Ann Coulter’s column today argues that Obama is not a Muslim; rather, he “is obviously an atheist.” The gist of the argument is “The only evidence for Obama’s Christianity is that he faithfully attended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ for 20 years….Attending Wright’s church is the conscious, calculated decision to immerse yourself in hate-filled demagoguery and call it ‘Christianity.’”
I disagree with both the facts and the conclusion. Coulter is accurate in calling Jeremiah Wright “a racist nut.” However, that does not prove that Wright (and by extension Obama, to whatever extent Obama believes in Wright’s theology) is not a Christian. Some practitioners of “liberation theology” (including the black liberation theology variant) may simply be Marxists looking for some broadly-appealing rhetoric to add to their political program. Other practitioners, however, may be sincerely and otherwise-orthodox Christians who truly believe in both Christianity and Marxism, and in the liberation theology fusion of the two. For example, liberation theology was popular among many Catholics in Latin America from the late 1960s until 1984, when it was condemned by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I think it is implausible to believe that, pre-1984, the many Latin American American bishops, priests, nuns, and Catholic lay people who embraced liberation theology were all closet atheists. It seems much more reasonable to conclude that at least some of them were orthodox Catholics who, until 1984, could consider liberation theology to be one legitimate way of expressing the Catholic faith.
Similarly, I would suggest that many of the pastors in slave states in antebellum America who taught that slavery was legitimate because of the slaves’ inherent racial inferiority were also sincere Christians, albeit grossly mistaken in their teachings on this matter.
Ergo, belief in the racist, Marxist philosophy of black liberation theology is not necessarily incompatible with being a Christian who has orthodox beliefs on most matters of Christian doctrine (e.g., the trinity, the resurrection, virgin birth, and so on).
Second, the record of President Obama’s Christianity is not limited to his record of attendance at Reverend Wright’s nut-house. For example, this year, the President spoke at a prayer breakfast on Easter Sunday, on what the resurrection means to him personally. His remarks about “the Easter celebration of our risen Savior…and what lesson I take from Christ’s sacrifice” were entirely straightforward statements of orthodox Christianity. I doubt that any normal Christian, of whatever denomination, could theologically disagree with a single word President Obama said.