By Lenni Brenner
According to the classic publishing world joke, Lincoln, doctors and dogs are always public favorites, so a book about Lincoln’s doctor’s dog would always be the best seller the year it came out. But today it would be about Barack Obama’s pastor’s racism. Already vast forests are history, paper for articles praising his 3/18 speech. Unfortunately these are as imperfect as Obama’s "A More Perfect Union."
l. Floundering about the founding fathers.
Before no less than eight flags, across from Philadelphia’s Convention Hall, the herald of "change" started orating with a gush of same ol’ same ol’ patriotic rhetoric:
"Two hundred and twenty-one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787."
Who escaped "tyranny and persecution"? Thirty-nine delegates, seven born abroad, signed the constitution. Caribbean-born Alexander Hamilton came to New York for college. Robert Morris came at 13 from Liverpool. Scot James Wilson arrived at 23 after graduating college.
Four were Irish. William Paterson arrived at two. James McHenry emigrated at 18. Scot Presbyterians were brought to Ireland to help oppress the Catholic natives. There was legal discrimination against them, but it was next to nothing compared to total catholic exclusion from citizenship. Encyclopedias don’t even mention youthful religious problems. British officer Pierce Butler came before the revolution and married a slave-holder heiress. A foe of "tyranny"? He was responsible for Article lV, Section 2 of the Constitution:
"No Person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service may be due."
Catholic Thomas FitzSimons came to colonial Pennsylvania but couldn’t hold office there until the revolution, when the new state abolished its test oath. The banker was for religious liberty but he wanted to limit the federal vote to property owners.
Native Americans didn’t need foreigners’ warnings re theocratic bigotry. In 1784-86, James Madison and Virginia’s legislature, reacting to persecution of Baptists, disestablished the Anglican church. Obama’s flags and concocted religious tyranny and persecution overture were nothing more than a setting for discussion of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s "incendiary language … that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." However, as he threw the convention’s attitude towards religion into today’s political game, let’s keep it in play. How did it really treat religion?
All historians see Madison as "the father of the Constitution" for pushing it thru. According to his notes, religion suddenly became the hot topic on 6/28/1787. Old Ben Franklin rose, explaining that
"The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other … is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human understanding…. [H]ow has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered…. [T]he longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men…. I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city requested to officiate in that service."
This was too much for "Hamilton & several others." They
"expressed their apprehension that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of our convention, it might at this late day, 1. bring on it some disagreeable animadversions. & 2. lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissentions within the convention, had suggested this measure…. Adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion."
Franklin wrote later that "the Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary."
On 8/20, South Carolina’s Charles Pinckney presented Article Vl.
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
The convention was closed to the public. Rejection of Franklin’s call only came out later. Today few know of it. Of course Article Vl is still in it, but when most educated Americans think of the constitution and religion, they usually mean the 1st Amendment’s "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." However Madison only pledged to add the Bill or Rights after the Philadelphia convention, to win public support for it. He presented it to the 1st Congress, in New York, in 1789. It wasn’t ratified until 1791. But Article Vl already made the 1787 convention the role model for France’s secular republican revolutionaries in 1789.
ll. Wright’s number one sin?
Given that nothing re conventional secularism found its way into his 4,881 word-long script, its no surprise that, beyond generalities, Obama cited only one example of Wright’s anti-white racism, the "view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."
Very few journalistic essays on the speech, pro or con, commented on this. But Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League "praised Obama for an ‘element of sensitivity to the Jewish community,’ including his ‘specific reference to Israel as our ally, his condemnation of radical Islam.’" (Jewish Week, 3/21)
Foxman and Obama didn’t explain Wright’s hostility to Israel. But they know what generated it. The 2/25 NY Sun had Obama declaring "anti-Zionist statements made by his pastor … were ‘rooted in’ anger over the Jewish state’s support for South Africa during the apartheid era. ‘That was a source of tension.’" Yet he had to admit that he "never heard anything that would suggest anti-Semitism on the part of the pastor."
The 2/9 NY Times had Obama, born in 1961, contacting "members of the African National Congress to have them speak" at LA’s Occidental College, 1979-81. He "spoke at a campus divestment rally." In his junior year he transferred to Columbia in NYC. The 10/30/07 Times told of a 2005 university journal interview:
"He said he was somewhat involved with the Black Student Organization and anti-apartheid activities, though, in recent interviews, several prominent student leaders said they did not remember his playing a role."
Wright was right. The Zionist-Apartheid alliance was criminal. The 12/14/81 Times headlined an article "South Africa Needs More Arms, Israeli Says." That was Ariel Sharon. Was Obama opposed to Israel’s support for the hateful regime? If so, why does he support Israel today? If he didn’t oppose Israel then, why so, given that his own pastor and many other Blacks exposed Israel? Desmond Tutu and other SA anti-apartheid leaders still denounce Israeli injustices. Is Obama prepared to publicly exile the bishop to the political-theological limbo he sent his minister?
