According to Ace o’ Spades and The Corner, CNN reports that Barack and Michelle Obama have resigned from the congregation of the radical church to which they have belonged for over 20 years. If confirmed, the move attempts to end two months of controversy surrounding the commentary at TUCC by Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, and Otis Moss.
I’ll come back with more commentary once the details have been reported. However, I don’t see how this helps, and it could hurt in two different ways. First, it confirms that the church is not in the mainstream, which once again calls his judgment into question. Wright and Pfleger gave these kinds of sermons there the entire time, not just over the last few weeks. The big problem is that the Obamas sat in that church for 20 years listening to these sermons and finding nothing objectionably about them until they got disseminated to the nation.
Second, and potentially more damaging, it shows Obama’s willingness to throw anyone over the side when the boat starts sinking. That won’t go over very well with his core supporters who have admired his loyalty to TUCC, who excused Wright by pointing out that he had retired, and who bought Obama’s explanation of the “wonderful community” and great works of TUCC. Is that now nothing more than a convenient lie?
If the Obamas quit TUCC, they will confirm it as a political problem, and the act won’t convince anyone that they disagree with its rhetoric. They may convince people that he only joined TUCC for its political connections in Chicago — but that doesn’t exactly reflect well on Obama, either.
Update: Here’s the story at CNN, and it’s interesting why Obama quit:
“We don’t want to have to answer for everything that’s stated in the church,” the Democratic front-runner said. “We also don’t want the church subjected to the scrutiny that a presidential campaign legitimately undergoes.”
Obama said the Pfleger controversy made it clear that, as long as he remained a member of the Trinity congregation, remarks from the pulpit would be “imputed” to him, even if they conflicted with his personal views.
So he’s leaving because he doesn’t want TUCC to get further scrutiny, and not because he wants to distance himself from the radical nature of the church. That’s not exactly a profile in courage. Let’s recall what Obama said just ten weeks ago about his membership at Trinity:
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way….
Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
This reaction combines the worst of both worlds — it says nothing that rejects the radical rhetoric, and it makes clear that he’s only interested in the political burden that Trinity now represents.