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Under authority?

As a Christian, does Obama have a responsibility to come under his pastor's authority? Glad to see he's disagreeing with some of his outgoing pastor's comments, but that raises a larger issue for me: why is Obama part of Wright's congregation if he's not willing to submit to Wright's leadership?

I'm sure it would be difficult to make a break with the pastor and church Obama credits with drawing him to the Christian faith, but if he's not really respecting Wright's authority as his pastor (viewing him "like an uncle you love and respect but has lately said some things that you disagree with"), such a break seems to be what integrity demands. Perhaps they've been dealing with their differences behind closed doors, but if so, they don't seem to have made much headway in the course of years since some of the comments with which Obama is now taking exception (not to mention Wright's advisory position, which was only recently rescinded). And maybe, as his response suggests, Obama simply wasn't ever present when anything with which he now disagrees was stated.

My interest in Obama's situation isn't as great as my concern with the lost concept of following. In a culture that places so much emphasis on leadership, we seem to have no clue about what it means to follow. This is a particular problem among Christians, many of whom have somehow divorced belief in Jesus from following Him. Lots of people jump on the bandwagon (or "journey") of belief, but following Him isn't nearly as popular. That's by no means new (the distinction paved a great deal of the path to the Cross)—it just amazes me that anyone would think Jesus isn't calling for the latter. Failing to heed His call exposes the endpoint of our belief in Him.

Further, I am especially wary of those with a "Jesus and me" approach to authority. I've seen lives wrecked by versions of the notion that Christians are accountable to none but Him, as if He's established no civil or church authorities to whom we must submit. Indeed, I'm picking through the wreckage of such notions daily. It's grotesque.

The story of Jesus and the centurion from Matthew 8 and Luke 7 is continually encouraging for me (it's probably one of the stories on which I've reflected most often here):
“For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

—Luke 7:8-9
Jesus "marveled" at the centurion's faith, an intense response He only otherwise exhibits at the unbelief of the Jews. A proper understanding of authority seems essential to faith. By God's grace, may it be so with me.

Comments

(Anonymous)

from stephy

Haralson told me to tell you that by the authority vested in him in CHrist Jesus, you should give me all your Gilmore Girls DVDs.

Re: from stephy

Oh, he's just a wacky uncle. Can I run for president now?
and with me :)
I thought that this guy resigned from his pastorship... Is this an old sermon, or something recent? I'm confused.
Wright retired last month; the comments at issue are peppered over the course of his time in ministry.

Obama has been a member of Wright's church for the last twenty years. With that much shared history, he seems to only have two options:
  1. Disavow based on ignorance (indicating a disconnection between himself and his pastor of twenty years).
  2. Support Wright's statements (problematic for a host of reasons).
He's gone with option one, which I must assume to be the truth until and unless there's evidence to the contrary.

I'm having trouble finding an explanation of Obama's position with which I can be comfortable when I take him at his word—the only way not to know Wright said this stuff is to not pay him much attention, which isn't how Christians should respond to those in authority over them (it's probably not a really great idea to place someone you aren't paying attention to in an advisory role, either). I don't think Christians get to dismiss those in authority over us so blithely (which is also convicting for me). So it's a tough one for me to reconcile, because taking Obama at his word leaves me with serious questions about his ability to be a man under authority, while alternate explanations require his current disavowal of Wright's statements to be false in some degree.
I appreciate your observations and question-- I hadn't viewed his situation w/ his pastor in that way.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I have been so bothered by those "god is my copilot" bumper stickers that are still lingering around. He's the air holding up the plane, and the engine and the pilot in the plane!