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Attempts to align Barack Obama with the views of his recently retired pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, are distracting us from Obama’s actual platform. Obama’s membership in Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ may not actually tell us much about what Obama believes personally. Charges of guilt by association miss the mark and expose general ignorance about Protestant liberalism and mainline black churches. Concerned voters should instead focus on Obama’s economic policies, which are troubling enough.

In a recent statement, Obama’s campaign said he "does not think of the pastor of his church in political terms. Like a member of his family, there are things he says with which Senator Obama deeply disagrees." In the context of black church life, this makes complete sense. Unlike white evangelical churches, many black congregations do not typically tie personal religious convictions to public policy prescriptions. This explains the phenomenon that puzzles some observers: Many blacks can be culturally conservative and yet vote with liberal Democrats.

Jeremiah Wright’s embrace of black liberation theology and Afro-centrism does not necessarily mean that Barack Obama does. The only part of Obama’s campaign rhetoric that sounds remotely like black liberation theology is his belief that government will solve all of America’s problems by redistributing wealth from the upper classes to the proletariat and erecting government as a surrogate decision-maker for the masses. It is possible that Obama does not take the faith principles he learned under Wright as seriously as he claims.

Instead of straining a gnat through a straw to make a connection between Obama’s beliefs and those of Wright, the pertinent question remains: What initiatives does Obama plan to spearhead in our Republic? Obama is not running a campaign that is “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian,” as Trinity UCC’s website professes. Afro-centrism does not win primaries, but promising government as the cure-all does.

In fact, what is far more worrisome than Trinity’s “commitment to Africa” or her commitment to the “historical education of African people in diaspora” is the call for “economic parity.” Economic parity, or more notably economic equality, is the justification for an exploding welfare and entitlement state. The race critique of black liberation theology serves as a distraction from a true socialist agenda.

Economic parity implies government-coerced wealth redistribution, perpetual minimum wage increases, government subsidized health care for all, and so on. One of the priorities listed on his campaign website reads, “Obama will protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families, but he will reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.” Does this sound familiar? Obama supports socialized medicine: “Obama will make available a new national health plan to all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress.” A “national health plan”? Didn’t the former Soviet Union attempt that as well?

It gets worse. Obama wants to create socialized wages: “Obama will raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing.” All of these government-controlled, state-run, taxpayer-funded initiatives are efforts to move us toward greater parity.

If Obama’s church focuses on blacks in the Chicago area and African people here and abroad, who cares? Good for them. Is anyone paying attention to what Obama wants to use government to achieve? CNBC economic analyst Larry Kudlow estimates that Obama’s vision for government-run everything is going to cost Americans $800 billion. That money will come from taxing the rich, the middle-class, household pets, and anything else that has life.

Make utopian promises, tax, spend, redistribute. There is nothing new under the sun, Ecclesiastes says. For all of Obama’s apparent appeal as fresh and new, we are dealing here with the familiar and conventional Religious Left: lots of Jesus-talk supporting an economic platform that attempts to resurrect Karl Marx. If Obama is selected as the Democrats’ candidate, his connection to Wright will be the least of our 800 billion worries. 

Dr. Anthony Bradley is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York City where he also serves as director for the Center for the Study of Human Flourishing. Since 2002, Dr. Bradley has been a research fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, a Masters in Ethics and Society from Fordham University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.