songquake: (labyrinth)
[personal profile] songquake
Charles M. Blow wrote in the NYTimes yesterday about how huge percentages of Republican Americans believe demonstrably untrue things about President Obama. Following is a graphic of some of the recent polling:



Never mind that John McCain (President Obama's opponent in the last election) was born in Panama. Being born on an American military installation renders him a "Natural-born Citizen of the United States," and really, though there was a question about how this would be viewed legally, nobody on the other side made a huge deal of this once the Federal Election Commission ruled that he was eligible to run for President.

But what really confuses me is how the president's religious beliefs remain up for question. Hell, not just his religious beliefs, but his fundamental faith alignment. Astonishingly (to me), very few Americans remember that his faith was controversial in the 2008 election—not because of a question of his being a Christian, but because of the kind of Christian he is. Nobody seems to remember how our electorate required Obama to distance himself from Jeremiah Wright and to leave Trinity UCC, where he had been a member since the late 1980s.

While he distanced himself from Rev. Wright and quit Trinity, the fact that he was a member there for nearly 20 years indicates that he agrees (or at least agreed) in the congregation's basic philosophical/theological/political stance: that God is on the side of the poor and oppressed; that God does not desire the suffering of any human, but stands with and gives strength to those who are oppressed; and that it is important, as an African-American megachurch, for Trinity UCC to remain "Unashamedly Black, Unapologetically Christian."

It's a church built on Liberation Theology. It's built on a Christianity in which Christ redeems the slave by showing the possibility of resurrection. Jesus, having been poor, itinerant, revolutionary, and subject to torture, has more in common with Harriet Tubman than with Abraham Lincoln. (This comparison has probably been used before, but I can't cite by whom; it seems like an apt one, though.) This Jesus calls for the oppressed to continue to struggle against injustice, and for those who oppress to give up our sinful ways and become like the lilies of the field who are satisfied with the blessings God's already given us. Those who are well-off have a responsibility to stand with the poor.

I should acknowledge here that Liberation Theology (by way of feminist theology but quickly expanded to Black Liberation, Mujerista, Womanist, Queer, and Disability Theologies) is the reason I have become able to call myself a Christian, and the root of my activism and ministry. I've met Rev. Wright a couple of times, briefly, and have heard him preach. And while I found myself convicted by his words, while his rhetoric can be very "inflammatory" for those who do not believe in God's primary identity as liberator, I have never found his words to be untrue. Unpopular, yes, but not untrue (with its history of oppression, the archetype of America does deserve damnation rather than blessing, though Wright's cry of "God DAMN America" was particularly ill-timed). And hell, Jesus was never really popular, either, especially among the privileged and ruling classes.

America is known as the "land of opportunity," but it has never been, is still not, a land of opportunity for many descendants of slaves as well as for modern-day slaves (victims of labor and sex trafficking), for many women, for many queers (particularly queers of color), for many with disabilities. What Liberation Theology does is promise that this lack of opportunity is not divinely-ordained and give those who subscribe to it strength to struggle against racism, sexism, ablism, ageism, homophobia/heterocentrism and so on.

Okay, that was a nice little digression into Liberation Theology, but I think it's important to describe it because of how far outside of popular Christianity it is. It's controversial stuff, this claim that God is on the side of the poor rather than the rich, that it's Christ the tortured rather than Christ the King who is a model for humans.

A lot of Americsns were pissed off by the media descriptions of Liberation Theology back in 2008. Pundits called it a "heresy."

What I'm saying is that the actual beliefs about God that President Obama likely holds are controversial enough, even though they are Christian. In fact, it's likely that if Obama acted more on the tenets of Liberationism, the percentage of people offended by his religious affiliation would be higher than the percentage who think he is Muslim right now.


...It's been a long time since I have subjected my F-list to a theologically-based discourse. Since I have so many new readers since I finished my Master's Degree in 2007 (friend [livejournal.com profile] songquakebuilds if you want to read my Master's Thesis), I expect there will be some dissent. I encourage conversation, though I think I have exhausted my brain for the moment. Am actually a trifle nervous about posting this, but hell, if this is what I believe...

If I hide my light under a bushel basket, I'm likely to burn the house down.
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