Friday, August 20, 2010

Re: The Whole "Obama's A Muslim" Thing

If anyone is wondering why I'mnot chiming in on this, it is because I dealt with the substance of this years ago: Bare Minimum Christianity

So, what kind of judgements can we draw about Rev. Wright and his church built upon the "black liberation theology" of James Cone? For starters, it doesn't seem to be a particularly Christian church. By that, I mean its motivating principles seem to derive less from the life and teaching of Jesus Christ than they do from the writings of Vladimir Lenin and Mao Tse-tung. The language of Wright's church is not that of grace and the love of God for his children on Earth. Instead, a vision of a politicized church built upon a rather clumsy and simplistic transposition of Lenin's essay on "Imperialism" (itself not a model of intellectual brilliance) is put forward in place of the Christian gospel. Where Lenin railed against the exploitation of the un-industrialized nations by the industrialized nations in a statist version of the Marxist idea of class struggle, Wright/Cone offer a vision of racial exploitation that can only be overcome by the "destruction" of the criminal race (i.e. whites.)

If this is what this perspective is politically, what can we say about it as a religion? From a religious perspective the question becomes what sort of claim such a view could have to being called "Christian" at all. (This is assuming that something being "Christian" is not merely a question of self-identification. For example, whatever variation there might be in the definition of "Vegan," you cannot legitimately claim to be a Vegan if you wear leather and eat veal four times a week.)

In my opinion, it seems unlikely that the political goals advocated by the Wright/Cone ideology can be squared with the bare minimum requirements of religious Christianity. In fact, the Wright/Cone vision requires the direct repudiation of the teachings of Christ. For example, whatever Christianity is it must allow for "Christians" of any race or ethnicity. For Wright/Cone only blacks can be "true" Christians. Christianity has always been built around the idea that Jesus Christ came not as a political revolutionary promising liberation for a specific people only, as many messianic Jews had been expecting for generations, but was instead sent for all mankind. But for Wright/Cone the only legitimate work of God is for the benefit of blacks and blacks alone. Such a view represents not just an "unusual interpretation" of Christianity, but a direct repudiation of it....

For the non-Christian all of this must seem like much ado about nothing. But even an ardent agnostic can legitimately look at the dodgy political ideology masquerading as religious belief in Barrack Obama's church and ask probing questions about it. If we are not allowed to ask the difficult questions including those touching upon the intersection of faith and politics, in a mistaken belief that it is "bad form," how can we ever know what Obama believes about anything?

The results of the various polls on Obama's faith (e.g. less than 50% of Democrats believe he is a Christian) should't come as a surprise to anyone who has thought about it.

Most people haven't thought about it I guess.


Anonymous said...

Christianity comes in a wide variety of forms. You don't like Obama's variety. Fine, don't attend services at his church. You probably don't like Catholic Liberation Theology or New Age Unitarianism or Christian Science or the Gospel of Prosperity or the Assembly of God or White Identity Christianity . Don't attend those services either. You are not in charge of determining what is proper Christian faith. That used to be the Pope's job and it did not end well -- see the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. Self-identification is clearly the only reasonable to determine religious identity. If a Unitarian or a Mormon says they are Christians, who are you to quarrel? The simple fact is that it is rather easy to find your own political ideology confirmed in a reading of the Bible, and millions of Christian, including you, have done just that for centuries. (Yes, you have an ideology or perhaps I should say a "dodgy political ideology which masquerades as religious belief" as well.)

The results of the various polls show how opponents of Obama also attribute to him another quality they don't like, i.e., being a Muslim. Deep thinking is not a quality that describes most of the people who hold these views -- abiding ignorance and religious bigotry are what they have in abundance.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Oh my...what gibberish.

Look, if we allow people to self-identify themselves without reference to reality (or any other meaningful standard), nothing has any meaning and moral stands become impossible. For example, using the non-standard you employ no one could not criticize the "religion" of the KKK (i.e. a form that limits christians to those of north european descent.) You would (or if you actually mean what you say you SHOULD) look at the KKK and just say "Oh each his own." I look at the KKK and say "What a bunch of non-christian fucktards." Their self-indentification be damned.

If you actually do not believe reality limits human being you are simply irrational. IN the real world we do have the ability to name things AND those names have meaning. (Semiotically, they signify something.) Thus, in the real world, the proper name Barack Obama signifies a particular person and LIMITS the rest of the world from sharing that signification. It doesn't matter if 500 people all self-identifying themselves as being "Barack Obama" or "the President" show up at the airport, only one individual gets to board Air Force One. Reality defines who that person is...and not self-identification.

So, just like the name "Barack Obama" the term "Christian" if it is to be meaningful has to be limited in some fashion. To believe otherwise is to redeuce the world to nothing but chattering nonsense, i.e. gibberish.

(Note: None of this has anything to do with anyone's right to follow whatever religion they want. Your claim that I was saying that is just another strawman argument you are imparting to me.)

Anonymous said...

You are the one who has made a strawman argument. I am not a radical relatavist. All the varieties of Christianity I mentioned are in fact actual sects of that religion, which have tens of thousands if not more adherents. You may not like it, but they are Christians -- most if not all believe that Jesus of Nazarath is the son of God, divine, and resurrected to cleanse their sins, etc. You don't engage any of the salient points of my argument, but rather tip over the strawman of relativism. You rejection of Black Liberation Theology was in fact religious bigotry. You are not the Defender of the Faith. In fact, Christianity has been diverse and multi-faceted right from the beginning. It continues to evolve and change. Get used to it.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

If you deny (as you seemingly do) that the content of the term "christian" has any meaning outside of the subjective whim of the individual, then yes you are a relativist of a radical nature.

So feel free to call my rejection of the "religion" of crazy ass racial theorists (ala Cone or the KKK) "bigotry", and I'll feel free to be the sane one.