Monday, November 7, 2011

The Churches of Cain and Obama

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD has penned an interesting Op-ed on the respective church communities of President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain.  Both worship--worshipped in the case of the President--in a predominantly black church.
Like President Obama, Mr. Cain belongs to a mostly black congregation with a black pastor. But that is where the similarities end. Stark differences between the political philosophies of these two men may be rooted in their profoundly different theological heritages. The churches both men are (or in the case of Mr. Obama, were) longtime members of are known for liberal activism, but with notable differences in their views of scripture.
Mr. Cain's church, Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta, Ga., is theologically conservative, affirming the inerrancy of scripture and historic Christian creeds as literally true.  
The Chicago church where President Obama belonged for 20 years, Trinity United Church of Christ, is theologically liberal, eschewing scriptural inerrancy and taking apostolic creeds as "testimonies" of faith, rather than literally, unchangeably true. The scriptures are seen more as "living documents" than permanent anchors and pillars of faith.
Different perspectives regarding the fixity of truth and the credibility of scripture manifest themselves in the two men's political outlooks.  As one would expect, the difference is especially pronounced regarding the social issues.

[M]r. Cain's ... views on social issues are consistent with his denomination—the National Baptist Convention—and with the majority of black Americans. Mr. Cain, like most black Americans, believes life begins at conception and that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.
Mr. Obama, by contrast, has said that his views on redefining marriage to include same-sex couples are "evolving." This evolution has been clearly visible in his policies, including his vocal stance against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and his open opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act. His budgets and health-care plan have included taxpayer funding for abortions both domestically and abroad. These policies are consistent with the views of the United Churches of Christ.

With respect to the black experience and economics, the churches and candidates also diverge along Conservative and Liberal lines.
Perhaps it's easy to see how the two men's theological differences inform their views of family, but they also yield different understandings of the path to economic advancement.
Mr. Cain's church subscribes to traditional Christian theology, which sees the black experience in light of scripture. Mr. Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, on the other hand, is known for teaching black liberation theology, which sees scripture in light of the black experience. It seeks to create a direct correlation between the black condition and the light of God's revelation in Jesus Christ. The freedom they gained from whites is a part of the freedom Jesus promised.
According to Antioch's website, its early leaders "stressed the dignity of work and honest labor." By contrast, Trinity's website emphasizes God's displeasure with "America's economic mal-distribution." It's not surprising, then, that President Obama would see a government-run jobs program as the key to ending the current economic recession whereas Mr. Cain would look to private industry.
Liberals might want to compare Bishop Jackson's analysis to their own, which views whites' comfort with Cain as proof of racism, because whites supposedly see Cain as a black man who knows his place.

Red meat is what passes for strategy in the Democratic Party, analysis on MSNBC, and political writing at The Hill.

Noman prefers Jackson's analysis, which explains why Americans of most colors might feel more comfortable with someone who adheres to traditional theology regarding life, marriage, hard work, character and bearing life's many crosses, than they might with someone whose church caters to the angrily aggrieved.  The latter will not bear sound doctrine, but according to his own desires will heap to himself teachers who tickle his ears.  

Herman Cain's place on the theological spectrum is indeed more amenable to non-Liberal whites and non-embittered blacks than is Barack Obama's.  Noman suspects that the President's partisans are acutely aware of this, which is why the hounds of scandal and character assassination have been loosed on Cain.

Because of the tawdry, non-disprovable allegations being hurled against him, and without intending to minimize the transgressions if true, Noman notes that given a choice between a man who accepts truth in principle but is unable to live it perfectly, and one who denies truth in principle but knows how to put on a good show for the public, he'll take the former.  

He is the only one you can count on to have a conscience.

1 comment:

  1. It has also been pointed out that part of the reason that Obama didn't walk out of those sermons or distance himself more strongly from Wright was because he wasn't there! He ran the risk of admitting he didn't go to church, which his team calculated as being a bigger risk than being aligned with the nut job.

    Does Cain actually go to church?