Obama . . . and leaving church

by fritzg · No Comments ·

I am saddened by the news that Obama has left his church. To me, this decision tells us more about our culture and how we view “membership” and commitment than it tells us about Obama and his spiritual life.

A couple months ago when Obama gave his speech in Philadelphia on race he talked about the deep connection he has with his church and with the African-American community. He told us how he could not disown them, it would be like disowning his family. I wish he could have stayed in that metaphorical place. But he did not. He chose to enter the political arena in the most highly charged way possible, a run for the presidency. That meant that his life would be held to a different standard, not a higher one, but different. While he may have wanted to stay at his church even though he disagreed with some if not many of the beliefs/practices/events there, he chose to leave. He thought he no longer had the option to stay in the community through this very rough patch, both for their sake and for his own (I assume both politically and theologically). This saddens me.

I myself was challenged a few weeks ago about why I stay at the church I call home. It was in the midst of a time when I was critical of what I saw and experienced in the community. I have chosen to stay up to this point because I do indeed call this community home. I have chosen to stay because of the love and affection I have for people even though I disagree with them. I have chosen to stay even though I don’t believe all the things many in my community believe. I have chosen to stay because I know that both they and I will change, and because I take seriously the covenants we have to be with one another. I have chosen to be with them for the long haul.

I think Obama took similar commitments to church community seriously. I think his decision to leave was made because he has chosen to make a commitment (not necessarily deeper) with a community (this country) that is broader than the one on that corner in Chicago.

It is unfortunate that we do not understand the role of commitment enough to understand how difficult the decision to leave his church home was, and that we allowed our misunderstanding about the commitment to community to place him in the position where he could not commit with us unless he gave up his church home.

Obama’s decision does make me reconsider my own. Maybe I am being too naive or idealistic to believe that I can stay in community with people when, at present, I do not share the totality of their view of the world and worship and life and God. Maybe there really is no room within churches for those who are not true believers. Maybe adherence to the prevailing orthodoxy matters more on Sundays than we would like to think. Maybe this is what it means to lose faith. I hope not.

Tags: awareness

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