Many Democrats buy Clinton’s line that he lacks experience in world affairs. If he played a significant role fighting apartheid, Obama would answer her by citing it. No mincing words: That he, half African no less, didn’t ‘major’ in anti-apartheid in school, like thousands of black and white US students, is a glaring demonstration of irresponsible world politics. This is reinforced by his near silence re today’s Africa. Bill Clinton starts philanthropic discussions of the continent by confessing that his administration never even discussed the Rwanda slaughter. Wouldn’t Obama shout about Hillary’s non-role in that horror if he did anything notable in that era?
lll. Our constitutional star is also theologically expert.
Given Obama’s repudiation of the politics of the cleric who recruited him to Christianity, some folks wanted to know how that effected him theologically. The 3/27 Christian Post relates how, "while answering a question about his Christian faith" in North Carolina, he
"said he believes that Jesus Christ died for his sins and through God’s grace and mercy he could have ‘everlasting life’…. But he also believes Jews and Muslims and non-believers who live moral lives are as much ‘children of God’ as he is … he spoke about his late mother who was ‘not a believer’… ‘she was the kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known’ …. ‘I’m sure she is in heaven, even though she may not have subscribed to everything that I subscribe to.’"
As an atheist, this concerns me personally. If she is in heaven, I can go there even though I insist that it doesn’t exist. But before I go anywhere, I ask what the weather is like, what will I do there, etc. So readers, atheist or pious, must be Christlike and forgive me for closing this article with some questions for Obama. I’ll send it to him. Naturally I don’t expect an answer. He is busy. But maybe I’m wrong? After all, can’t a guy who’s up-to-date on the detailed demography of today’s paradise perform other miracles?
According to the 3/27 Christian Post, you told a North Carolina audience that you believe that non-believers who live moral lives are as much ‘children of God’ as you are. You said that your
"late mother who was ‘not a believer … was the kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known …. I’m sure she is in heaven, even though she may not have subscribed to everything that I subscribe to.’"
This will please 44 per cent of Americans. In 1999, they, mostly believers, told Gallup that nice atheists go there. As you, like them, are expert on such matters, I take the liberty of asking some questions.
1. You said on 3/18 that Reverend Jeremiah Wright used
"incendiary language … that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." You claim he "sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."
Is he is banned from heaven?
2. In North Carolina, you declared "Muslims" as much "children of God" as yourself, eligible for heavenly residence. But on 3/18 you denounced "perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam" which attack "stalwart allies like Israel." Does this mean that God, or whoever sells apartments in heaven, won’t admit Hamas followers and other Muslims opposed to Israel’s "actions"?
3. You opine that "Jews" are likewise welcomed. But thousands of Orthodox Jews live in Israel, categorically opposed to its existence. They claim that only God can recreate a genuine Jewish kingdom, if the Jews repent their sins. Are they also forbidden entry?
4. What does your mom say re winding up in a place she didn’t believe in? Can she leave on vacation or permanently?
5. Tell us atheists if we — and pious believers like yourself — can bring our pets? A 2006 Washington Post survey found 43 per cent of Americans believing pets go to heaven. Ninety-three percent of these philosophers insist that they can go, "even if their owners do not." Please think before you answer. We’re talking about the swing vote in Pennsylvania’s crucial primary.
6. Global warming means heat rising high into the sky. So is heaven getting as hot as hell? I’ll need to know what to wear if I go there.
7. Speaking of hell, a 2/25/03 Gallup poll announced that 67 per cent of all Democrats and 79 per cent of Republicans believe in the Devil. The Gallup organization is noted for its piety, but this troubled them:
"Over the centuries, science has been able to explain many phenomena that once seemed supernatural. Bad weather, ill health, and heretical opinions may not be the work of the infernal after all. With the advent of evolutionary theory and modern psychology, these days we’re more likely to think of people who do terrible things as broken human beings, rather than agents of the netherworld. Furthermore, religion has ceded its civil authority, and religiosity has declined somewhat in American society. So we might expect belief in the devil to have largely evaporated. It hasn’t. Regardless of political belief, religious inclination, education, or region, most Americans believe that the devil exists."
I disagree with the Gallup folks on one point. My observation is that the devil is real for the ignorant poor, but for educated believers he’s just a character in Goethe’s Faust or Gounod’s opera by that name. What do you say?
As an atheist, I argue that the poll really gives us the gut-basic difference between typical Democrats and Republicans. The average Democrat has a nit-sized brain, ordinary Republicans have nat-sized brains. Does this sound right to you? Or do you think its the other way around?
Stay well, give ’em hell,
-Lenni Brenner is the editor of Jefferson & Madison on Separation of Church and State: Writings on Religion and Secularism and a contributor to The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He also edited 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: BrennerL21@aol.com.