology is too complex for someone such as the author to grasp in the one weekend he spent at Trinity United Church of Christ, so perhaps he is to be forgiven for the mistakes he made of mischaracterizing this theological viewpoint. Even so, his references to the church and its former pastor as "cult-like" are beyond insulting and are no doubt due to his ignorance, as opposed to any specific teaching he may have heard or read about. By example, let me delve into the author's statements that Dr. Cone's phraseology of equating "black" with oppressed and "white" with oppressor is a confusing construct, in that these theological terms of good and evil are not specifically mapped back to the equivalent racial terms; i.e. - being black racial does not equate to being automatically good spiritually and the same is true for white people in that they are not - by theological definition - automatically evil. What the author should have said is these terms were confusing to him - as someone not culturally educated with a view of the world through the eyes of a black man - and especially not the eyes of a black man in the 1960s when Black Liberation Theology was defined. Seemingly the task of attempting to understand the black experience is too difficult for the author, as he was manifestly unable to imagine just how a black man of the 1960s could have many examples in his life of white being equivalent to his oppressor and this makes the author unable to make the spiritual and theological leap that Dr. Cone was seeking to use as a pathway to open the heart of man to the Lord.

Second, the author describes how central doubt is to Obama's faith - and then he criticizes him for having the temerity to express doubt in an example given in his second book, when he was discussing the afterlife with his child. Whereas the author has certain faith, an unquestioning faith, Obama has a faith that says he believes - without requiring specific knowledge of the Lord's intention or his plans. Which one of these men has placed his trust in the Lord and which one has boxed the Lord into a position? More importantly, rather than attempting to gauge the quality of one's faith against another, Christians are called to welcome one another as brothers and not perform faith checks upon one another and call those out whom we find lacking according to a standard of man - and not a standard of God.

Let me close with one example of how the author substituted his own standard for faith: he praised McCain's swift and sure answer to the question: when does life begin? McCain answered immediately - conception - whereas Obama demurred and said that question was above his pay grade. The author criticized Obama for his answer - but provided no example text from the scripture to back up his criticism. This surely means the answer came from the word of the author and not the word of God.

Now, I know not the mind of God so I have no idea whether the author and John McCain are right when they posit that life begins at conception; what I do know is that for that to be the case, the number of abortions that pro-lifers like to put forth as having occurred since the advent of Roe v Wade is woefully inadequate. They are simply talking about doctor-aided abortions; the human female aborts embryos all of the time - we call these miscarriages in some instances. In other instances, a fertilized egg - meaning post conception - is simply allowed to exit the uterus as it occurred to late in the cycle to reach implantation in the uterine wall. As a lay person, I know not the word for this case, but here is the point: if life begins at conception - any fertilized egg that does not reach birth is an abortion - according to McCain, meaning that it is the taking of another human life. As a legislator, McCain has never sanctioned murder, so the logical conclusion of his position and the author's, is that every instance of a fertilized egg that does not result in a human birth must be investigated to determine if a murder has occurred. Does McCain really want to add to the trauma of a miscarriage with the trauma of a police investigation? And how would he even be made aware of the passage of an egg that was fertilized and not implanted? Would he mandate the collection of tampons and maxi-pads for forensic analysis? And would he then fill the jails with women who had sex too late in their cycle for implantation of the egg to take place? They would be knowingly risking the act of conception - creating a human life - with no hope of that life to continue living? Would McCain classify that as murder, manslaughter or criminally-negligent homicide?

Yes - McCain received a roar of adulation from the crowd for both his response and the author's, but this answer was as equally thoughtless as it was swift; perhaps the first response is not always the right response. Perhaps having a President who knows that is a good thing.

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2 comments:

Marina said...

Hi, Derrick. This is an interesting reading. I agree that pro-lifers , essentially, reduce women to child-bearers. Like a device.

jericho4119 said...

I do see it that way and I find no biblical reference to back up that propaganda. Indeed, the Jewish religion teaches that life begins at birth - which has a nice corollary with celebrating birthdays!