Rev Irene Monroe

Re: "If Obama can throw his pastor under the bus, what will he do to us?"

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | March 20, 2008 11:07 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Black Liberation Theology, Jeremiah Wright, lesbian, Trinity Church

Did Obama's speech help him or hurt him?

In my opinion it helped him at the expense of throwing his pastor under the bus, feeding into the media's portrayal of Rev. Wright as a demagogue, and exonerating himself of any culpability of being associated with Wright that makes Obama look like the good guy and Wright the bad one.

Let me explain why....

If religion did not play such an important role in a presidential candidate's bid for the White House, this conversation would not be happening. But given the collapsing of church and state since Bush came into office, the lines of private and personal barely exist. And with the collapsing of these two spheres, how and where and why a presidential candidate worships or not, unfortunately, speaks to his or her electability - which brings us to my recent piece about Obama.

There is a particular strand of black theology that Rev. Wright preaches. Both Obama and Wright got caught up in a pernicious game of race-baiting instigated no doubt by the right-wing media. And the game has drawn both Obama and Rev. Wright in where neither of them wins. If one is perceived to have won it, it's done at the destruction and denigration and denouncement of the other.

Obama's speech on race was brilliant not only it his elocution of it, but also in the difficult topic he had to address. He spoke about race from a much wider lens than we hear in our everyday discourse. And he's one of the few people of color who gets it that white people too are pained by our country's legacy of racism. However, where he fell short in his speech is that he did it at the expense of feeding into the media's portrayal of Rev. Wright as a demagogue. And while he denounced Rev. Wright's statements, with attempts to contextualize their origins, he played into the race-baiting nonetheless, at the expense of exonerating himself of any culpability of being associated with Wright that make Obama look like the good guy and Wright the bad one.

While it is true that Obama may have missed some of Wright's sermons, it is impossible for him to have missed them all. And even if he did, when he joined the church and was baptized and married in it, Obama attended classes that explained the church's mission, its theology, and its set black values.

Black Theology is a liberation theology in that is looks at black suffering from the lens of the Exodus narrative where Moses leads the Israelites out of Egyptian oppression. Black Theology also look at the prophets in the Bible and their jeremiads about injustice. One jeremiad many of us know is the Amos text we heard Martin Luther King utter when he said, "Let justice roll down like a mighty stream." And with these biblical prophets like Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, they all speak about God's wrath, God cursing or damning a people or a nation as we see in the Exodus narrative where God cursed Egypt with several plagues. Wright's homilies follow the tradition of the biblical prophets that were woefully misunderstood. But I am not saying that all that is Black Theology is good. It's myopia around gender issues and LGBTQ civil rights is just some of the reasons why I am not a proponent of it, which is why my essay first and then book How the Black Church Endangers the African American LGBTQ Community will soon be out.

Rev. Wright is problematic on the above mentioned issues, which is why I lifted up the voices of two of his LGBTQ parishioners in this piece. However, in this media frenzy to discredit Obama's electability Wright has been the sacrificial lamb for our country's needed public discourse on race while excusing Obama of his active involvement with Trinity until he ran for office. And like any politician - black or white - they know in order to win the black Christian vote you go to the black church.

In explaining his relations to the media about Wright, Obama described him as a crazed uncle we all have in our family. And in his address Obama stated that he "can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother." However, I beg to differ. There is a distinct difference between the biological family you are born into and the church family you choose to worship with.

And so too is there a distinct difference between telling the truth to the American public and telling us a lie.

Where Obama got caught is that he didn't think his involvement with supposedly an Afrocentric church would weigh in so heavily on his electability. And because it does he has done it at the expense of throwing Wright under the bus.


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You may not post or transmit any message, data, image or program that would violate the property rights of others, including unauthorized copyrighted text, images or programs, trade secrets or other confidential proprietary information, and trademarks or service marks used in an infringing fashion.

Please quote briefly from other sources and link to them instead of copying entire works into the comments. Not only does it take away from the people who spent time producing those works, it's bad netiquette in the comments here.

You've still failed to explain how, exactly, Wright was "thrown under the bus." This statement implies some kind of injury or offense. But more than a year ago, as ABC News reported, Obama discussed with him the possibility that he would have to eventually distance himself from the longtime pastor. And Wright said he understood, and it was fine.

Your depiction of black theology as some kind of monolithic entity is deeply silly. Good churches like Trinity make room for diverse perspectives among their parishioners. You're trying to make Obama look deceptive, when really he is simply more of a Cornel West than a James Cone.

Rev Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Call to Renewal and God's Politics has an outstanding commentary out today about Barack Obama's Tuesday speech on race in America.

The commentary is called "It's Not About Him Now--It's About Us" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/its-not-about-him-nowi_b_92555.html .

