Can the Obamas Choose a Church? Will We Let Them?
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Can the Obamas Choose a Church? Will We Let Them?

By David Waters

As everyone knows by now, the Obamas are between church homes. That’s a difficult place for any churchgoing family, but especially one that has become the focus of the fears and hopes of the entire world. Finding a new church won’t get any easier now that they’re moving into the White House.

I can’t imagine a more important or problematic decision for this young family to make. Important because Barack and Michelle Obama clearly want to raise their children in the church, and because no family will need the love, guidance and support of a faith community more than the Obamas in the next four to eight years. Problematic because this decision seems fraught with theological, political and symbolic complications.

Should they subject any pastor or congregation to the public scrutiny and scorn that their former pastor (Jeremiah Wright) and church (Trinity United Church of Christ) endured during the campaign? Or to security concerns, which could be even worse than those which kept Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush from going to church?

As the first African-American First Family, will they be criticized if they choose a black church, or if they don’t? If they choose a white pastor, or if they don’t? If they choose a United Methodist or American Baptist congregation rather than a historically black denomination? If they choose a church across town, or in a tonier part of town rather than one near the White House?

After the Wright fiasco, dare they choose another church in the liberal United Church of Christ denomination, or another pastor who subscribes to black liberation theology? And if they don’t, will they be criticized for bowing to political pressures? Just about any choice they make will be seen as political by some.

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