Why Obama Joined Trinity

Obama’s decision to join Wright’s church has turned into a political problem. Norm Scheiber looks at why Obama probably did join this church as opposed to other, more conservative churches in the area. He quotes from David Mendell’s biography of Barack Obama:

Wright remains a maverick among Chicago’s vast assortment of black preachers. He will question Scripture when he feels it forsakes common sense; he is an ardent foe of mandatory school prayer; and he is a staunch advocate for homosexual rights, which is almost unheard-of among African-American ministers. Gay and lesbian couples, with hands clasped, can be spotted in Trinity’s pews each Sunday. Even if some blacks consider Wright’s church serving only the bourgeois set, his ministry attracts a broad cross section of Chicago’s black community. Obama first noticed the church because Wright had placed a “Free Africa” sign out front to protest continuing apartheid. The liberal, Columbia-educated Obama was attracted to Wright’s cerebral and inclusive nature, as opposed to the more socially conservative and less educated ministers around Chicago. Wright developed into a counselor and mentor to Obama as Obama sought to understand the power of Christianity in the lives of black Americans, and as he grappled with the complex vagaries of Chicago’s black political scene. “Trying to hold a conversation with a guy like Barack, and him trying to hold a conversation with some ministers, it’s like you are dating someone and she wants to talk to you about Rosie and what she saw on Oprah, and that’s it,” Wright explained. “But here I was, able to stay with him lockstep as we moved from topic to topic. . . . He felt comfortable asking me questions that were postmodern, post-Enlightenment and that college-educated and graduate school-trained people wrestle with when it comes to the faith. We talked about race and politics. I was not threatened by those questions.” …

But more than that, Trinity’s less doctrinal approach to the Bible intrigued and attracted Obama. “Faith to him is how he sees the human condition,” Wright said. “Faith to him is not . . . litmus test, mouth-spouting, quoting Scripture. It’s what you do with your life, how you live your life. That’s far more important than beating someone over the head with Scripture that says women shouldn’t wear pants or if you drink, you’re going to hell. That’s just not who Barack is.”

Scheiber concludes:

So, if you buy Wright’s account–and it rings pretty true to me–it was his intellectualism and social progressivism that won Obama over. Certainly it’s hard to imagine that someone like Obama, who came from a progressive, secular background, would have felt genuinely comfortable in a socially conservative, anti-intellectual church. The problem for Obama is that the flip-side of these virtues was a minister with a radical worldview and a penchant for advertising it loudly.

Obama’s decision to join the church had nothing to do with Wright’s more controversial views, regardless of which sermons Obama actually heard. The radical views expressed by Wright have nothing to do with Obama’s views or how he would govern and should not be a factor in the election.


  1. 1
    Mohan says:

    I totally agree. I am not a die hard religious individual. I believe in guidance from the writings or the underlying theology of honest living. There are viewpoints that are good and bad in each individual. You take the best out of those preaching the religion and when they veer from good teaching to self serving idealogies then you part company. I think that is what Obama has done. I respect his view points and I feel this is a great opportunity for the country to choose an individual who can bring a level headed approach to Washington politics. I do not want to see the re laundering of the Washington cronies.

  2. 2
    joseph amato says:

    April 30, 2008 1am
    I know African Americans Obama, and you are no African American is the reading of the Rev Wright conscious or sub-conscious fiasco for all intents and purposes.
    Rev Wright is beholding to anti-Obama agenda for America not that he reveals his post retirement new life and career path. 
    Rev Wright can lead his congregational, but not America’s spirit where Senator Obama wanted to rightly to take our American inclusive national pluralism.
    This in absolute terms is Freudian father and son rivalry complex of classical psychological proportions.
    No way would Rev Wright take the African Americans liberations theology and his kissing cousin Farrakhan of The Nation of Islam on the Damascus road that Senator Obama envisions in unity of the Christian eschatological.
    We are witnessing a Senator leading way ahead of his misguided and sorry to say falsely interpreted congregational constituency. As well his personal understanding of the embedded family vision that is highly personal and beyond the public preview.
    Rev Wright protected his own political African American inertia of entrenched hardliners, yet not for all of African or multiracial fusion Americans.
    This shows Senator Barack Obama is the proven father of his broader national agenda that is inclusive and modern, Thus a knowable race schisms in prominent and revelatory and this make the election process a brilliant vetting of resumes and whether Democratic or Republican in our electoral selection process that has just become enormously more challenging. This divide not really surprising in terms of the work that needs to be done in the demographics of particulars race – ethnically and as well economics of American a historically fluid political paradigm evolving and maturing for certainty.
    This election is not just about red states and blue states but about rainbow developing agendas that will continue to define the American fault lines for decades ahead and correctly for all of us to embrace for this issues not less important than when John F Kennedy was leading our union of ideological democracy and liberties.
    Joseph Amato
    Manhattan, NYC

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