Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Obama - Good for Jews? Maybe Not

Boker Tov

Beware Obama?

Very interesting stuff, this. I don't know if you saw it, or if the video is available somewhere online, but Sean Hannity recently interviewed (that is, argued with) the pastor of Barack Obama's church.

[found: partial transcript]

At issue was this commentary by Erik Rush, wherein Erik took the Mission Statement of that church and (brilliantly) substituted the word, "White," for the word, "Black," resulting in what I thought was a perfectly feasible accusation of racism... specifically, of Black supremacy.

How many Americans would vote for a presidential candidate who was the member of a church that professed the following credo?

1. Commitment to God

2. Commitment to the White Community

3. Commitment to the White Family

4. Dedication to the Pursuit of Education

5. Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence

6. Adherence to the White Work Ethic

7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect

8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of "Middleclassness"

9. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired skills available to the White Community

10. Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting White Institutions

11. Pledge allegiance to all White leadership who espouse and embrace the White Value System

12. Personal commitment to embracement of the White Value System.

The question is rhetorical, of course. The answer is that such a candidate wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected dog catcher ... let alone President, because that candidate would be instantly branded a racist, among the most vile and frightening of white supremacists....

Hannity, seemingly fairly, invited the pastor of that church to respond on the air. It was ridiculous and went nowhere. The pastor kept talking about "liberation theology," barking about did Hannity know liberation theology, had he read this book and that. At the time, knowing absolutely nothing about liberation theology myself, I scoffed, and wrote it off in my mind as being dated 1960s stuff [it's actually from the 70s]. Like Hannity, I just wanted the man to answer the racism charges.

Well, lo and behold, in an offline conversation with friends about historical proofs of the Jewishness of Jesus, I was given this to read: Misusing Jesus: How the church divorces Jesus from Judaism.

To my amazement, the discussion includes the "liberation theology" so emphatically embraced by Obama's pastor. The article is fascinating and should be read in its entirety, but check this out:

Another case of divorcing Jesus from Judaism arises in the case of liberation theology—that form of religious thought proclaiming that God has a "preferential option for the poor" and seeking to put biblical pronouncement in service to political and economic ends: Jesus is the pedagogue of the oppressed, the redeemer of the underclass, the hero of the masses.

The problem is not the use of Jesus for political ends; the biblical material has always been (and should continue to be) used to promote a more just society. The problem is that the language of liberation all too often veers off into anti-Jewish rants. Jesus becomes the Palestinian martyr crucified once again by the Jews; he is the one killed by the "patriarchal god of Judaism"; he breaks down the barriers that "Judaism" erects between Jew and gentile, rich and poor, male and female, slave and free, and so he can liberate all today. The intent is well meaning, but the history is dreadful, and the impression given of Judaism is obscene.

The poison is there in the founding documents of liberation theology. One of the fathers of the movement, Gustavo GutiƩrrez, states in A Theology of Liberation (1973) ... that the "infidelities of the Jewish people made the Old Covenant invalid."

Leonardo Boff writes in Passions of Christ, Passions of the World (1987)...

"In the world as Jesus found it, human beings were under the yoke of absolutization of religion, of tradition, and of the law. Religion was no longer the way in which human beings expressed their own openness to God. It had crystallized and stagnated in a world of its own, a world of rites and sacrifice. Pharisees had a morbid conception of their God."

This rhetoric should sound familiar: it echoes standard New Testament scholarship of the 1970s. Yet these works, classics in their field, are still being assigned to students of theology and still being read across the globe. In their wake comes anti-Judaism. I have myself recommended these early works to my students in part because there is much of value in what GutiƩrrez and Boff have to say, and I would not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But, sadly, when I ask my students whether they have any critique of the theology itself, not all notice the anti-Jewish rhetoric.

