For Barack Obama—the Good, the not so Bad, and the Beauty-Challenged

Note to Readers: There was another addition to the “What’s New” section on June 9.

Barack Obama has made history as the first African American candidate to represent a major political party in a presidential general election. Even if he were to call a news conference today and announce, “I’ve decided to forget the presidency—I’m going to content myself with a fulfilling career in the senate,” he’d still be remembered in American history books a hundred years from now. If he were to retire today, he’d be less significant, arguably, than Martin Luther King, Jr., but more significant than Jesse Jackson or someone from history like Crispus Attucks. Obama will be a role model for minorities perhaps until the end of time. He has done something truly amazing.

Whatever his association was with influence peddler Tony Rezko, it probably won’t hurt him. I believe that by Election Day in November most voters won’t know or really care who Rezko is, and they won’t have a clear understanding of exactly what is meant by “influence peddling.” Finally, they won’t understand how or why this matter should affect their perception of Obama.

Two things most Americans do understand and care about to at least some degree are church-related things and race relations, and these issues might prove a little sticky for the Illinois senator. It is old news now that Obama’s pastor for twenty-odd years, Rev. Wright, believes outlandish things (AIDS was created by the government to kill African Americans, etc.). Wright waited a few weeks to defend himself from what he felt were unfair attacks and, lo and behold, he again made extremist statements. I guess that’s what extremists do. It’s not so old news that a white priest, Father Pfelger, visited Obama’s church and—before the priest launched into an abusive, racially inflamed mockery of Hillary Clinton—he said that this generation of whites was guilty of the racism of our forebears unless we gave up our jobs, our 401K’s, etc. So even though I hate racism, I’m still part of the problem until I jeopardize my retirement then maybe I’m off the hook. Who knew?

I agree with those who say it is not fair to blame Obama for all the things said by those who have chosen to support him. There are a lot of peculiar people out there who are going to vote on both sides. Things will be said that will make either candidate cringe. But here is the problem for Senator Obama: his church—that he has just recently announced he was leaving—was comfortable with hearing extreme things from the pulpit. For as alarming as the video of Pfelger’s diatribe was, it was almost as alarming to watch how much the congregation enjoyed it. A sizable chunk of that congregation seemed to believe that Hillary Clinton had a sense of entitlement because she was white, and they believed that white America is still oppressing minorities as a whole.

Obama’s amazing success demonstrates that America can be the land of opportunity for anyone, regardless of race. And the lives of many other African Americans also tell this story—Colin Powell, Condi Rice, the brilliant Dr. Ben Carson, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and countless others. So why did Obama spend twenty years in a church that preaches bitterness and hate instead of the gospel message of love? I’m sure that Obama’s church has another side to it; I imagine every church in America has its share of good and bad.

Some might say that Obama’s choice in churches is irrelevant to his ability to be President, but I disagree for two reasons. If John McCain’s pastor said a woman’s place was in the kitchen, not the office; there would be a firestorm. People would want to know why McCain went to a sexist church. People would wonder if McCain was going there because he agreed with the message. Two, because Obama’s legislative record is not as well developed as a more experienced candidate’s would be, people have to look other places to gain insight into his judgment.

Why did Obama stay at his church for so long? Was he hoping to change the culture of the church with the story of his life? That would have been a nice answer.