June 1, 2008

Talking About Trinity & Entitlement

Father Phleger touched off a new installment of Trinity church controversy with his political rhetoric, illustrating his "sermon" point about "white entitlement" with a sarcastic bit of theater at Hillary Clinton's expense. He was playing to a packed house and the crowd was feeling him. He was however decidedly not felt by many in America, and SheCodes , writer of the esteemed blog Black Women Vote expressed it this way:

"I find what Father Phleger did contemptible, and not in the same category as Jeremiah Wright's sermons AT ALL. Father Phleger pretended to have mystical knowledge of Hillary Clinton's inner thoughts, and used his clerical position to cast aspersions and heap dislike on her from it. It was childish, mean spirited, and unnecessary. It does not matter that many people agree with him. Once the priest put that collar on, he had a duty not to play loose with his opinions about specific people. When the priest claimed to know what Hillary Clinton is thinking, many people accepted that as a word from God. This is not only patently wrong, but dangerous."

I agree with all of the above, particularly the branding of these theatrics as unnecessary, but it isn't what I found the most objectionable. What irked me more was the pastoral indulgence of this camaraderie of victimhood, particularly in a megachurch where one might expect to find your fair share of the talented tenth among the congregation. Its easy to fall into the trap of believing that sermons at Trinity are heavily politicized and disconnected from scripture based on the media portrayals, and I want to be careful to avoid such an assumption, which is most likely incorrect. However, it is clear that the socio-political opinions of the Trinity leadership pertaining to race are a currency regularly traded from the pulpit. Its an unhelpful, ill advised indulgence to pander to this defeatist mindset in the church. Obama's run is exposing these cathartic rituals to the light of day.

On the other hand, this has the sound of entitlement and privilege that they were talking about.

Harriet Christian came to the Rules and Bylaws to support her candidate, Hillary Clinton. And when her candidate was defeated, unjustly in her eyes, her raw emotion spilled over. Her words were interesting and for those of the Trinity viewpoint, certainly had to come as confirmation of their outlook. She said, the Democrats threw away the election for an inadequate black male, referencing his supposed lack of experience presumably. Fair enough. But she followed that with the statement he wouldn't be running if a white woman had not been running. Curious. Would she say this same statement applied to Dodd, and Biden and Edwards and Kucinich? I actually felt a pang of compassion for her as she bitterly exclaimed that she came to the meeting a 2nd class citizen and now she was nothing. I wondered, would she would be less bitter, feel less worthless, if Hillary had lost to a white man? But in her words and demeanor certainly there was this thing that Phleger referred to, a sense of entitlement wrongly frustrated. Perhaps this sense of entitlement is most strongly represented in women like Harriet, white women of the same age and generation as Hillary Clinton, for whom Hillary represents a dream and aspiration every bit as thrilling and compelling as the narrative Barack is writing for black America as I write these words. Will the wrath of Harriet and those like her be Barack's undoing? Time will tell.