These anti-Jewish obscenities are still produced by those who know better. The presses that publish such materials—the World Council of Churches press in Geneva; Fortress Press, which is connected to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; the Catholic (Maryknoll) Orbis Books and so on—are all affiliated with groups that have splendid statements on Jewish-Christian relations. But the evil of anti-Jewish biblical and theological interpretation is so pernicious, so omnipresent, that it affects even those who seek its eradication. Just as racism and sexism and the host of other human sins affect us all, so too anti-Judaism is promoted even by the best of institutions, the most progressive of theologians, and the most sensitive of those who work for justice and peace.

I'll tell you something. I cringe when I see that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. I get nervous when I read that as a young child he attended a Muslim school in Jakarta. But when I learn that his pastor is a follower of liberation theology and that such theology contains "anti-Jewish obscenities," I am horrified ...
and terribly curious to know more.

Now Obama's supporters will tell you (and actually do say - see comments) that he is being unfairly attacked, even "swiftboated," if anyone dares to bring up his early Muslim education. Apparently, it's not PC to raise questions about that -- NOR, I assume, will it be considered politically correct to ask about the type of Christian theology he accepts as an adult.

I'd like to ask what Obama remembers from the Islamic school. I'd like to ask if his current religious beliefs are tainted by notions of Black supremacy, as portrayed by Erik Rush. I'd like to ask if he embraces liberation theology, as does his pastor. If so, I'd like to follow up by asking his response to the charge that liberation theology is intrinsically anti-Jewish.

I feel like I'm playing "Mother, May I?" and the answer is No.

There's a reason Pinch Sulzberger is pushing Obama's Hawaii Childhood, post-Jakarta-madrassa. When considering who might best lead the free world and who will set the tone for the United States' alliance with the Jewish state of Israel.... the Left would have you think no further than pleasant images of pineapples and leis.

Barack Obama, third from left at rear, in 1972 with his fifth-grade class in a photograph from Na Opio, the yearbook of the Punahou School. (AP Photo)

So saith Dhimmedia. Who am I to argue?

UPDATE: It occurs to me that Black Liberation Theology is not exactly what was being referenced in the article I linked, but according to Wikipedia, they are related, so I assume my argument is still valid. If you know more than I do and think I have made a mistake, please write to me via the email link at top left.


yingerman said...

Sorta like why dont we have white heritage month, or a Christian awareness week etc etc.

Anti-Zionist said...

Wow, what horse-shit. You obviously have no idea what liberation thelogy is other than what you read in a biased article.

Liberation theology was the fuel that helped end hundreds of years of white/European oppression of Latin America. Religious leaders stood up to the corrupt governments and foreign powers and rally the people to liberate themselves and view themselves with respect and pride.

Try reading a book sometime.

Alex said...


Please consider writing news pieces or an op-ed for Jewrusalem: Israeli Uncensored News. We strive to present different views and opinions while rejecting political correctness. Ideally, we try to make the news "smart and funny." Thus, your input is very welcome.


fashionista cat in a zero gravity shoe-store said...

Liberation theology basically has the following ideas:
- all property is common property (cf. communism);
- if you're rich, you're not entitled to a share of that property;
- violence is a legitimate means to obtain other's property;
- the solution to development problems is not to encourage acquring skills that help a country to develop but to fight fire (the white occupations definitely were a fellony by _today's_ standards but not by the common moral perceptions of that time) with even more fire;
- any injustice by the ursupants can be justified with Jesus (it actually can't; just consider that, "turn the other cheek" means "do not only limit the extent of the revenge to the extent of the damage done (i.e. "an eye for an eye"), but don't take revenge at all".

BTW, Pope Benedict XVI. officially detests liberation theology because of its leniance to violence and the purposed misinterpretation of the gospels.

anti-zionist (this nick clearly bespeaks your attitude), this goes to you:
- if you feel superior and more intelligent, you should know how to express yourself without foul language;
- read a few books yourself. The theologians (e.g. Bishop Romero, Bishop Schwarz - I know him in person - and many more) that have succesfully worked for the liberation of native Latin Americans are / were not into liberation theology;
- the one body that works most powerfully and effectively in developing Latin American countries (from offering free education and health care to peace guards that volunteer as living protective shields for farmers that choose not to plant coca plants as a cash crop) is the Roman Catholic Church.

