March 24, 2008

Obama and Trinity United Church of Christ

And, of course, there is the further irony: Obama attends an overwhelmingly black Christian church because of the historical segregation of black churches from white. This is something else I was well aware of growing up, having spent my (de)formative years under the influence of Fundamentalist Christian dogma, in a church with a name not so different from Obama's chosen denomination. My church, which was far more prevalent in the South than elsewhere, always had its white and black versions, a feature it shared with Baptists and Methodists and other good-hearted racists. Indeed, the United Church of Christ is a hybrid denomination based historically on white European sources, the Heidelberg Catechism and Lutheran influences (which underwent various Evangelical, Reformed and Congregationalist permutations once they came ashore in the U.S.). Under American practice, of course, Christian churches became as segregated as the military, schools and all public accommodations. The segregation of churches has outlasted Jim Crow and Brown vs. Board of Education, although at this point it's probably lost much of its quality of coercion. Christ's admonition to love one's neighbor was read by such Protestant denominations within the confines of the Dred Scott decision, meaning, I guess, that one should love African-Americans with about 60% of the fervor one lavished on one's white fellow congregants.

There is now a silly game being played in the media called "pin the pastor on the candidate," where Obama, Clinton and McCain are all chastised for attending churches where irrational or anti-American sentiments were expressed by the cleric-in-chief. Under the new rules of guilt by association, the failure to stand up during services and denounce the pastor, or engage him in a fist fight, and then immediately resign from the congregation is taken as proof-positive of complicity in whatever objectionable tirade is issuing from the pulpit. In my own (admittedly minority, nontheistic) view, the whole business of religion is one massive exercise in irrationality. Indeed, that is the ultimate appeal of faith, as a flight from depressing rationality and the dismal conclusions it leads to. A pastor is a kind of facilitator of group therapy where the reigning treatment protocol is the inculcation of hopeful delusions. As long as he's up there talking about things that don't exist anyway, why not throw in, as Reverend Wright did, that the U.S. government experimented with African-Americans by injecting them with syphilis? Or, in the case of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, by blaming the 9-11 attacks on homosexual activity in the United States? Who would even notice? You've got people dying and rising from the dead, water turning to wine, burning bushes holding conversations, and a guy surviving a three-day confinement in the belly of a big fish.

Chris Kelly, who may be the funniest man currently writing in the English language, has done a hilarious send-up of the whole thing by pointing out that Bill O'Reilly currently attends a church where the "head man" is a former Nazi, meaning, of course, that the Pope was in the Hitler Youth (Kelly says that he goes under the "assumed name" of Pope Benedict XVI, but that he was previously known as "Joey Rats"). Why doesn't O'Reilly, each and every mass, get up and storm out of such a blatantly anti-American situation? Didn't Hitler declare war on America in December, 1941? Damn right he did. And although he must have known that Hitler's declaration of war was about as anti-American as you can get, Pope Pius XII actively assisted (well, maybe not actively, but when we're working guilt this way, it's like a game of horse shoes) the Gestapo during the occupation of Rome in rounding up Jewish children for exportation to extermination camps. Catholics are Christians, which implicates Bill & Hillary Clinton, John McCain and George W. Bush as well, who have singularly failed to denounce Joey Rats for his association with Pius. How do they live with themselves, knee-deep in genocide? Does the conferring of a lifetime achievement award (somehow I knew it couldn't be the Irving Thalberg Award) to Louis Farrakahn by the Trinity United Church of Christ cross any lines not already crossed by Bill O'Reilly, who supports The Surge, which supports Bush, who was supported by Hillary's vote for the Iraq War Authorization, who is supported by Bill Clinton, who is supported by Arab Sheikhs, who are in a cabal with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who supported Hitler, thus closing the circle...

This has gotten so complicated. Too bad we can't judge candidates by their own convictions anymore; however, the whole process should be a boon to history teachers.

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