Barack Obama’s Hierarchy of Values (Updated)

Frankly, I think a lot of stupid, irrational, overwrought criticisms are being leveled at Sen. Barack Obama over the stupid, irrational, overwrought things being said by his long-time pastor:

Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor says blacks should not sing “God Bless America” but “God damn America.”

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side, has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is “inflammatory rhetoric,” including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own “terrorism.”

In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

While I think it’s unfair to blame Barack Obama for the things being said by Rev.Wright and an irrational oversimplification to believe that he believes everything that the Rev. Wright is spouting, I think it’s perfectly fair to think that Sen. Obama believes that the value for him in remaining a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ exceeds that of abandoning that faith community after having been a member for many years even though he knows that the Rev. Wright has some frankly loony beliefs. Some things are more important than others. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take that into consideration in weighing whether you should support Sen. Obama in his run for the presidency.

Here is the mission statement of the Trinity United Church of Christ. It’s pretty obviously Afro-centric and equally obviously unites a social agenda with its religious values, distilling its mission into ten principles: adoration, salvation, reconciliation, commitment to Africa, Biblical education. cultural education, historical education of African people in diaspora, liberation, restoration, and economic parity. Basically, it appears to be an Afro-centric version of the liberation theology that had its heyday in Latin American in the 1970’s (and is still highly influential there today), Whether this itself counts as looney depends, I suppose, on where you stand.

While you’re checking out Trinity I suggest you also take a glance at its impressive list of ministries which may be as important in understanding what Barack Obama sees there as the doctrine being preached by Rev. Wright is.

I won’t try to psychoanalyze Sen. Obama as some have done. But I don’t think it’s going too far to suggest that the sense of community, support, and identity that Sen. Obama has found at Trinity outweighs the offensiveness of some of the things that Rev. Wright has to say. Although it doesn’t tell you much about what he believes it does expose Barack Obama’s hierarchy of values. Make of that what you will.


An interesting comment on the Obama-Wright matter from a black pastor.

Another update

Andrew Sullivan uses Barack Obama’s writings to “know what is in Obama’s heart”:

I don’t know how you can read Obama’s writing or listen to any of his speeches and believe that Wright’s ugliest messages are what Obama believes or has ever believed. He wrote these words long before he was running for president. They struck me powerfully as I read them; because they helped me understand how hard hope can be for the very poor or those from broken families or gripped with addiction. I don’t see how the impulse to listen to, bond with, and help those people is an ugly impulse, however ugly the anger that can come from those places sometimes is.

1 comment… add one
  • Reverend Wright seems to me to be an angry guy, influenced by conspiracy theories and who holds some ignorant and genuinely bigoted views towards white Americans and Jews that he’d be quick to denounce in others if they were directed at African-Americans. So he’s also something of a hypocrite as well.

    What does that make Rev. Wright ? Not a racist demagogue on par with Farrakhan whom he admires or David Duke, but something smaller, a colorful local crackpot whose weird and unpleasant aspects of his behavior are mostly overlooked by his congregation, including until now, Barack and Michelle Obama.

    Asking Senator Obama why such views being preached from the pulpit were tolerable to him previously is fair game, much like question GOP candidates who visit Bob Jones U. Making him responsible for every asinine statement that Wright has ever said anywhere probably isn’t.

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