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

I regularly donate to Catholic projects in Bolivia. I am not indifferent towards the structural and social problems there, but that still won't make me fall for either right-wing or left-wing babble. Besides, as an academic I may tell you, it takes more than to read one book or books from only one perspective on a subject to be educated in that subject.
The author of this blog, who apparently is Orthodox Jewish, does at least read up things to get a better understanding of matters. I cherish this. But I don't see as much willingness to fully comprehend matters with you, anti-zionist. Si tacuisses philosophus mansisses.

Michael Brenner said...

This is all guilt by association. Obama by his statements is not Muslim, does not subscribe to the leftist version of Christianity that his pastor espoused and is pro-Israel. I think many, if not most, of us have heard our rabbis say things in shul which could be interpreted to be bigoted toward Islam and Muslims. Should we be held accountable for this if we run for office?

Anonymous said...

I wish someone would probe in more depth, beyond the sound bite. I'm interested in the degree of the church's creedal dedication to nonviolence--or not. Universal love--or not. Means for reconcilation with others--or not. I find the overly trusting glosses and rationalizations(some from the Jewish community) quite naive. Did they forget the fight to get UCC to reverse the divestment issue? Check the UCC website for a history that some of the ADL seems to have forgotten and most American Jewry ignored. Anyway: Hate talks affects us all on this planet. I'm quite frankly worried about all the unknowns now.

A Cognitive Dissident said...

OK, I'm gonna try the same trick you did and substitute "Jewsih" for "White". Looks like this:

1. Commitment to God

2. Commitment to the Jewish Community

3. Commitment to the Jewish Family

4. Dedication to the Pursuit of Education

5. Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence

6. Adherence to the Jewish Work Ethic

7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect

8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of "Middleclassness"

9. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired skills available to the Jewish Community

10. Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting Jewish Institutions

11. Pledge allegiance to all Jewish leadership who espouse and embrace the Jewish Value System

12. Personal commitment to embracement of the Jewish Value System.

Aside from #8---which might actually be a Jewish value according to some (I once read in a chareidi paper that the reason we don't have the level of gadlus that we had in Europe was because we don't experience the same level of aniyus--so maybe frumkeit on some level has a problem with "middleclassness", irrespective of "im ein kemach ein torah") the whole list actually makes sense and i would say is rather benign. If I were running for President as an Orthodox Jew I wouldn't find this the least bit controversial.

Ofer Maimon said...

The list actually makes perfect sense for a minority trying to avoid assimilation and still gain entrance to mainstream society and earn its respect by contributing to it. Any JCC would sign that list. The VAST difference of history between blacks and jews( or any other oppresssed group), and whites make the analogy completely irrelevant.

A religous Jew which not part conservative and part socialist has basically surplanted Torah for politics.

Anonymous said...

One cannot substitute the words White for Black, and then claim that the statements "Empowering White values" is racist, therefore the statements "Empowering Black values" racist in the same way. As someone above would say, how about "Empowering Jewish values" Seems like no problem there! And for an obvious reason. White and Black, although related in a physics class on optics are not parallel terms in social structures. "Whites" are a very amorphous group, very large, and very much unrelated in goals and history. Lumping Americans from Ohio, with Georgians from the Caucus mountains (actual Caucasians!) with Italians with Swedes and proclaiming this group of "Whites" form a distinct community with common aspirations is just a mask for a pseudo-biological link of "race". Blacks, in context, refers to the community of Americans descended from former slaves who have a distinct bond of history and culture, and therefore do have aspirations which could very well be quite legitimate. So the Sean Hannity tactic, while making spicy entertaining rhetoric doesn't actually lend any insight into the statements of Reverend Wright, etc. The rhetoric does lend itself to irony, and help us focus on interesting questions but cannot provide any answers.