Oh, Dem Golden Churches

It would be foolish for me to try to stay on top of politics to the degree that the spouse does, but I still try to have a tenuous grasp on what’s going on in the world – which is why I picked up the latest Nation (we were given a subscription by a saucy friend who wanted to plague the spouse).

In doing so, I began to understand why Spouse is so bilous toward mainstream liberals. The magazine at this point is a big old yawn. Even in the mid-90s it was better, and I used to actually look forward to reading it. And of course, this is nothing compared to it’s glorious past. But then, how can anything live up to its glorious past? Sigh.

This little gem caught my eye, in a piece by someone named Eudora Smith talking about Jeremiah Wright/Obama’s church:

“In the sanctuary these days, there are many new white faces…These visitors are friends and supporters for whom the media controversy has inspired a journey of understanding. On a recent Sunday, [Reverend] Moss warned them that Trinity is a ‘hugging’ church, and when the congregation paused from the service to greet one another, the visitors were swept into Trinity’s collective embrace. Their presence is treated like the rainbow sign God sent Noah after the Flood.”

White people: the real rainbows!! Golly, is there anything we can’t do??

Now earlier in the piece, Smith does say, “At Trinity church, which I often attend.” So she could be black or white for all I know. But the above is a real stretch. I’ve gone to black churches for years and I’ve gotten hugs at every single of one of them, long before Jeremiah Wright made visiting a black church a stop on the cultural tourist map, one of those “must-tries” that one does to prove one is open-minded. Rainbows, my ass. This is simple hospitality, a welcome extended to any visitor – and call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure there are no color lines. That’s right: black visitors are getting hugs, too! So why does Smith feel the need to throw in the “rainbows” line? Is she reassuring white liberals that scary bla–African Americans (white liberals never say “black) will welcome them? Is she doing her bit to emulate old school Jesse Jackson? Is this a vicarious experience so that people never have to step out of their comfort zones and actually experience a black church in the flesh?

That is, after all, how she completes her essay, with a brief rhapsody that has some nice turns of phrase, including a bit about the choir trying to “pierce heaven” with their singing. But it’s pretty boiled down to the trappings. After all, that’s all that a religious experience can be, isn’t it? Trust me, I know the smug white liberal party line on God, religion, and church: stupid, childish, superstition at best, insanity at worst (Mencken’s argument resurrected for big bucks by Richard Dawkins). But….what a liberal nightmare….having to acknowledge that, for many African Americans, God, church, and religion are something much more than one’s uncompromising intellectual superiority can conceive of. Damn, I been saying for years that anyone who believes in that crap is a moron. Now what do I do? Oh, this nice piece in the nation does the work for me. Thank ….something… now I don’t have to actually go and experience it myself! Or actually engage with any African Americans, because I don’t really know any, except that one guy in the office who…oh, I can’t remember his name, but I know him! Though actually, I don’t really need to know him! I read Bob Herbert! What’s up, dawg?

For all I know, Smith may be trying to get people to acknowledge that there’s more to Jeremiah Wright, who’s been toiling away on the front lines for years, than a sound bite – an admirable goal. But it didn’t strike me that way. Honestly, the report’s not hard-hitting enough to say much of anything. Maybe that’s the state of The Nation. At any rate, I shan’t rescue the next copy from the recycle pile quite so readily. Give me Harper’s. Or for that matter, Lucky, any day of the week.

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