Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why Would You?

It used to be that if you were planning a run for public office, membership in a large, respected local church was considered not just good for your soul, but a plus for your campaign. These days, not so much-just ask John McCain and Barack Obama. If politicians are going to held accountable for the things their pastors, and even the visiting ministers, say, then joining a church could be high risk activity, politically speaking. Heck, joining the Rotary Club could be a high risk activity.

Today, Barack Obama resigned his twenty year membership in Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He said that he was not a decision that he came by lightly. Obviously, not. The easy thing for Obama to do would have been to disassociate himself from the church the moment he first thought he might run for President. But he didn't. For some people, that might be hard to understand, but if you, like me, grew up in a Southern Baptist Church-or in any tradition that placed the laity on a par with clergy-then maybe you understand.

I grew up in the church my great great grandfather helped build. Many of my family members attended that church, and it's fair to say that the members of that small, country church helped raise me. Whether it was Miss Myrle Biggerstaff who led the singing in the preschool class, or Suzanne Gibson who led the G.A. group, or many, many others-they were family, too. Over the years, we had our share of questionable pastors. I remember a particularly bad episode when I was about ten years old. The church had called a pastor from out of state, and on the Friday before he was to be installed, my father, who was chair of the search committee and chair of the deacon board, got a letter from his former church. They were declining the request for a church letter based on allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of the pastor. I remember my father agonizing over how to deal with the situation. I remember many harsh words in church, and the church ultimately splitting over the pastor's dismissal. But, we didn't leave. We didn't leave, because, in our tradition, we had made a commitment-we were the church. So, I understand why Obama struggled, and I understand why it took him so long to leave. Obama is a shrewd politician. He had to know the risk he was taking by remaining a member of Trinity. But as controversy swirled, he didn't leave. Until now, he didn't leave. His hesitancy to leave, perhaps more than anything else, convinces me that perhaps he is not just another politician.

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4 comments:

Tina said...

Anyone who can claim that he or she never had a friend, relative, or colleague that occasionally said or did kooky things, please raise your hand !
(What, no hands ?!? )

RuralDem said...

Maybe I'm out of the loop, but McCain's pastor has not said anything to the degree of Wright, Hagee, etc. McCain did not sit in the pews for almost two decades with a divisive pastor heading the congregation. Hagee and the other controversial pastors backing McCain did not preach at his church. Wright's relationship with Obama and McCain's relationship with Hagee is an apples and oranges comparison.

Anyway, his decision to finally leave the church shows the type of person he is. Hillary is far from perfect, and she's very divisive, but I actually trust her more than Obama. As insane as it may sound, I see Obama as more of an opportunist than Hillary.

Obama should have either left the church when the firestorm started, OR stayed and ignored the scrutiny. Instead, he waits until the fire is reignited and then decides to leave.

I have to disagree with your view that his decision to leave now showcases that he is not another run of the mill politician. In fact, his decision to waver, to me, shows yet more wishy-washyness from Barack Obama.

This is a man who will rip our party apart. The ideal candidate (John Edwards) is out of the race, and we're left with two less than stellar candidates.

I'm holding out hope in 2012 that we nominate a decent candidate. Gore was terrible, Kerry was a joke, and Obama is a disaster.

After all of the gains we made in 2006, one would think that we'd have a better Presidential nominee. Instead, we pick someone who will likely destroy our party.

Amy Morton said...

I suspect that this was the last of many last straws, and I can understand, from the perspective of my own faith tradition, why someone would choose to stay in a church despite a pastor. Frankly, I am much more interested in a person's faith than in their church affiliation. I also think that holding a presidential candidate responsible for their own words is a much higher priority than trying to hold them accountable for the words of those they associate with. And, that applies to all the candidates, not just Obama.

As you know, I was an Edwards girl. I still think that he was the candidate who had the clearest path to victory in November, so we agree on that. We disagree that Obama (or Clinton, for that matter) will destroy our party. Frankly, I think that we're the only ones who can destroy our party, and I hope that we choose otherwise. I think that Obama, Clinton, and Edwards, for that matter, are extraordinary human beings who value their country more than their party, and that we will ultimately come together to defeat the worst choice on the ballot- John McCain. The climate in the county is not comparable to 2000 or 2004. People are far more dissatisfied as evidenced by their participation in voting.

One last note, Obama has been consistently under-estimated: by the media, by party insiders, and by people like me. In August, when I saw him in Iowa, I wouldn't have given you two cents on a bet that he would win the state. But he did. The Novmeber race will be tough, but this time, I'm betting on Obama.

Tina said...

Seems that these days ministers only get quoted when they say something wacky.
Oh, incidentally, no one brings up the fact that McCain also quit his church. Wasn't he an episcopalian and changed over to being a baptist?
As for sitting for "two decades" in a pew, that sounds mighty uncomfortable to me whatever the denomination.
:-)