01 June 2008

Obama: Having Cake and Eating It, Too

On Saturday, Senator Obama somewhat quietly resigned from the Trinity United Church. It is probably supposed to be the last act of the drama regarding the two, which began when videos of the former pastor of that church, Jeremiah Wright, began to circulate and the political views of the church came into the light. These views were reinforced by Mr. Wright at a National Press Club event in April and again one week ago today by the visiting Catholic, Michael Pfleger.

I realize what I’m about to claim is horribly cynical. It does not give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt; indeed, it assumes that the most calculatingly political motives reside in the man.

Mr. Obama resigning from the Trinity United Church in Chicago is an empty gesture. It is empty because Mr. Obama can do it without truly distancing himself from those people who have caused the uproar because of their beliefs.

Both Mr. Wright and Mr. Pfleger are long-time spiritual (and one must assume political) mentors to Mr. Obama.

Mr. Wright, as Mr. Obama continually urged us to consider after the first round of uproar, is no longer the pastor at Trinity. Therefore, Mr. Obama can still stand by his words that he could “no more disown him than I can disown the black community.” Mr. Pfleger, though a regular at Trinity, is a Catholic priest – one wonders why and how, but those thoughts are for another post. Mr. Obama’s resignation from Trinity, therefore, does not necessarily distance him at all from Mr. Pfleger.

The cynic in me says that this is all symbolism and zero substance. I’m not surprised. In my view, Mr. Obama’s campaign has been run on just that concept. And despite his claim that he is post-racial and un-political, he is indeed the polar opposite. His 20-year membership in a black liberation theology church should dispel the former; his cha-cha to find a third way concerning his mentors, his church, and his ambition should dispel the latter.

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