Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where Will Obama Go to Church?

Mark Tooley explores this interesting question for the Wall Street Journal and, in so doing, not only gives a detailed review of Washington D.C. churches, but also of Barack Obama's heterodox views of Christianity.

Where will President Barack Obama attend church in Washington? Thanks to revelations about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ (UCC) in Chicago, Mr. Obama's church shopping requires more careful political contemplation than a new president typically needs. But his ultimate choice likely will be a noncontroversial church, suitable for young children, with a brief commute and tightly scheduled worship that gets the president back home early on Sunday mornings.

Even so, Washington provides such a wealth of opportunities that more factors than those will come into play. Mr. Obama's own background could point him in several possible directions. His mother, Ann Dunham, was a spiritual seeker drawn to many religions. Both of her husbands were nominal Muslims. Mr. Obama's maternal grandparents were Unitarians.

Mr. Obama's early Chicago activism took him to Trinity. At an altar call, he professed faith in Christ. Trinity is a black congregation within the nearly all white 1.2 million United Church of Christ. Although it originated with New England's Puritans, the UCC has mostly shed its strict Calvinism of past centuries and arguably is America's most liberal mainline Protestant denomination.

A UCC church in Washington could be a comfortable fit for a former member of Chicago's Trinity. Trinity's social liberalism -- on issues of gay rights and abortion rights, for instance -- is more like that of other UCC congregations than of historically black denominations, which typically are theologically conservative. The 2.5 million member African Methodist Episcopal Church, for instance, voted unanimously in 2004 to prohibit same-sex unions. Pastor Wright's flamboyant preaching style echoes that seen in many black churches. But his radicalized Social Gospel more resembles that of white mainline Protestants.

Mr. Obama seems to share the cool rationalism of the UCC's liberal New England roots more than the evangelistic and emotive black church tradition. Talking to the Chicago Sun-Times about his faith in 2004, he cited his "suspicion of dogma" and "too much certainty," and said he preferred a "dose of doubt" in religion. Somewhat deflecting questions about prayer, Jesus and the afterlife, Mr. Obama defined sin as "being out of alignment with my values."...

The rest of this article is right here.