Obama, The Black Church and The New York Times

2 05 2007

Barack Obama

Excellent piece on the HNIC today. After listening to these speech excerpts online and then the NY Times commentary, I knew Dax would be inspired. When I stopped upstairs in the late morning he was at his desk, shaking his head. This audio piece by the Times is exactly what bad journalism is all about: completely taking comments out of context for your own meaning. The “bingo” reference he gets to was, to my ears, one of the most biased and backward commentaries I may have ever heard by a major media source. Read on, this is an important one, and Dax’s parallels to the Buddhist path and Campbell’s work is excellent. – DB

The NY Times.com has posted a multimedia page on Obama and Religion that is supposed to give its readers a better understanding of the roots and rhetoric behind Obama’s Christian faith. As of right now, the page has two speech excerpts in which Obama has used religious themes or religious language along with commentary by a Times reporter. I’ve provided the quotes from both Obama and the Times and offered my analysis after.

From “My Christian Faith” speech:

BARACK OBAMA: It was in these neighborhoods that I received the best education that I ever had and where I learned the meaning of my Christian faith.

NY TIMES: Notice how Mr. Obama makes it sound as if he was always a Christian but for most of his early life, and indeed most of the time he was a community organizer, Mr. Obama was not a believer. In Chicago, ministers told him to join a church so he would become a more credible, effective leader and that’s pretty much what he did. Mr. Obama’s transformation from non-believer to Christian was a sincere one by all accounts but it was also one that aided him in his career.

A more penetrating analysis would have gone beyond merely looking to discredit Obama and into the heart of the conversionary experience he had while working within poor communities. For instance, what was in these poor neighborhoods that helped him learn the meaning of his faith? After all, he calls it the “best education” he ever had. This is a guy who went to Harvard and Columbia, a guy who’s well read and traveled, who speaks multiple languages. What about that inner-city experience was so powerful that it transformed his life? Was it that the people who held on in spite of their bedraggled conditions that inspired him or humbled him? Or were these just words Obama used?

Read the full blog here.




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