I applaud Rev. Wallis' point that it is up to all of us to rise to the occasion and take some responsibility so that we as a nation may move forward in the ways Obama suggests we must.

On a hopeful note, the New York Times has a story on people who are in fact rising to the challenge Obana has presented us with:

"Groups Respond to Obama's Call for National Discussion About Race"
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/20/us/politics/20race.html?ref=politics

God Is Indeed Good- ALL THE TIME !

Holy Thursday Blessings...

Hi Rev. Irene,

I'm glad you did a second post today to clarify your position, because now I can see where you are coming from. Now that you've given us some context, I'm wondering why Obama's similar statements about Louis Farrakhan haven't been as scrutinized by the media. It's probably because Farrakhan has already been demonized before and lumped into the same category as Malcolm X ("they're crazy racists who just want to kill Whitey"). So yeah . . . now I know what you're saying about Obama throwing Rev. Wright under the bus.

Totally random . . . but I wonder how Obama's grandma is feeling right about now.

It's a lot easier to see where you're coming from here, but I still want to say that I agree with what Bil had to say about biology yesterday - just because two people aren't related through genetics doesn't mean that they can't care about one another. I don't know how close Obama's and Wright's relationship is, but I'm not going to say that Obama should just toss it aside like McCain should toss aside his recent relationship with Pat Robertson or whoever.

Thanks for reposting, bc. The full article thing is a stickler around here!

John Judis, author of The Emerging Democratic Majority, who has written extensively about the partisan leanings of a variety of demographic groups, said:

"It was a wonderful speech. Very gracious. I liked the fact that he didn't throw Wright to the dogs and didn't blame the racial fracas on Hillary."

From the excellent piece by Thomas Edsall "Obama's Race Speech: Did He Win Over White Swing-Voters?"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/19/obamas-race-speech-did-_n_92293.html

Michael Bedwell | March 20, 2008 6:48 PM

Rev. Monroe, you might be interested to know that not only are some at Queerty.com challenging your quotations from Rev. Wright regarding marriage equality, but one is asserting that his Trinity UCC "marries gays." Do you have any knowledge of that?

For those who might also wonder about how to interpret Wright's remarks, the following are facts that should be taken into consideration when attempting that.

Wright and his Trinity congregation are members of the United Church of Christ [its largest single congregation, in fact] which unlike, for instance, Southern Baptists, United Methodists, Roman Catholics, permits EACH of its over 5600 local congregation to essentially pick and choose from the theological and social gospel positions of its "General Synod" which "speaks to local churches, associations, and conferences, but not for them."

It was the General Synod that in 2005 issued a statement supporting gay marriage equality that has led some to MISTAKENLY assume that all UCC ministers and local churches support it. A previously affiliated group in Puerto Rico broke from the denomination entirely because of this statement.

In the absence of any explicit indication on Trinity’s Website of its position, how can we know what they support? Here's one:

The UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns has established “ONA”:

“ONA is ‘shorthand’ for Open and Affirming, the designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the United Church of Christ which make public statements of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” - http://www.ucccoalition.org/programs/ona/

While Rev. Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ includes “Same Gender Loving” under its list of “Singles Community Ministry,” it is NOT listed as one of the 40-some UCC churches in Illinois that have joined the Open & Affirming program.

Without evidence that the list is simply outdated, I think that makes clear that Trinity and Rev. Wright, like Obama, however more progressive they might be than some in other ways, stop outside the door of FULL equality for LGBTs.

Michael Bedwell | March 20, 2008 7:02 PM

UPDATE: In an article about Wright and LGBT rights in today’s “Washington Blade” that is largely a Valentine, I found this confirming that the absence of his church on the list of "Open & Affirming" congregations is not accident:

"[T]he Rev. Ruth Garwood, executive director of the United Church of Christ Coalition for GLBT Concerns, said that while Trinity Church has the reputation of being gay-supportive, Wright and other church officials never accepted an invitation from her office to become an official UCC 'open and affirming' congregation for the GLBT community. At least three other UCC churches in Chicago have adopted the 'open and affirming' status and more than 100 UCC churches throughout the U.S. have adopted the status, as have churches in other denominations.”
- http://washingtonblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=17266

The author apparently misunderstood Rev. Garwood in one area. The ONA site indicates that there are at least 727 active ONA congregations in the United Church of Christ.

Michael,

Please do not presume to speak about or for my denomination.

