Since repudiating his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., at an April 29 news conference, Barack Obama has done everything in his power to minimize the nature of his relationship with Wright. Supposedly, Obama found Wright’s recent and controversial remarks at the National Press Club shocking, unfamiliar, and out-of-character. In fact, we now know that Wright’s controversial remarks were entirely in character, and that regular church attendance, and even limited familiarity with church publications, would have made Wright’s radical views entirely evident. Indeed, a bit of digging now turns up information that makes it next-to-impossible not to conclude that Obama has long been familiar with Wright’s radicalism.
As Obama himself notes in a 2004 newspaper interview, within the constraints of his schedule, he regularly attended weekly services at Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. In that interview, Obama characterized his relationship with Wright as that of a “close confidant.” We know that the doctrines of “black-liberation theology” are included in new-member packets, and are taught in new-member classes, which Obama and his wife attended. It now emerges that over the years, Obama has worked closely with Wright on a number of political projects. Finally, we can now conclude that Obama had to have had knowledge of Wright’s radical and highly political church magazine, since Obama himself was interviewed for a 2007 cover story for that publication.
It is clear Obama was aware of Wright’s views; indeed, the specifically political character of Wright’s liberation theology is what drew Obama to Christianity.
Further, a careful reading of the 2007 run of Trumpet Newsmagazine – a church newspaper (and later a slick, nationally distributed magazine) that Wright founded in 1982 to “preach a message of social justice to those who might not hear it in worship service” — suggests that Wright’s theology and politics have more in common with black-nationalist sources (both Christian and Muslim) than with those of conventional Christianity. In particular, Wright is closely allied with a radical and highly controversial Catholic priest named Michael Pfleger, and with Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan. While his specific ties (if any) to Farrakhan are unclear, Barack Obama appears to be very much a part of the broader Wright/Pfleger/Farrakhan theological-political nexus.
Coming to Christianity
In 2006, Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at a conference sponsored by Jim Wallis and the “religious left” magazine Sojourners. Obama spoke of his early sense of personal isolation in the absence of membership in a community of faith. “If not for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted that fate,” said Obama. The specifically political character of his new church is what drew Obama out of his skeptical isolation and into religion:
But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn to the church.
For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of African-American religious tradition to spur social change. . . . the black church understands in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge the powers and principalities. . . . I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; it is an active, palpable agent in the world. It is a source of hope. . . .
It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and affirm my Christian faith.
In other words, Obama’s membership at Trinity UCC resulted from his familiarity with Wright’s political views. Even Obama’s phrase “challenge the powers and principalities” is a particular favorite of black-liberation theologists.