Monday, March 17, 2008

A Failure of Faith

I believe in Jesus Christ.

It's a central part of my life, the bedrock of everything I do. Like many Christians, my faith is a source of strength, comfort and stability.

It defines me in so many ways.

I cringed these past few days watching Barack Obama's faith being paraded before the nation. As the media feasted on video clips, soundbites and analysis about his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, I watched Obama struggle to walk the fine line between loyal Christian and political aspirant. I could sense that Obama's need to find a way to support the man who led him to Christ, while simultaneously calming the fears of the white voters he must attract, provoked an extremely personal battle within his being.

He was struggling with a failure of faith.

But, it wasn't a failure of faith in his pastor. Even as I watched Obama renounce, denounce and then announce his unhappiness with his pastor's comments, I never felt that he lost faith in Wright. As I watched Obama scramble to defend sermons that most self-aware black people know to be true, I could see him bristle ever so slightly at the repeated attempts by commentators to label Wright as some unbalanced kook.

Obama knew the true measure of this man, and it was much more then what could be captured in a 15 or 30 second snippet from thousands of sermons. Yet, Barack also knew that the truth Wright saw, the truth many black people across this country see, is part of a reality so foreign to most white voters that there is no way to bridge that gap. There is no way to force many white people to confront the lies embedded deep within the foundation of their country without alienating them forever.

For a split second, Obama lost his faith in the country he's sacrificing so much for.

Make no mistake, this presidential campaign is a sacrifice. I understand that all politicians, no matter how humble they may seem, are driven by a dangerous cocktail of ambition and arrogance. Obama has a healthy ego and it is manifested in his belief that he is uniquely qualified to serve as this country's president.

However, when I watch the delicate dance Obama must perform to maintain the viability of his campaign, it becomes difficult to view this endeavor as anything but a sacrifice. When I see Obama forced to downplay his race, to ignore obvious slights, to cast aside confidants because they have become liabilities, well it's hard not to think that the brother believes he is serving a higher purpose. The skeptics might brand him as confused Negro bent on assimilation at all costs, but anyone who has read the brother's book or watched how he carries himself knows that's not how he's built.

Point blank, how many of us would be willing to endure what he has endured the past twelve months? To swallow the insults and hate he has gorged himself on just to serve a group of people who will be waiting with baited breath for your first mistake?

I wouldn't.

However, I think this recent confrontation involving Wright finally made Obama question what he was willing to give up to get where he wants to go. I think that is the real reason he refused to denounce Rev. Wright the man, and instead focused on condemning the preacher's words. Obama previously ignored calls to chastise his wife for her comments about her own lack of pride in America. In both cases, I think Barack drew a line in the sand and said "No further."

No further.

It's a terrible thing to lose faith in your nation. I understand it intimately because I still struggle with repeating the Pledge of Allegiance due to those pesky words about liberty and justice for all. The struggles that black people have endured, and continue to endure, have damaged our relationship with America. Many of us bear scars that will never completely heal.

I think Obama has some of those same wounds.

That's why the speech he plans to give addressing race and religion is so important. If he is going to be president he must provide a balm for the wounds of all races in this country. He must bind us together despite all the many forces working to tear us asunder. He is no messiah, but he does have a message and a purpose.

He must combat this country's failure of faith.

(Footnote: He came through y'all!)


Deacon Blue said...

It's a shame the lies that politicians have to tell, from the small to the large. And, in this case, I think Obama has had to lie about how differently he views the race situation as a member of a different generation than Rev. Wright.

Truth is, I don't believe for a second that Obama thinks that much differently than Wright. Nor should he. My father in law isn't old by any stretch...still in his 50s, and he saw a black man hanging by his neck from a tree when he was a child. The scars don't heal easily because the wounds are so damned deep to begin with between white and black America, and they aren't very old wounds, either.

I understand why he feels he has to step back from Wright's words, but it's a damned shame he has to, and I don't envy him the burden that comes with that.

By no means is Obama perfect, but he seems to be one of the most principled politicians in the presidential game in recent memory. (Obama and Gore. What a freaking short list of principled prez candidates) Being that that's who he is, I doubt that having to downplay his principles and take a stand against Wright, however slight, is going to sit well on his heart.

