It isn't every day that even a self-important and formerly fairly
good newspaper like the Washington Post
announces "the truth"
about a contentious issue like Barack
Obama's religion, but now we have it from their otherwise
undistinguished staff writer Eli Sastrow, who was only recently
promoted from reporting on swimming
, where his cosmic insight was wasted on stories like Ziegler Sets Meet Mark in
Lately the Post has been dispatching the Jimmy Olsen
of their national news desk to hotspots like Flag City,
Ohio, where he finds a few rubes who are so amazingly stupid
that they haven't figured out the truth about Barack Obama!
On the television in his living room, Peterman has
watched enough news and campaign advertisements to hear
the truth: Sen. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is a
Christian family man with a track record of public service. But
on the Internet, in his grocery store, at his neighbor's house, at
his son's auto shop, Peterman has also absorbed another
version of the Democratic candidate's background, one that is
entirely false: Barack Obama, born in Africa, is a possibly gay
Muslim racist who refuses to recite the Pledge of
This set-up illustrates the keen analytic skills that Mr. Sastrow
honed at swim meets from Petaluma to Podunk:
you believe that Barack Obama is a "Christian family man,"or
you believe he's a "gay
Muslim racist." Which sounds more reasonable to you?
Mr. Sastrow also slips in another bogus distinction that old
media outlets like the Washington Post would love to see us all
accept: The "truth" belongs to newspapers, TV news, and even
campaign advertisements, and the internet is dismissed along with other rumor
mills like grocery stores and auto shops.
But in spite of the awesome authority of the Washington Post (Colin
Powell's speech about Saddam's WMDs was "irrefutable
") I can't quite
accept that the difficult question of Barack Obama's religion is
reducible to a ludicrous contrast between "Christian family
man" and "gay Muslim racist."
The myth that "Barry Soetoro" attended a madrassa in
Indonesia has been sufficiently debunked
, but the only
hard evidence about Obama's religious
affiliation as a child is his listing as a Muslim on his elementary
school registration. Friendly journalists and the Obama
campaign usually disappear
this document with a
lot of hand-waving about how Obama's step-father Lolo
Soetoro occasionally had a beer and wasn't really a "devout" Muslim, but
Soetoro's spotty attendance at the local mosque doesn't mean
he also ignored the core Muslim requirement of
, ritual prayer performed five times every day.
Did little Barry pray beside his step-father, or did he somehow
stand outside the rhythm of everyday life in an Indonesian
The story of Barack Obama's church in Chicago is so famous
that even the hicks in Hickville know it backward and forward,
and Eli Sastrow's pitiful rhetorical tricks probably can't sell a
preacher like Jeremiah Wright and a couple of patron saints like
James Cone and Louis Farrakhan as
witnesses that Barack Obama has much in common with the
sort of "Christian family man" you might encounter in an auto
shop or grocery store in rural Ohio.
How far did Barack Obama ever subscribe to the semi-Christian black-power ideology
of James Cone and Jeremiah Wright?
Whatever his other motivations may have been, Barack Obama
joined Trinity Church when it was politically convenient to
belong to its powerful congregation, and he left it when it
So the question of Barack Obama's religion is significantly more complicated than the Washington Post portrays it, and their silly division between Christian "family values" and gay Muslim racism dissolves into more difficult issues like the relative power of childhood training compared to Barack Obama's formerly
convenient membership in a powerful congregation.
Does a politically convenient association with the black-power "Christianity" of Jeremiah Wright
really run deeper than Barack Obama's childhood immersion in the rhythms of
The real situation is probably even more shadowy than any
division, and it may be that Barack Obama chose the ethnocentric ideology of Jeremiah Wright's church in Chicago precisely because it resonated so deeply with his experience of Islam as a child in Lolo Soetoro's house in Jakarta.