President Barack Obama was forced to open up about his Christian faith on Tuesday when an Albuquerque woman asked him “Why are you a Christian?”
He responded, “I’m a Christian by choice.”
It was a “hot topic question,” the woman recognized during a “backyard” conversation on the economy. Obama was meeting with families in the front yard of the home of Andy and Etta Cavalier in Albuquerque, N.M., when the question was posed.
Providing a brief account of how he grew up, Obama said his family members “weren’t folks who went to church every week.”
“My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn’t raise me in the church,” he said.
Obama became a Christian later in life.
What drew him to Christianity was “the precepts of Jesus Christ” which spoke to him in terms of the kind of life he would want to lead, he explained.
Those precepts include “being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper; treating others as they would treat me.”
If Obama had ever studied the teachings of Jesus, he’d know that “being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper” isn’t one of them.Â Rather, that’s a distortion of Cain’s response to God when asked where his murdered brother was: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”Â In other words, “How would I know where my brother is?Â I’m not his babysitter!”Â Â Â
Liberation theology has twisted Cain’s guilty response into an endorsement of socialist policies such as redistribution.Â If Obama’s theology has come from sittingÂ for 20 years in the church ofÂ his radical mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I’m not surprised that he’s confused about what the Bible REALLY says.Â
He continued, “I think also understanding that … Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings â€“ that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes; we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”
I’ve grown up in different churches and amongst Christians from different denominationsÂ all my life, not just in America, but internationally, as well.Â And I can tell you this:Â I have NEVER heard a ChristianÂ refer toÂ salvation as an achievement.Â Received,Â yes.Â Â Been given byÂ God’s grace, yes.Â Achieved?Â Absolutely not!Â Â
One could attribute this to a slip of the tongue due to being forced to speak off-teleprompter, but I find thatÂ Obama’s candid answers (suchÂ as his remarks to “Joe the Plumber”)Â are always the most revealing: it’s the unpolished version ofÂ what he REALLY thinks.Â
In terms of how he’s living out his Christian faith, he said he strives and prays to “see God in other people” and “help them find their own grace.”
“I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith,” he said.
The phrase “find their own grace” is a revealing statement as well.Â Â Christianity teaches that grace comes from Christ alone.Â There is no other path to “find your own grace”, unless you believe that all religions are equal and lead to the same God (a heretical distortion of the Gospel).Â Â
And if his “public service” is truly his expression of his Christian faith, then his radical background and associations bring new light to what he believes his faith is all about: community organizing with ACORN, voting against protections for infants born alive after botched abortions, and a radical agenda to have government take over everything from auto companies to health care to student loans.Â
â€¦ When I asked for other pastors to talk to [for help with his community organizing], several gave me the name of Reverend Wrightâ€¦ Younger ministers seemed to regard Reverend Wright as a mentor of sorts, his church a model for what they themselves hoped to accomplishâ€¦
Toward the end of October I finally got a chance to pay Reverend Wright a visit and see the church for myself. [A] small sign spiked into the grass â€” FREE SOUTH AFRICA in simple block lettersâ€¦
[Reverend Wright] had grown up in Philadelphia, the son of a Baptist minister. He had resisted his fatherâ€™s vocation at first, joining the Marines out of college, dabbling with liquor, Islam, and black nationalism in the sixtiesâ€¦
He learned Hebrew and Greek, read the literature of Tillich and Niebuhr and the black liberation theologiansâ€¦
â€œIâ€™ll try to help you if I can,â€ he said. â€œBut you should know that having us involved in your effort isnâ€™t necessarily a feather in your cap.â€
Reverend Wright shrugged. â€œSome of my fellow clergy donâ€™t appreciate what weâ€™re about. They feel like weâ€™re too radical. Others, we ainâ€™t radical enough. Too emotional. Not emotional enough. Our emphasis on African history, on scholarship â€“â€ â€¦
â€œWe donâ€™t buy into these false divisions here. Itâ€™s not about income, Barack. Cops donâ€™t check my bank account when they pull me over and make me spread-eagle against the car. These miseducated brothers, like that sociologist at the University of Chicago, talking about â€˜the declining significance of race.â€™ Now, what country is he living in?â€ â€¦
â€œLifeâ€™s not safe for a black man in this country, Barack. Never has been. Probably never will be.â€ â€¦
Afterward, in the parking lot, I sat in my car and thumbed through a silver brochure that Iâ€™d picked up in the reception area. It contained a set of guiding principles-a â€œBlack Value Systemâ€- that the congregation had adopted in 1979â€¦
A sensible, heartfelt listâ€¦ There was one particular passage in Trinityâ€™s brochure that stood out, though, a commandment more self-conscious in its tone, requiring greater elaboration. â€œA Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness,â€ the heading read. â€œWhile it is permissible to chase â€˜middleincomenessâ€™ with all our might,â€ the text stated, those blessed with the talent or good fortune to achieve success in the American mainstream must avoid the â€œpsychological entrapment of Black â€˜middleclassnessâ€™ that hypnotizes the successful brother or sister into believing they are better than the rest and teaches them to think in terms of â€˜weâ€™ and â€˜theyâ€™ instead of â€˜USâ€™!â€ â€¦
It was a powerful program, this cultural community, one more pliant than simple nationalism, more sustaining than my own brand of organizingâ€¦
For [Reverend Wright and the Trinity parishioners], the principles in Trinityâ€™s brochure were articles of faith no less than belief in the Resurrection. You have some good ideas, they would tell me. Maybe if you joined the church you could help us start a community program. Why donâ€™t you come by on Sunday? â€¦
And, for the record, here are some excerpts from the “Black Value System” pamphlet in question, via the Trinity Churchâ€™s website â€“ though, since removed:
BLACK VALUE SYSTEM
These Black Ethics must be taught and exampled in homes, churches, nurseries and schools, wherever Blacks are gathered. They must reflect the following concepts:
Commitment of God [sic]
â€œThe God of our weary yearsâ€ will give us the strength to give up prayerful passivism and become Black Christian Activist, soldiers for Black freedom and the dignity of all humankindâ€¦
Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect
To accomplish anything worthwhile requires self-discipline. We must be a community of self-disciplined persons, if we are to actualize and utilize our own human resources instead of perpetually submitting to exploitation by others. Self discipline coupled with a respect for self, will enable each of us to be an instrument of Black Progress, and a model for Black Youth.
Disavowal of the Pursuit of â€œMiddleclassnessâ€
Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must keep the captive ignorant educationally, but trained sufficiently well to serve the system. Also, the captors must be able to identify the â€œtalented tenthâ€ of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captorâ€™s control.
Those so identified as separated from the rest of the people by:
Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.
Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.
Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of â€œweâ€ and â€œtheyâ€ instead of â€œusâ€â€¦
Somehow these donâ€™t sound quite like the “precepts of Jesus Christ.” But maybe that is just us.