The official designation ONA
( Open and Affirming ) involves a long process a certain very specific hoops a congregation has to jump through. My own UCC church in Washington DC would absolutely perform a same sex marriage. Our pastor has publicly stated that. He attended a lesbian wedding last year and we had a reception for the couple after worship. We have a very out lesbian chair of our deacon board and out , proud queer folks in leadership positions throughout the church. We advertise in the gay newspaper, had a booth at the annual LGBT Pride event (and the Black LGBT Pride event and the Youth LGBT Pride event) , and marched in the Pride parade , and have hosted several LGBT community events in our sanctuary. AND WE ARE NOT ON THE OFFICIAL LIST OF ONA CONGREGATIONS. There are several Black UCC churches in DC which welcome gays and have gays in visible leadership. NONE of those is officially listed as ONA. The fact that Trinity is not on that list tells us very little. You will find very few majority Black UCC churches which are ONA. And you are in no position to really understand let alone judge that reality.

As for Jeremiah Wright's position toward marriage equality, I have read the statement Rev Monroe references and do not interpret it as she does. I have also talked at length with some longtime gay and lesbian members of Trinity who do not believe that Rev Wright opposed marriage equality or was anti-gay.

But the bottom line is that none of this in any way is an argument for Hillary Clinton. Rev Monroe never mentions Clinton. Yuo jump on her posts to "support" her and try to give the impression her posts are favoring Clinton. They do not. They challenge Obama. They ignore Clinton. Clearly for Rev Irene, Obama is the only one worth investing any time in trying to make an inclusive vision a more complete reality.

Michael Bedwell | March 20, 2008 7:43 PM

"do not presume to speak about or for my denomination"

When did UCC come to stand for the United Church of Charles Keener? Me thinks YOU should run for President, too. Your pompous arrogance and bullying efforts to shut down those who disagree with you dwarf even those of the Dali Obama. McCarthy much?

Perhaps you'd like to silence Rev. Garwood, too:

"[T]he Rev. Ruth Garwood, executive director of the United Church of Christ Coalition for GLBT Concerns, said that while Trinity Church has the reputation of being gay-supportive, Wright and other church officials never accepted an invitation from her office to become an official UCC 'open and affirming' congregation for the GLBT community.”
- http://washingtonblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=17266

"pompous, arrogant, and bullying" ...

Pot, it's the kettle calling ...

I actually know Ruth Garwood.

I can say with certainty that she would not wish to contribute to your efforts to malign Jeremiah Wright , condemn African-American churches whose culture you do not understand, and add to the confusion and hostility roiling around our denomination.

The Rev Dr John Thomas, our General Minister and President, has forcefully defended both Jeremiah Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ in the face of the withering racist asaults of the past number of days .

http://www.ucc.org/news/responding-to-wright.html

Our denominational news service declared this week :

"In the wake of misleading attacks on its mission and ministry, Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ is being lauded by United Church of Christ leaders across the nation for the integrity of its worship, the breadth of its community involvement and the depth of its commitment to social justice."

http://www.ucc.org/news/chicagos-trinity-ucc-is.html

Your ill informed characterizations of Dr Wright and Trinity UCC are just another among "misleading attacks on Trinity's mission and ministry".

You may think you serve Senator Clinton by all this but even she should be ashamed to have this done on her behalf.

Michael Bedwell | March 20, 2008 8:24 PM

You move from deceitful to delusional. And I will not stand for your libels!

DOCUMENT when I have EVER "condemn[ed] African-American churches"!

When you discover that you can't, I expect a public apology.

funny that the previous post is entitled "take a deep breath".

UCC has congregational polity. A good many UCC churches in Missouri would no more hold civil unions or have LGBT ministries than would Lutheran-MO synod churches. There have been attempts to take the conservative UCC churches away (steeplejacking) and attach them to some more conservative denomination, eg, Evangelical Free. John Dorhauer over at www.talk2action.org has written about this phenomenon and how to prevent a minority of the congregation from spreading enough lies and misconceptions to steeplejack the congregation.


So, there is a good deal of difference between individual UCC congregations, and between individual black-majority UCC congregations. Some are conservative, some middle of the road, some are "radically inclusive" (the slogan of an interdenominational group of LGBT-fully-accepting black churches).


One thing that amazes me is that the media portray Wright solely by two bombastic moments. Does any congregant really agree 100% of the time with their pastor? Nope, unless the congregant is brain-dead. So why is Obama obliged to change churches because Wright says that America is damned for acquiescing in various racist policies. (uh, Pastor, people commit sins, nations are abstract entities devoid of free will). People go to churches for many reasons, and fellowship and mutual ministry with other lay congregants is often much more important than what the preacher says up front.

Boys boys,

Is Bil or Alex going to have to come in here and put a smack down on you two?

People on both sides seem to be too quick to take offense and start throwing firebrands around the place. This is the very reason Bil is going on strike, he is tired of this constant back and forth, which never says anyhing worthwhile, never will change anyones opinion, and quite frnakly makes some people look like three year olds.

