I have heard about the nightmare scenarios about a Barack Obama presidency: the anti – Christ thing, the Muslim thing, the inexperience thing, the far – left thing, etc. and to tell the truth none of them concern me terribly much. Allowing them to do so would require my dismissing from consideration the things that some of our past presidents – and our current one! – have done, or pretending that I find John McCain or Hillary Clinton in any way more to my liking. On the last point in particular, let me tell you that in their own way, each of them is immensely dangerous to the interests of Christianity!
But speaking of Christianity, do not mistake this as a statement that Barack HUSSEIN Obama is the one most worthy of opposition, for I legitimately feel that such is the case. Still, in Christian terms, there is one aspect of an Obama presidency that I find extremely worrisome: the potential that his presidency would lead to a mainstream acceptance of liberation theology. Perhaps not the radical and separatist version espoused by Jeremiah Wright and James Cone, but definitely a more commercialized, homogenized, domesticated, works – centered (PURPOSE DRIVEN?) version of it.
Now as you may know, liberation theology was given to the world by the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council. For a time there was a chance of it becoming very influential to mainstream Catholic and Protestant Christianity, but the doctrine suffered a major setback when the very Roman Catholic Church that birthed it began opposing it in a major way in the 1980s. But were Barack Obama to win the White House, there is the potential that this system could again assert itself.
You see, many may underestimate what electing a black President would mean to America’s black citizens. It is not that blacks feel that Barack Obama would enact a raft of laws and policies favoring blacks. Rather, it would be a major symbolic victory, a sign that America is turning its back on its racist past and ready to accept a fairer future. It would signal that at long last, blacks are fully recognized and accepted as equals – as Americans – by a nation that in every way imaginable denied conceding such. You think this to be foolish? Well consider this: we are less than 25 years removed from blacks being regularly featured on television commercials. That occurrence coincided right about the time of the celebrity of Michael Jordan and the success of “The Cosby Show.” Many companies feared that featuring blacks in their commercials would result in white consumers shunning their products! And yes, it has been less than 15 years since blacks began to regularly play quarterback in the NFL. When asked about the controversy in the early 1990s, NFL head coach Jimmy Johnson stated on Fox Sports that a lot of coaches regarded blacks as not being smart enough to read NFL defenses. This trivia may seem to be just that, but it is evidence of how racism so deeply permeated and tainted everything in American life, even the trivial, and it explains why people that are black like me are capable of getting so worked up over things that appear to be so small! But to so many blacks, the election of Obama would signal that the long nightmare of being second – class citizens is about to end.
This is not to say, of course, that all or even most of these people are obsessed with racial victimization. Quite the contrary, conservative views on race such as those espoused by Bill Cosby are much more popular in the black community than is let on. Many blacks are very much concerned about the cultural problems in the black community: crime, illegitimacy, educational failure, etc. It is just that we are unwilling to discuss them in response to the baiting of conservative racists (who can be of any race) that wield these issues not intending to contribute towards solving them, but rather to use them to justify racism (including but certainly not limited to their own). But in Barack and Michelle Obama, such blacks see hope in that respect as well: Harvard Law School graduates, married, and parents of two daughters. Even Barack Obama’s drug use makes him only a more practical role model in the eyes of those who found the aforementioned Cosby Show “too perfect” and “evading the real problems of the black community”, sort of the ideal anti – hero for our cynical postmodern times. So yes, blacks would look to the Obamas as role models for themselves and the black community, and Barack Obama in particular to serve this role for the very troubled black male.
So were Obama to fulfill these dreams for black America, everything that took Obama to the mountaintop, that got him to that brass ring, that he used to bring to fruition the wildest fantasies of the descendants of slaves, would become absorbed into the shared collective black experience. And a great part of Obama’s everything is, of course, none other than Jeremiah Wright. Jeremiah Wright’s theology, doctrines, sermons, mentoring, etc. (the media is not shy about calling Wright Obama’s “father figure”) will all become a major part of the narrative of how a confused biracial young man went on to become the first black President. And of course, scores of black people will want to apply what worked so well for Barack Obama into their own communities, their own churches, and their own lives.
Let me say two things about this. First, it is the American way! All Americans of all races have been assimilating the traits of successful people, of leaders, into their own being since this country was founded. And yes, the cult of personality has always been very much a factor in American religious life. Second, with respect to the black community in general, there is already precedent. Who is unaware of the huge impact on black religious life that one Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had? Well, as important as Dr. King is to black America, King never became president (a fact that Hillary Clinton, for reasons that made no sense unless she was TRYING to lose the race, taunted supporters of Obama and King with back in January during the very week of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday … let me point out by the way that if Hillary Clinton and the Republicans in nominating McCain – a fellow that most Republicans don’t even LIKE – are giving Obama every possible shot at victory). So then, the effect of Obama on the black religious landscape might even exceed that of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s!
But that is just American blacks, right? Wrong. There has been a provincial, chauvinistic even, tendency among blacks to overstate this, but American blacks are quite often trendsetters. American blacks set trends for blacks in other regions: Africa, Latin America, etc. Now liberation theology is already more of a factor in those regions than in America, so Obama’s election would give the advocates of that belief system in those areas precisely what they need (and that speaks nothing of the Hispanic, Asian, and white adherents of it). And yes, blacks do set trends for whites in America. American whites, in turn, set trends for white people elsewhere in the world. So world, liberation theology brought to you by Barack Hussein Obama. What, Obama is a Muslim? Well, what better belief system for the secular moderate Muslims to buy into? And the secular moderate Hindus? Buddhists? People that are just, well, secular and moderate? And so on …
Again, a key component to remember is that it will NOT be the same liberation theology as advocated by David Cone and Jeremiah Wright. As a matter of fact, not even the black nationalism or Afrocentrism portion of the messages of Cone and Wright will be overly offensive in time. After all, the current image of Martin Luther King, Jr. is nothing like the man with exceptionally radical views and confrontational methods that actually lived. Does anyone remember that Muhammad Ali was once a member of the Nation of Islam? Nope. And even Malcolm X had his black history month commemorative soda cups sold by McDonald’s! The same will be done with liberation theology. It will be packaged and sold like a commercial product just like everything else in America, and when that happens, it may just find a nation – a globe! – of willing consumers in our churches just waiting to devour it. And why not? In their determined zeal to run away from the true Jesus Christ of the Bible, the cross, and the empty tomb, has not Christianity shown itself more than willing to devour everything else? This, people, is no different, and when you consider a great many of the other falsities ingested into popular Christianity over the ages, liberation theology, black or otherwise, is not so radical after all. Is it?