There is an enormous story in today’s New York Times about Sen. Barack Obama’s faith and his relationship with his controversial minister. It is (or should be) politically insignificant. It is theologically controversial.
The story doesn’t recount anything particularly new about Obama’s faith. It recounts his conversion to Christianity, his relationship with his pastor, his community activism, and the fact that his pastor has become a political liability because of some of his theology.
Interesting, but it should be politically fairly insignificant unless we have decided that there is some sort of religious test for elected office. That, however, was settled a long time ago in the Constitution – Article VI, Sec. 3. No religious tests in America.
Ergo, what we have here is a fascinating theological article and an irrelevant political article.
The theology, however, IS fascinating.
Rev. Wright is a proponent of “black liberation theology, which interprets the Bible as the story of the struggles of black people, whom by virtue of their oppression are better able to understand Scripture than those who have suffered less.”
On the Sunday after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Mr. Wright said the attacks were a consequence of violent American policies. Four years later he wrote that the attacks had proved that “people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West went on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns.”
Sen. Obama, according to the article, “admitted [in his book] uncertainty about the afterlife, and ‘what existed before the Big Bang.’…emphasizes the communal aspects of religion over the supernatural ones.”
These are all huge theological questions. They are questions of God’s sovereignty, God’s preference (or not) for a particular people, the nature and manifestation of evil, the reality of miracles, faith’s relevance across racial and cultural and economic lines, and how much faith should motivate political involvement.
As such they should be dealt with theologically. I am eager to hear the discussions about such questions. Perhaps they can appear here on Beliefnet. I’d love to be able to ask Sen. Obama and Rev. Wright some pointed questions about their faith and what they think it means. But such questions and such discussions should have nothing to do with whether anyone should or should not vote for Sen. Obama.
I fear that even now that article is being zipped around evangelical circles and being dissected for attack ads later in the campaign. I fear that some on the secular left are doing the same thing in hopes of taking him down in the primaries. Both approaches are wrong. This isn’t about politics, this is about theology.