Another Perspective

Obama’s Gospel of Envy

Missing the point about Pfleger's guest appearance.

By 6.16.08

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Like losers in a shell game, most of us got snookered into looking under the wrong nutshell in regards to the inflammatory and racist sermon that was delivered by Rev. Michael Pfleger during his guest appearance in May at Barack Obama's church in Chicago.

The media focused the spotlight on what Pfleger, a visiting Catholic priest, said about Hillary Clinton from the pulpit at Trinity United Church of Christ, prompting Obama to end his 20-plus year association with the church.

"When Hillary was crying and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on," proclaimed Pfleger, feigning tears and waving a hanky and generating uproarious laughter from the congregation . "I really believe that she just always thought 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white. And this is mine! And I just gotta get up and step into the plate.' And then out of nowhere came, 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,' and she said 'Oh Damn! Where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!' She wasn't the only one crying. There was a whole lotta white people crying."

What might be more significant than this mocking of Hillary Clinton, more significant in terms of perhaps predicting the economic goals of an Obama presidency, is what Pfleger said about collective white guilt and white people's trust funds and 401k retirement funds.

After being introduced by Rev. Otis Moss, Trinity's new pastor, as "a prophetic, powerful pulpiteer," a "preacher par excellence," Pfleger began his sermon by telling his adoring audience how to address someone who doesn't buy the idea of collective racial guilt, someone who says, "Well, don't hold me responsible for what my ancestors did."

Pfleger's answer to that person of insufficient guilt and inadequate color, delivered in an increasingly breathless and crazed voice to an applauding congregation : "But you have enjoyed the benefits of what your ancestors did and unless you are ready to give up the benefits, throw away your 401 fund, throw away your trust fund, throw away all the money you put into the company you walked into because yo' daddy and yo' granddaddy and yo' great granddaddy, unless you're willing to give up the benefits, then you must be responsible for what was done in your generation, 'cause you are the beneficiary of this insurance policy!"

You're guilty, in other words, unless you give up your money.

ANGER, OR ENVY, about trust funds seems to be a big thing with the Trinity crowd. Michelle Obama, for instance, bellyached regularly during her stump speech in the primaries: "You're looking at a young couple that's just a few years out of debt. See, because we went to those good schools and we didn't have trust funds. I'm still waiting for Barack's trust fund. Especially after I heard that Dick Cheney was s'posed to be a relative or something. Give us something here!"

Note: Pfleger's aforementioned sermon is best appreciated on video, available on You Tube's "Priest Michael Pfleger Campaigns for Obama at Trinity United."

Pfleger's relationship with Obama spans decades, with the money flowing in both directions. The Chicago Tribune reports that Pfleger has given money to Obama's campaigns and Obama as a state legislator directed more than $225,000 of taxpayers' money to Pfleger's church.

"In April 2004, Barack Obama told a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times that he had three spiritual mentors or counselors: Jeremiah Wright, James Meeks and Father Michael Pfleger," writes Christopher Hitchens, adding that "the national civil rights pulpit is largely occupied by second-rate shakedown artists who hope to franchise 'race talk' into a fat living for themselves."

Sen. Obama recently spelled out the outlines of his economic policy, a program that Rev. Pfleger might well call the first steps of a "faith-based" prescription to confiscate more of the money of the truly guilty.

For starters, Obama promises to nearly double the tax on capital gains and dividends, from the current 15 percent to 28 percent, repeal the Bush tax cuts for upper-income households, maintain a 45 percent "death tax" on upper-level estates, increase taxes on the "windfall profits" of oil companies, raise taxes on businesses by "closing corporate tax loopholes," and increase the amount of income that will be subject to payroll taxes.

That's a program that's more about the Gospel of Envy than job creation or finding oil.

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About the Author
Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise and an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.