Rev. Wright: A Crouton at the Salad Bar

Much has been made of Barack Obama not throwing his spiritual mentor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, “under the bus.” I am among those who find Obama’s loyalty in this matter highly laudable. There is however, a truth that Barack dare not speak; a truth more offensive to the public than if he were to agree with the Reverend’s comments.

That truth is that in all likelihood, religion is to Barack Obama what it is to most Americans (and dare I say most people globally): a salad bar. Belonging to a church is as much a social practice as it is a devout one. Most people are “conveniently religious.” They take from religion what they like. If the edict or practice goes against their core beliefs, or is just plain too much a pain in the ass to follow, they discard it. The Catholic church is an especially good example of this, wherein the most commonsense of practices (such as birth control) are frowned upon. Just about every Catholic you meet, ignores substantial teachings of the church but still calls themselves Catholic. The same goes for most religions. If your primary purpose in going to church is to see and be seen, then it hardly matters what the pastor says.

I’m not suggesting that Barack Obama is a fake Christian. I’m simply suggesting that he falls in the category of most church goers who treat religion like a salad bar. They take the lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese but perhaps they ignore the croûtons. My guess is that Reverend Wright’s most controversial sermons were the croûtons that Obama simply chose not to digest. Why did he not leave the church? Because like most Americans, he had no problem staying and enjoying the lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese. He got sustenance where he found it, and avoided the parts he found distasteful. How many of you “Sunday regulars” have not done the same thing?


9 thoughts on “Rev. Wright: A Crouton at the Salad Bar

  1. However, most “Sunday regulars” are not running for President. I think that puts Obama in a different category.

  2. Hmm. I thought about this – and then I realized, perhaps as someone not of Christian faith, that my perception of the croutons is somewhat different. Perhaps I still pick the croutons out of my salad, but I would paint Rev. Wright as simply an interpreter of the good word, and thus subject to fallacy. Thus, the acceptance or rejection of his interpretation is unrelated to the 100% nature of the religious commitment.

    However, in my case, my croutons are the parts of the bible I find – troubling. The passages against homosexuality, for example, I cannot accept as being “true.” Or perhaps, I reconcile it as a misinterpretation of the original intent.

    On another note, I don’t think church-as-social-scene is entirely that cut-and-dried. In the jewish faith, it is commonly believed, for example, that men are required to quorum for prayer because men are intrinsicly less collectively oriented than women, and thus the requirement imposes a socialization which is healthy for the society and individuals. Is that social? Is it faith? It isn’t about the hat you’re wearing – it’s about creating the type of community that is in line with your faith – which is both religious and social.

    Okay, maybe I’m just avoiding work right now -but forgive the small tirade…

  3. Not a tirade at all.

    I take two points from your comments:
    First, that we must remember when we listen to pastors and rabbis that we are hearing the words of fallible human beings, not the words of God.

    Second, that religions have historical underpinnings that make their traditions more than purely social.

    I don’t find these points and mine mutually exclusive. For some, the acceptance or rejection of a pastor or rabbis comments might not be related to their degree of religious commitment. But I assure you that a good number of Jews and gentiles consume their religion the same way they order features on their new car. I like the power steering but I don’t need the CD-stereo-radio.

    Call me a cynic but I also think you credit the average religious person (or person in general)with more intelligence than they naturally possess. I think few people bring an historical perspective to their practice of religion. Religion satisfies their baser instincts (need for companionship, fear of death, etc.). For most, it does not go far beyond that.

  4. Actually, I think his defense of Wright has been rather feeble, so I think he’s failing more in the other direction … but maybe that’s just me.

    The whole country is now full of self-declared experts on Jeremiah Wright because they’ve heard about three sentences from him, plucked from their context. I’d like to see Obama go beyond excusing himself and point out the good things that Wright and Trinity UCC do. That might be too much to ask, given the amount of pre-judging done about a guy who dares to say that we have made enemies in the Middle East, but what I like about Obama is that I think he really means what he says — even though I usually disagree with him, I respect honesty.

  5. Wickle, I think perhaps you ask too much of Obama to defend Wright’s comments. The United States of America does not want to hear the truth about itself. If it did, it could never have elected George W. Bush in the first place. Putting aside some of the silly ethnic slurs that Wright published in church newsletters, Wright speaks a lot of truth. Truth, in fact, that has recently been discovered in the later writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    Obama understands that the average American cannot digest and analyze Wright’s words. Also, I think if you scan the net a bit, you will find numerous examples where Obama points out the good that Wright’s church has done over the years.

    I think Obama’s speech on race, which was exemplary, made the best of a bad situation.

  6. You’re right, I guess, that people don’t like the truth. They like little sound bites. Actually, I think that I like what I know of Wright — and I’m an evangelical Baptist. I appreciate his honesty.

    I’m really not an Obama supporter, but I think that his race speech was amazing. Probably the best single speech of this campaign … not that that would take much.

    And you’re right … a nation that was willing to search for truth would never have elected, much less re-elected, George Bush.

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