March 14, 2008
A lot of controversy, bubbling here and there, over Barack Obama’s church has been brewing in the media. Comments by pastor Jeremiah Wright and other troubling aspects from Trinity United Church of Christ has put the church under a far amount of scrutiny. I want to look for a second at what the church says about itself via its website, and evaluate under the auspices of a New Testament theology.
First up, there is the “About Us” blurb.
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.
First of all, I’m not too keen on the fact that “Unashamedly Black” comes before “Unapologetically Christian.” Statements of faith are typically made with utmost care and attention to detail. There is no reason to not think that was the case here, and consequently, I challenge the theology of ANY church which would put a temporal, physical descriptor ahead (and always capitalized) of the word “Christian.” I’m sure Pastor Wright would agree that it is very possible to have a black gathering which is not Christian. It is not the blackness nor the whiteness nor the whatever-ness of a congregation that makes it a church: It is Christ. To that end, I think the opening sentence indicates a faulty view of the nature of the church.
Second, I would be very curious to hear what a “Black religious experience” is. Is the church implying reveals himself differently to different races? The Bible clearly disregards racial distinction before God:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.–Revelation 5:9
Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.-Acts 10:34-35
The idea that God differentiates between racial ethnicity in revealing himself (which is what I would consider a “religious experience) is clearly foreign to the Bible. There is no “Black religious experience” or “White religious experience” or “[Insert Color] religious experience.” God accepts, through Christ, any person of any race that will come to Him.
As such, I have to severely question whether or not Pastor Wright’s vision for a “Black worship service and ministries” severely disregards the Bible’s call for impartiality. If God does not see our colors, why should the church? There is no legitimate, Christian answer that can be given. It all has to be chalked up what definitely appears to be a form of racism, however subtle, in Trinity United Church of Christ. After all, we would rightly chastise any congregation for defining itself as part of the “White gospel” or endeavoring to provide “white ministries.” I see no reason for an exception in the case of TUCC.
All that to say this: I have serious doubts regarding the integrity of Trinity United Church of Christ as a New Testament church. It seems to me that TUCC baptizes its members more into a culture than into the gospel. I see no mention of Christ and His redemptive work. I see rather the social gospel, working within racial discrimination. This is not a church founded by Christ.
That said, this does NOT disqualify Barack Obama from public office. I’ve said before I would vote for a Mormon like Romney, and I wouldn’t have an immediate problem voting for someone from a place like this. What this analysis hopefully does is put to rest any debate over whether or not TUCC is an accurate picture of a New Testament church. I think the unavoidable answer is no, it is not.