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Jewish World Review
June 3, 2008
/ 30 Iyar 5768
Pfleger, politics and pizza
A self-identified African-American caller to a Washington, D.C., radio station characterized the recent anti-Hillary Clinton outburst by the white liberal Chicago priest, Michael Pfleger, as a "minstrel show."
Pfleger, who was preaching "another gospel," which the authentic gospel warns against, denounced Sen. Clinton for her effrontery and sense of "entitlement" in trying to take the Democratic presidential nomination from a black man, one Barack Obama. Pfleger, who donated $1,500 to the Obama campaign between 1995 and 2001, is indebted to Obama because when Obama was in the Illinois legislature, he, according to the Chicago Tribune, "announced $225,000 in grants to St. Sabina programs." Three months after the grant was announced, Pfleger donated another $200 to Obama.
Obama denounced Pfleger's comments far more quickly than he separated himself from his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but one is known by one's preferred associations. Obama's friends and associates have a long history of far-left political and theological positions with which Obama has appeared perfectly comfortable. It makes one wonder if Obama's denunciations are sincere or if he's had a politically convenient "conversion." On Saturday, in what might be considered spiritual and political damage control, Obama announced he has resigned his membership in Trinity United Church of Christ.
We have seen conservative preachers and other self-anointed spokesmen for God make fools of themselves by overindulging in politics and other trivialities and now the theological left is getting its chance to rush in where even angels fear to tread for their equal time and deserved mockery. As I watched the video of Pfleger (and Rev. Wright before him), I felt a profound sadness for the congregation, whose members might be enjoying the political equivalent of foreplay, but are being denied preaching that would turn their eyes to another kingdom and another King that could do them far more good than a politician of any color or philosophy.
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Shakey's Pizza restaurants used to have among its signs: "Shakey made a deal with the bank. Shakey doesn't cash checks. The bank doesn't make pizza." That is the kind of deal congregations should demand from their politicians and pastors. Politicians shouldn't do religion and preachers should stay out of partisan politics. If preachers want to do politics, they should resign their ordination and become politicians. And if politicians want to do religion, they should stop running for positions in the lower kingdom, enroll in seminary and become ministers in the Higher Kingdom.
The pastor at my church doesn't do politics. The closest he gets is to pray for the national leadership, as Scripture commands. And before you ask, yes, he did it during all eight years of the Clinton administration. Preaching on politics would divide our congregation, which consists of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Besides, what's the point of listening to a political sermon, as if most of us do not already have well-established points of view? We don't need a clergyman to tell us how to vote. We need a clergyman to reveal G-d to us. If I want politics on Sunday morning, I can stay home and watch the morning interview shows.
Sen. Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, is investigating "prosperity gospel" preachers who claim you can live like kings if you'll send them money, thus allowing them to live like kings. One can argue whether government ought to be inserting itself into doctrinal issues in order to save the biblically illiterate from their gullibility. But the Internal Revenue Service must investigate Trinity United Church of Christ to determine whether it has violated its tax-exempt status by allowing its pulpit to be used for political purposes.
G-d can judge the quality of the preaching at Trinity. The IRS should step in and judge the quality of the politics. If Rev. Pfleger's cardinal, Francis George, won't go beyond a statement criticizing his inflammatory and bigoted remarks, Pope Benedict XVI should consider disciplinary action. As for Obama's resignation, he must still explain how he could sit in the church for two decades and be indifferent to such inflammatory rhetoric.
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