Obama a Muslim? No. Joined Racist Church? Yes.

Jeremiah Wright (Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty)
Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty

The media are outraged that Donald Trump did not smack down a question from a member of the public who evidently believes President Barack Obama is a Muslim. It is a reprise of the outrage ginned up against Scott Walker when he said he did not know if Obama is a Christian.

Curiously, while the media insist that Republicans profess faith in Obama’s Christianity, they continue to avoid talk of the church in which he embraced it.

Obama was born to a Muslim father and learned about Islam in Indonesia, though he appears not to have had much early interest in religion. It was in Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago that he found a path to faith.

Much of the appeal was political. As Obama wrote in  Dreams from My Father, he was attracted to Wright’s politics, which mixed radicalism and religion. Here is the church’s creed (original emphasis):

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.

Trinity United Church of Christ adopted the Black Value System written by the Manford Byrd Recognition Committee chaired by Vallmer Jordan in 1981. We believe in the following 12 precepts and covenantal statements. These Black Ethics must be taught and exemplified in homes, churches, nurseries and schools, wherever Blacks are gathered. They must reflect on the following concepts:

Commitment to God
Commitment to the Black Community
Commitment to the Black Family
Dedication to the Pursuit of Education
Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence
Adherence to the Black Work Ethic
Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect
Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”
Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired skills available to the Black Community
Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting Black Institutions
Pledge allegiance to all Black leadership who espouse and embrace the Black Value System
Personal commitment to embracement of the Black Value System.
The Pastor as well as the membership of Trinity United Church of Christ is committed to a 10-point Vision:

A congregation committed to ADORATION.
A congregation preaching SALVATION.
A congregation actively seeking RECONCILIATION.
A congregation with a non-negotiable COMMITMENT TO AFRICA.
A congregation committed to BIBLICAL EDUCATION.
A congregation committed to CULTURAL EDUCATION.
A congregation committed to LIBERATION.
A congregation committed to RESTORATION.
A congregation working towards ECONOMIC PARITY.

In Dreams, Obama singles out the church’s “Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassedness” as being particularly attractive to him. He quotes the church brochure:

“While it is permissible to chase ‘middleincomeness’ with all our might,” the text stated, those blessed with the talent or good fortune to achieve success in the American mainstream must avoid the “psychological entrapment of Black ‘middleclassedness’ that hypnotizes the successful brother or sister into believing they are better than the rest and teaches them to think in terms of ‘we’ and ‘they’ instead of ‘US’!”

Obama’s only qualm was whether Trinity’s opposition to “middleclassedness” was sincere, given its”disproportionate number of black professionals.” Eventually, Obama says, he embraced God–and Wright’s church.

Obama is a Christian, by his own confession–even if Islam does not recognize conversion out of the faith, even if his odd bias against Christianity and towards Islam might have encouraged some Americans’ lingering doubts.

The question is not whether Obama is a Muslim, but how America ever elected someone with his twisted beliefs.


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