September 11, 2008
Fan that I am, methinks pastordan doth protest too much my suggestion that Obama might do well to, well, wrap himself in the UCC's position on abortion. For starters, it seems unnecessarily legalistic to deny that Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ because he recently, under pressure one might say, resigned his membership in his Chicago church. After all, this was the denomination he was baptized into and in which he remained for a couple of decades. And that he shouldn't do so because it would bring back memories of Jeremiah Wright? It's not as if the UCC's pro-choice stance is an expression of black liberation theology.
My point, perhaps not clearly enough expressed the first time around, is that Americans tend to respect each other for abiding by the teachings of their religion. As the Detroit sportswriter put it when Hank Greenberg sat out Yom Kippur during a crucial pennant drive: "We will miss him in the field and we'll miss him at the bat, / but he's true to his religion and we honor him for that."
Religion derives from a Latin word having to do with binding; and the knowledge that a politician is bound by a religious teaching, even if they disagree with that teaching (assuming it is not too far out), has a positive value that makes it easier to accept the politician than if he just came up with the position on his own. pastordan thinks that abortion opponents are so dismissive of liberal denominations like the UCC that this wouldn't cut any ice with them. The question is subject to empirical testing, though I doubt Obama is going to give us a chance to test it in this case.
What really seems to concern pastordan, however, is not that citing UCC authority wouldn't work for Obama but that it shouldn't. In the grand old antinomian congregationalist tradition of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, he writes, "Many many people live perfectly contented lives in UCC churches without a second thought as to what resolutions General Synod has or has not passed. We're just not that into authority." So be it. But it sort of assumes that Obama is still one of them, doesn't it?
(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)