Mr. Obama is far too smart to get specific about all the changes he wants to make and the media won't push him, so we're left guessing. One way to understand his views is to look at the people he hangs out with.
Contrary to rumors floated by the Clinton campaign, there is no evidence that Sen. Obama is a Muslim, or has ever been in his adult life. In fact, Mr. Obama has been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 West 95th Street, Chicago, Illinois, for decades.
His church has a well-constructed web site which tells us how his church thinks. The "About Us" tab goes to a page which says:
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community. [emphasis added]
There is absolutely nothing wrong with an individual black person being "Unashamedly Black" and it's commendable for a congregation to be "Unapologetically Christian." Combine the two, though, and you have a problem.
Mr. Obama may not realize it, but based on what the word "Christian" means, it's not possible for a congregation to be both "Unashamedly Black" and "Unapologetically Christian" as the web site claims. A church can't have a "Black worship service" and be "Unashamedly Christian" at the same time.
This is because Jesus was unapologetically inclusive. He caught flak for hanging around with people whom the upper crust thought of as the dregs of society. The Gospel of John, chapter 4 tells how Jesus had a conversation with a "woman of Samaria." The Jews and Samaritans got along about as well as the Israelis and Palestinians get along today; we have no way of knowing whether they'd have been as violent with each other because the Roman Army kept the peace.
In the Gospel of Luke 6:46, Jesus made it clear that if anyone wanted to follow Him, they had to do as He said. He asked, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Anyone who is a Christian, which is defined as someone who follows Christ, does as Christ commands - or, at least, is supposed to.
The Apostle Paul reaffirmed Jesus' condemnation of racism when he wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Paul confirmed, emphasized, and repeated Jesus' teaching against racism. Paul also pointed out (gasp) that Jesus taught that women are part of Jesus' church in the same way that men are.
Sen. Obama's church defines its congregation, that is, its membership, as "Unashamedly Black" and conducts a "Black worship service." That's racism, pure and simple. It's not Christianity. Christianity as Christ defined it is inclusive.
Just because a church has mostly black, or even entirely black, membership doesn't mean that it has to be a racist organization. My family and I were the only whites who attended a church near a large city. Although the church members thought we had a lot to learn because they knew so many things we didn't know, the differences turned out to be matters of culture and not matters of Christianity.
They opened their hearts to us and showed us the same love that Christ had showed them. We had interesting discussions which led to insights about the racism of stupidity. They knew a lot more about relating to the government than I did; their stories helped me understand how the Confucian cycle was playing out. Their spiritual support during a crisis meant so much to me that I asked for, and got, permission to thank the entire congregation from the pulpit.
These black people were not racist, not in the least. They had suffered wrongs, but had not let their wrongs embitter them. They showed the love of Christ; they engaged in inclusive Christian worship, not "Black" worship.
The "Ministries" tab on Sen. Obama's church's website speaks of an "Africa Ministry" which involves church members in eduction and missionary projects in Africa. Doing missions work overseas follows one of Jesus' commands, but as Sen. Obama's church describes their congregation, "We are an African people, and remain 'true to our native land,' the mother continent, the cradle of civilization."
It's pretty harmless when American citizens claim to be African; that probably won't hurt anything but feelings.
It's disturbing when they claim that the church members "remain 'true to our native land,'" meaning Africa. Are they more loyal to Africa than to the United States? Dictionary.com defines "treason" as "a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state." If the membership of Sen. Obama's church are in fact "true to our native land [of Africa]," they're violating their allegiance to America which is treason, by definition.
It gets scary when one of the members of a church of "African people" has a good shot at becoming President of the United States. Sen Obama is a member of a racist organization which states publicly that the members of their congregation remain true to another land.
He's been a member in good standing for decades, he's demonstrated his loyalty to his church and to what they stand for. How can he be President of all our people if he's true to some other land? Would he be our first African president?
The ancestors of most of the members of Mr. Obama's church may have come from Africa as the ancestors of members of other Chicago churches came from Europe, but that does not make them African any more than having ancestors from Europe makes someone European. Anthropologists believe that humanity originated in Africa and that all people came from Africa. By that standard, we're all African just as we're all human.
Africa is a huge continent whose languages, customs, laws, tribes, and cultures vary perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. We've written about the difficulties of uniting diverse people into a nation.
One reason there's so much conflict in Africa is that there's more diversity there than in most other places. Think of the cultural differences across America, from Nome, Alaska, to Chicago, to San Francisco, to New York, to Miami - that diversity stew is nothing compared to the diversity in Africa. How can anyone be loyal to that much diversity? How can they have a serious "Africa Ministry" which educates church members about Africa without finding that out?
Mr. Obama's pastor, who by definition is his spiritual leader, has praised Louis Farrakhan, who's a racist, and the church's "About Us" page states that the church is a racist organization.
We have no reason to believe that Mr. Obama is personally a racist in any way, but it appears that a life spent steeped in liberalism and political correctness has blinded him to the explicit racism he encounters every Sunday. If being "post racial" means he can't even see blatant racism, this change may not be for the better.
Sen. Trent Lott, a high-ranking white Repubican, was criticized for belonging to a private "whites only" organization; he resigned.
Does Sen. Obama plan to resign from his church? Or will he carry his church's loyalty to "Africa" and his church's racism into the White House?