Trinity United Church of Christ, Rev. Wright, Muslim Christianity
Obama’s Unique Form of ‘Christianity:’No Baptism Or Renunciation of Islam Required
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New questions arise lately concerning whether President Obama is a Muslim or a Christian, as Mr. Obama gives his partial support to the mosque at Ground Zero.
We’ve all heard by now that Obama became a Christian mostly to expedite his political career and that the Trinity United Church of Christ he joined, presided over by Reverend Jonathan Wright, was not exactly mainstream. We’ve heard about Wright’s damning of America and we know that the church was – and might still be - a hot bed of black nationalism. But what is not as well known is that no baptism is required, nor must Muslims renounce Islam to be accepted as full members in that church.
On a tip from a pastor, which I wrote about here I called the Trinity United Church back in February, 2010 to ask about the requirements of membership. The church receptionist transferred my call to the Director of Membership, who told me that baptism is optional and that Muslims who believe in the prophet Mohammed can be full members. In fact, she reassured me cheerfully, they have plenty of Muslim members.
Never mind that this is theologically impossible, except when one makes one’s own rules. The doctrines of Christianity and Islam are incompatible. Christianity believes that Jesus Christ is one with the Creator, through the doctrine of the Trinity, and that Jesus died on the cross in order to redeem humanity from its sins. Islam calls the Trinity ‘idolatry’ because it sees the Trinity’s three parts as separate entities – three distinct gods – instead of one divine being. Islam also denies Christianity’s claim that Jesus Christ died on the cross, or that he is the unique savior of humanity.
Baptism is central to Christian practices, both as a way to mark the convert’s entrance into a new life and as a washing away of sinful practices from the person’s past. The core of the new life as a Christian is a renunciation of other religious beliefs. The World Council of Churches is an umbrella organization for Protestant churches that represents about 550 million Christians throughout more than 120 countries. It has declared the centrality of baptism for a Christian, and notes that no matter how much churches may differ in other ways, the vast majority of churches agree on the importance of baptism.
Why would a Muslim want to join a church that proclaimed these Christian beliefs? It would be a betrayal of his own convictions. Besides, the word “Trinity” is in the name of the Trinity United Church of Christ, which should discourage a Muslim who thinks the Christian trinity is blasphemous. What’s going on here?
The Trinity United Church of Christ is affiliated with the mainline United Church of Christ which branched out of Congregationalism, and going back even further, that denomination had its roots in Puritanism. All these connections are very traditional. The affirmation of faith of the parent organization, as found in their constitution begins with, “The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole Head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior.” However, when the black pride movement burgeoned in Chicago during the 1960s at the time when Malcolm X made that city the headquarters for the Nation of Islam, the Trinity United Church of Christ appears to have made doctrinal adjustments to accommodate its constituents. They were African Americans who wanted a veneer of Christianity, which many of them had been raised with, to cover their newly acquired black nationalism and Nation of Islam inspired faith. At the same time, the church needed new members because church attendance was falling off.
So a new syncretic religion was born, Muslim Christianity. Never mind that it makes a mish mash of theology – in order to suit the emotional and cultural needs of the parishioners. Obama may have been telling the truth when he called himself a Christian, even though he has not apparently spent much time in any church since leaving the tutelage of Rev. Wright. But for the rest of us, there is confusion, a confusion that is sure to grow as not only the President but possibly many others influenced by him, take the side of Islamic political entities while still calling themselves ‘Christian.’