Barack Obama’s resignation from Trinity United Church of Christ over, in part, “a cultural and a stylistic gap” raises additional doubts about him. The obvious question is what “cultural and stylistic gap” exists now that hasn’t existed during the last two decades, when Obama was a member of Trinity United and an intimate friend with its pastor, Jeremiah Wright Jr.? The answer, of course, is none. Trinity United and Jeremiah Wright are what they have always been; it is Obama — or more precisely, Obama’s political interests — that have changed.
It’s been just over two months since Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race — the one that was compared by the historian Garry Wills to Lincoln’s Cooper Union address. In that speech Obama famously said he could not more disown the Reverend Jeremiah Wright than he could disown the black community or his own grandmother and spoke about how Trinity United “embodies the black community in its entirely.”
Since that speech Wright has been tossed under the bus — and now, so has Trinity United.
Obama’s twenty-year participation at Trinity United and his close relationship with its senior pastor raised a lot of questions about Obama — both about his decision to associate himself with Trinity United and Wright in the first place and Obama’s tortured explanations since the public first learned of Wright’s anti-American tirades.
What Obama did today may have been politically necessary. It was certainly politically expedient. And it is yet one more blow to Obama’s image as a different kind of politician. In fact, as we’ve learned over the last few months, Obama appears to be a Chicago politician through and through. When he perceived a threat to his
self-interest, he cut his ties to first his pastor and then his church, both of which he had expressed familial love and fidelity. This whole episode is deeply unattractive, even as it is deeply revealing.
Underneath the attractive veneer of Barack Obama beats the heart of a very, very ambitious man. Time will tell how problematic this may be and what snares this character trait may eventually lead him into.