Go to your corners and take a chill pill!

Mama Diddly's orders.

I encourage everyone to read in full the article Michael referenced from my local LGBT paper, the Washington Blade, about Trinity UCC and Jeremiah Wright

http://washblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=17266

The article makes it very clear that Jeremiah Wright has long been very supportive of LGBT people, including sponsoring a same sex couples ministry at Trinity and preaching a sermon back in the early 1990's "Good News for Homosexuals" in which he declared :

"I refuse to limit my God, to lock God into my cultural understandings because culture is fickle,” Wright said. “And culture is often wrong. Culture was wrong about slavery. Culture was wrong about women. Culture was wrong about Africans and Indians, and culture was wrong about Christ,” he said. “I have been the pariah among many of my clergy colleagues who somehow see me as defective or not quite saved because I won’t join them in their homophobic gay bashing and misquoting of scripture.”

This sermon is included in Wright's 1995 book "Good News! Sermons of Hope for Today's Families".

The testimony in the article of LGBT members of Trinity as well as gay activists and leaders from the wider Chicago community make it clear that , whether Trinity is officially listed as "ONA" or not, both the church in general and Jeremiah Wright in particular practice a very LGBT inclusive and LGBT affirming ministry.

As for Wright's alleged objections to the UCC synod commitment to same sex marriage, I have read his article in Trinity's "Trumpet" newsletter and have discussed that article with longtime gay members of Trinity. I believe what Wright was trying to do when he labelled the same sex marriage issue a "distraction" was to challenge some members of his church who were up in arms over gay marriage to spend their time and energies on other issues which are pressing needs of the Black community INSTEAD OF directing anger at gay folks or at the denomination over same sex marriage. He wrote “Are 44 million Americans with no health care insurance less important than ‘gay marriage?’ he wrote. “Why aren’t Black Christians in an uproar about that? Maybe I’m missing something!” What he was saying is why aren't folks at least as riled up over the very serious threats facing African-Americans, like healthcare, rather than getting worked up over same sex marriage which is no threat to them in fact. Wright was NOT making an argument against marriage equality.

The Washington Blade article is also edifying in the way local gay leaders in Illinois speak glowingly of Barack and Michelle Obama's strong support for gay rights and the gay community. Tracy Baim, the editor of Chigago's LGBT newspaper is quoted as saying "any hint that Obama’s support for gay rights has been curtailed because of his affiliation with Wright or Trinity Church would be completely false. She noted that Obama has been a strong supporter on gay issues since he first entered politics as a candidate for the Illinois State Senate. With the exception of same-sex marriage, which both Obama and Clinton have declined to support, Obama has backed virtually all other gay-related issues pushed by gay rights organizations, Baim said. She noted that both Obama and his wife, Michelle, have regularly attended gay community events in the state. "

That's pretty clear.

And while we are on the subject of marriage equality, the Washington Blade also features an article on the hated "Defense of Marriage Act" which was enacted on the Clinton's watch. Evidently while campaigning recently Bill Clinton claimed that Hillary supports the full repeal of DOMA when in fact Barack Obama supports the full repeal but Hillary Clinton does not. Hillary's campaign actually had to correct Bill's error and admit that Hillary is in fact NOT in favor of the full repeal of DOMA :

"Clinton Misstates wife's DOMA Position"

http://washblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=17268

Thanks Alex for pointing out my original point again. It's still VERY irksome to me - I firmly believe that plays into a religious right talking point. From my comment on the last post:

There is a distinct difference between the biological family you are born into and the church family you choose to worship with.

While I understand what you're attempting to say with this argument, your choice of wording is an underpinning to the religious right argument that our families are not biological and therefore unworthy. I am reminded of one of our most popular posts about a gay couple that were separated by one man's mother after he had a stroke. She "claimed" his wrecked shell of a body afterwards with the courts awarding custody since she was "biological" family and his lover of almost 30 years wasn't.

As queers we form our own unique families. Jerame is not biologically related to me. We can't get married. "His" daughter is not my biological daughter. Does this mean I'm less worthy in your eyes than her biological mother that allowed her to be systematically abused? Her biological relationship makes her better than me? How absolutely and completely disgusting! Paige has done several of the same crazy things that my "biological" niece has done. Yet, I'm supposed to condemn Paige while excusing my niece? That's simply ludicrous.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/25/clinton-wright-would-no_n_93318.html
Hillary Clinton's judgmental remarks about the Rev Dr Jeremiah Wright and her presumptuous remarks about where Barack Omama should or should not worship , ironic in view of Hillary's own controversial religious bedfellows http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080331/ehrenreich


http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/03/donna-brazile-o.html
Donna Brazile on Hillary throwing Jeremiah Wright under the bus