Barack Denouces America for Jesus
By Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | June 27, 2007
Two hundred fifty years ago, Congregationalist pastor Jonathan Edwards, America’s premier theological mind of the 18th century, helped ignite the Great Awakening. That revival, winning thousands of converts, profoundly transformed America in the wake of the American Revolution.Rev. Edwards’ spiritual descendants founded the 1 million member United Church of Christ (UCC), though few share his faith. Today, UCC leftists are trying to kick off a new American revival, with help from Senator Barak Obama, PBS commentator Bill Moyers, Congressman Barney Frank, the Children’s Defense Fund’s Marian Wright Edelman, and recovering former Republican analyst Kevin Phillips.
“They say your church is dying, and lame, and limp,” Moyers told the UCC’s General Synod over the weekend. “But it is a small, committed community of people of conscience who can turn this country around.”
Forty years ago, the UCC was nearly twice its current size. But its preference for left-wing political action over spiritual renewal has helped make it one of America’s fastest imploding denominations. Despite the bad news, the UCC threw a big birthday bash for itself in Hartford, Connecticut, to coincide with its usual governing convention.
What the UCC lacks in spiritual energy it hopes to compensate for in leftist political zest.
“There’s always been a strong public face to the United Church of Christ, and we’re reclaiming that,” UCC President John Thomas told Religion News Service.
Obama, who belongs to a UCC congregation in Chicago, commended his denomination for its long history of political “troublemaking” across two centuries, from the Boston Tea Party to the Civil Rights Movement.
“My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I go out and do the Lord’s work,” Obama told the enthusiastic crowd of up to 10,000 at the Hartford Civic Center. The “Lord’s work,” of course, is the agenda of the secular, political Left. “We should close Guantanamo Bay and stop tolerating the torture of our enemies. Because it’s not who we are. It’s not consistent with our traditions of justice and fairness. And it offends our conscience,” Obama told applauding UCC’ers. He denounced the Iraq War as “not just a security problem [but] a moral problem.” He called for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, an increased minimum wage, and for a universal health care bill.Obama implored: “God’s work must truly be our own.” He lamented that faith had been “hijacked” by religious conservatives who had “determined that [their] number one priority was tax cuts for the rich.” He could not imagine what Bible they were reading, but he was insistent: “Our problems are moral problems…there’s a spiritual dimension to everything we do. Our conscience cannot rest.” At least Obama was politically upbeat, at least compared to the doomsday prophet Bill Moyers, who left his native Southern Baptist church for the more politically conducive UCC. According to the UCC news service, Moyers’ speech was “inflamed with passion [and] anger,” with at least 36 interruptions of applause, followed by a two-minute standing ovation. “I have come to say that America’s revolutionary heritage – and America’s revolutionary spirit – ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of justice, through government of, by, and for the people’ – is under siege,” he warned. “And if churches of conscience don’t take the lead in their rescue and revival, we can lose our democracy!”Moyers regretted that the original author of “life, liberty and the pursuit of justice” was a hypocrite who had had also “stroked the breasts and caressed the thighs of a slave woman named Sally Hennings. It is no secret.” Forget that Thomas Jefferson wrote of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness“; Moyers believes that where Jefferson failed in moral leadership, the UCC succeeded. “You have raised a prophetic voice against the militarism, materialism, and racism that chokes America’s arteries,” Moyers enthused. “It’s a mystery to me. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me’…You have to wonder how this so-called Christian nation leaves so many children to suffer.”“For 30 years,” Moyers fumed, “We have witnessed a class war fought from the top down against the idea and ideal of equality. It has been a drive by a radical elite to gain ascendancy over politics and to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that checked the excesses of private power.”For the political and economic nightmare that is America, Moyers faulted “corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a political religion of fundamentalism deeply opposed to any civil and human right that threatens its paternalism, and a series of political decisions favoring the interests of wealthy elites who bought the political system right out from under us.”
Barney Frank was almost tame compared to Moyers’ searing critique of America’s moral squalor. He admitted that the U.S. economy is growing. “But the average individual has gotten no benefit from it,” he insisted. As usual, he pointed to a larger welfare state as the solution. “When we step in together, that’s what we call government,” he told the UCC’ers.
Former Republican analyst Kevin Phillips, now one of the GOP’s “harshest critics,” gladdened many UCC hearts with his dark theories from American Theocracy, his 2006 expose of an imaginary, sinister alliance among conservative Christians, oil interests, and neoconservative imperialists. The American empire’s overreaching in the Middle East will likely doom the United States as a great power, Phillips reassured his pleased audience.
No less pleasing to the UCC’ers, Children’s Defense Fund chief Marian Wright Edelman warbled mournfully about “the children,” who she insisted must not become “partisan political fodder.” Interrupted by applause 24 times, according to the UCC news service, she then made her usual political demands for a larger welfare state, always to benefit “the children.” Edelman inveighed against America’s “rampant individual greed,” even as she insisted on new multibillion dollar programs. Trying to sound prophetic, but lacking Edelman’s pulpit cadence, UCC president John Thomas spoke of the “disgrace of a broken social contract,” of global warming, of “foolish greed,” and of the war, with “its deceit, its torture, its demoralizing death and dismemberment, its relentless march toward chaos.”
In contrast to the political tirades from Thomas and others, actress Lynn Redgrave, instead of speaking about environmentalism as scheduled, told of seeking out a local UCC congregation near her Connecticut home when recovering from cancer surgery in 2003. The worship service made her “peaceful and optimistic,” she recalled. Redgrave concluded her testimony with a reading from the 23rd Psalm.Perhaps the UCC might reverse its 40-year decline by giving more of such hope and appealing to the Scriptures. Redgrave’s message was received with applause and even tears. But for the UCC leadership, more focused on power than on the Spirit, the sparks and political fulminations against American greed and militarism are far more exciting than quiet appeals to a forgotten Savior who believed in rendering unto Caesar.