Yesterday, just as the RBC committee was coming back into session a ripple of surprise ripped through the crowd as the news spread that Obama had left Trinity church on Chicago’s Southside after more than 20 years of worship there. The move comes after months of controversial Jeremiah Wright footage and appearances and a week after a video of a visiting pastor, Rev. Michael Pfleger, surfaced where he mocked Hillary Clinton for being a white elitist who felt entitled to the nomination.
In a press conference with reporters yesterday in Aberdeen, South Dakota, Obama explained his decision:
Well, you know, after the National Press Club episode, as I said, I had a long conversation with Michelle and also had a long conversation with Reverend Moss. We prayed on it and you know, my interest has never been to try to politicize this or put the church in a position where is subject to the same rigors and demands of a presidential campaign. My suspicion at that time, and Michelle, I think, shared this concern, was that it was going to be very difficult to continue our membership there so long as I was running for president. The recent episode with Father Pfleger I think just reinforced that view that we don’t want to have to answer for everything that’s stated in a church. On the other hand, we also don’t want a church subjected to the scrutiny that a presidential campaign legitimately undergoes. I mean, that’s … I don’t want Reverend Moss to have to look over his shoulder and see that his sermon vets or if it’s potentially problematic for my campaign or will attract the fury of a cable program. And so, I have no idea how it will impact my presidential campaign. But I know it’s the right thing to do for the church and for our family.
Some will say this was overdue. Others will accuse him of pandering, like with the flag pins, for the race. But his departure does inoculate him from further videos of Wright or other pastors at Trinity’s pulpit. Obama said he would take his time picking another church and admitted that he didn’t “see this coming” when he first started running for president. “”I did not anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subjected to such…scrutiny.”
I am not going to approach this as a political exercise. This is a deeply personal exercise about trying to express your faith. Now, you know Michelle.. our lives are fairly unsettled right now. We don’t know how this nomination is going to go. We don’t know how the remainder of the election is going to go. I am traveling all the time anyway. So I am gone on Sundays often times. We probably won’t make any firm decision on this until January when we know what our lives are going to be like. In the meantime we will visit other churches. There are a number of churches if we are at home in Chicago that I visited in the past. The important thing is I am not going to approach it with the view of figuring out how to avoid political problems. That’s not the role of church. My — again what I want to do in church is I want to be able to take Michelle and my girls, sit in a pew quietly, hopefully get some nice music, some good reflection, praise God, thank Him for all of the blessings He has given our family, put some money in the collection plate, maybe afterwards go out and grab some brunch, have my girls go to Sunday school. That’s what I am looking for.