Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

obama29.jpgSo you thought that the brouhaha over Jeremiah Wright–the biggest crisis of his campaign till now–would have Obama dialing back some of his church talk? It’s not happening. On his first day back on the campaign trail after vacation, Obama welcomed questions about his faith and extended an invitation for all to attend Trinity United Church of Christ, where Wright recently retired from the pulpit. From The New York Times account of Obama’s Greensboro, NC appearance:

Speaking at a town hall-style meeting here before a few thousand people, Mr. Obama was asked by a young man about the role that Jesus Christ and his teachings played in Mr. Obama’s life.
He began his response with a broad statement of faith: “I’m a Christian. What that means for me is that I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins, and, uh, and, and, uh, his grace and his mercy and his power, through him, I can achieve everlasting life.”
Invoking the golden rule, he also said he believed in treating all people of all faiths (as well as non-believers) with dignity and respect, and he noted that his mother was “not a believer as I am” – but was also the kindest person he ever knew.
“I’m sure she’s in heaven,” he said.
“I think it’s very important to think that you do not have to have the same faith as me to be a moral person – there are a lot of Jewish people who are as moral, or more moral than I am, there are a lot of Muslims who are decent kind people,” Mr. Obama said. “I don’t think they are any less children of God.”
Mr. Obama then turned to Trinity United and his former pastor, the now-retired Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., who has become a figure of controversy over the last couple of weeks because of some racially inflammatory and anti-American comments he made over the years….
“In the last couple of weeks my church became a source of controversy,” Mr. Obama said. “Everyone is welcome to come to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street.”
“Everyone is welcome,” he repeated. “If you were there on any given Sunday, folks would be doing the same thing at Trinity as everywhere else” – praying, singing, praising the Lord. “The past is trying to teach a lesson, connecting Scripture to our daily lives,” he added.
“My pastor did say, my former pastor said some very objectionable things when I was not in church on those days,” he added, noting that Mr, Wright gave “three sermons a week for 30 years.”
Referring to critics of Mr. Wright, he said, “they find five or six of his most offensive statements” and boil them down onto a 30-second recording and replay them over and over on television. He said it drew attention “partly because it spoke to some of the racial divisions that we have in this country. I hope people don’t get distracted by that. As I said in my speech last week on Tuesday, we can’t afford to get distracted.”

Obama’s defense of his church and bond with Wright are obviously heartfelt. Wright led him to Christ two decades ago, shaped his African American identity after his upbringing by a white mother, baptized his daughters, blessed his house, and gave him a title for his recent bestseller. But God-o-Meter believes Obama’s decision to stand by his church and his pastor–even while criticizing some of his sermons–also speaks to the new political calculus in the Democratic party on religion: it’s better to be taken to task for your church’s baggage than it is to be seen as unchurched. John Kerry tried the it’s-OK-to-be-seen-as-unchurched route.


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