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During the "Obameter" segment on the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson criticized Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), a presumptive candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, for being a member of a church that Carlson claimed "sounds separatist to me" and "contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity," a subject Carlson said he was "actually qualified to discuss." Carlson was referring to the "Black Value System" advocated by the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, of which Obama is a member. A February 6 Chicago Tribune article reported that "conservative critics have seized on Trinity's 12-point Black Value System, especially the portion relating to 'middleclassness,' as evidence that Obama is a divisive candidate who rejects mainstream American values and is primarily focused on the black community." Carlson pointed to the "disavowal of the pursuit of 'middleclassness' " in the church's tenets, calling the church's mission a "racially exclusive theology" and "a theology that ministers to one group of people, based on race." Carlson claimed that Trinity's theology is "racially exclusive" and "wrong," adding that "it's hard to call that Christianity."
Carlson also stated that Trinity's "Black Value System" "calls for congregants to be 'soldiers for black freedom.' " In fact, Trinity encourages parishioners to be "soldiers for Black freedom and the dignity of all humankind [emphasis added]." The Tribune said that the church's "value system" was adopted in 1981 to hold "black Christians accountable for taking care of their own and for continuing to fight oppression." Further, the Tribune reported that according to Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, "the 'disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness' is simply an argument against materialism and the pursuit of the American standard of wealth. Many white Christian churches also preach against materialism."
From the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:
CARLSON: Time now for the daily check of our "Obameter." On Saturday, in Springfield, Illinois, Senator Barack Obama will officially toss his hat into the presidential ring, which will mark open season for his political opponents and others to scrutinize just about every breath he's ever taken, or plans on taking, before he took those breaths, and what every one of them implies about him. Can he survive the unprecedented scrutiny?
Here to discuss it: Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez and former Democratic congressman from Maine and national director of Win Without War, Tom Andrews. Welcome to you both.
So Barack Obama is a member of a church called Trinity United Church of Christ. It's a predominantly black church in Chicago, that espouses something called the "Black Value System," which includes calls for congregants to be "soldiers for black freedom" and a, quote, "disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness." Now, it would seem to me, Tom, not to make a broad sweeping statement here, but a racially exclusive theology, a theology that ministers to one group of people, based on race, kind of contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity, and is worth talking about. Wouldn't you say?
ANDREWS: Well, let's look at what those values actually are. We're talking about hard work, self-reliance, belief in God, and if you have made it to the middle class, you have an obligation to those who have not. Now, those sound like pretty good values to me, black, white, or whatever, and I think that Barack Obama should not be ashamed of having those values and being part of a church.
CARLSON: Again, those are great values, that I, you know, that I hope I embody.
CARLSON: However, it's the word before them, black. It's making them racially specific. Again, Christianity -- this is something that I am actually qualified to discuss -- is, it seems to me, almost explicitly anti-racial. The idea is that we are all equal in the eyes of God. And when you espouse a theology that is racially exclusive, as this appears to be, it's hard to call that Christianity. I think it's pretty easy to call it wrong.
ANDREWS: Well, I don't think it's exclusive. I don't see anything exclusive about it. This is a church --
CARLSON: Soldiers for black freedom? How about -- what about soldiers for freedom for everybody. What does that mean?
ANDREWS: Well -- fine. Black white, whatever, but in this particular case, these are soldiers for black freedom, and belief in God, and hard work, and self-reliance, and helping your brother and sister. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it. You knowthis -- I'll tell you: Opposition research is a growth industry.
CARLSON: Yeah, it is.
ANDREWS: And just fasten your seat belt, Senator Obama, because it's coming at you.
CARLSON: Well, I don't know. I mean, I could --
ANDREWS: It's coming at you.
CARLSON: I think this is fair, because I think this is -- trust me. I think a lot of opposition research, and I get a lot in my inbox -- it's crap -- but I ignore it, because who cares. But this is interesting because Obama has spoken so forcefully and so often about his own faith, and held up his membership in a Christian denomination as evidence of the pureness of his heart. He said, "Look, I'm a Christian, OK, period." So it's fair to take a look at his theology. And, you know, I like Barack Obama, and I don't think he's a scary guy, but this stuff sounds separatist to me, I have to say.