Fantastically Misunderstood Me said...

this was SO good!! my God, you are definitely a writer, (phrases like "delicate dance..." and "swallow the insults... gorged himself...") i'm such a word nerd, lol.

and honestly, i've made all attemps to ignore this situation, because i read "dreams from my father" i know what rev. wright has meant to barack, and to many of my friends from chicago that attend trinity and i didn't want to see this ugliness played out in the media. while i am not a student of his teachings, from the sound bites i've been privy to, i will say that as you said, most black people agree w/rev. wright. our friends, family members have said those very same things or something similar, for years. i wonder what yt (not all, just the ones threatened by wright) would do if they knew that? stop groups of more than 3 black people from assembling? because when that happens, race talk is inevitable.(especially here, "i'm from texas, where they lynch negroes...")but like a blogger said, we aren't going to leave the office and turn into nat turner and angela davis on the weekends. dang!

but what does it say about a country "founded on religious freedom" when a man has to PROVE he's not a muslim and then EXPLAIN and EXAMINE his christianity for all to see?

Big Man said...


I'm not sure how closely Obama identifies with Wright, but I know that he doesn't completely disagree with him. He may not feel the same way Wright feels about America, I truly think Obama loves this strange country, but I think he agrees with him on a lot of the racial stuff. However, Obama knows that white folks, most of y'all, aren't ready to hear that kind of talk. Just the emotion that it creates in black people frightens white people. That's why Dr. King is so beloved among white folks. They've convinced themselves that in all the sermons he preached he never raised his voice or said anything bad about white people. Now, I know that's not true, but what can you do?


Thank you so much for the compliment. I really appreciate those whenever I get them. I think you last sentence was very profound. It's embarassing to have something as personal as your faith discussed and parsed on national television, particularly when you haven't personally done anything wrong. It would be different if Obama had pulled a Spitzer or Clinton, but he seems to have carried himself in a forthright manner and yet every feels like it's their place to speculate on what he believes. I would compare to a man watching all his ex-girlfriends and their friends discuss his lovemaking on national television for four days straight. With pictures!

WNG said...

I have tried to explain to friends of mine in the past that we, as black people, understand them, as white people, so much more than they will ever understand us. It has been necessary to our daily survival for us to be able to pick up on the signals and grasp the rhetoric and yet they have rarely been confronted with the thoughts in our minds and hearts. I think what is most shocking to so many of them is that we aren't shocked at all. It must be frightening to wake up and realize that you actually don't 'get' over 12% of the population of the country you thought you knew.
I find it bitterly amusing.

Timi said...

I missed the speech Big Man. I really wanted to see it. I have CNN on in the office, but these crackas won't leave me be!! lol

I heard it was great. I just got a long email from my brother. I don't feel so down anymore. Hopefully it'll replay somewhere. Perhaps you should post it ;-)

Lolo said...

No matter what lies ahead, Barack Hussein Obama is my President.


Deacon Blue said...

Big Man, your comment about how whites view Rev. King is so spot-on because it's the same gripe I have about people who missed the fact the Jesus sometimes got angry or sarcastic and just paint him as a soft-spoken nice guy. And then on the other extreme, so many of my pale brethren want to look at Malcolm X and see only his anger, and completely miss out on the true meat and potatoes of what he said. I really have to find a link for that Obama wife is raving about it talking about how he brought it all back to where it should be.

Lolo said...

There is the transcript and NPR also provides a link to hear the audio.

I am not christian but "People Get Ready" is playing in our home today.

I'm not tuning in to any more news channels today. I need this one day to soak in this moment without any "parsing" or "spinning" or whatever the cynical need to do with this moment.

It's ours, all of us, and I hope that all of us are able to pray for the blessing and strength that we need to make this happen for our country, our children, us.

Deacon Blue said...

OK, found part of his speech on YouTube...not sure how far into his talk this is...and not sure how much was cut off the end, but it's some good stuff.

Deacon Blue said...

lolo...I was posting at the same time as you apparently, so I missed your link earlier. Gonna check it out now. After all, I already know what he looks like...just need to hear what he has to say.

But for those who DO want to see him, I found another snippet of video on YouTube, this time about 10 mins from the beginning of the speech instead of 10 minutes from somewhere in the middle:

Big Man said...

Thanks for all the links. I just posted a link to the transcript that Jack and Jill Politics posted a while ago.

Enjoy it and avoid the news until at least tonight or tomorrow. I made the mistake of listening to some commentary, and well, I'm not as happy. Save your happy!

Lolo said...

Hey fellow hopers, ::wink:: here's the link to the entire speech on youtube.

And, while my boyfriend (who I have some fairly fierce discussions with due to him being an economist in terms of training and an historian in terms of philosophy) has moved to supporting Obama in the primary, while still waiting to hear about key economic policy from McCain and Obama.

And Big Man, he also said, after listening to this speech "he is speaking as such a solid christian. that in itself is such a huge departure for any politician" so there's that as far as you all recognising how Obama's faith infuses his message.

Raving Black Lunatic