WASHINGTON – After a painful controversy about the sometimes bombastic comments made by the former pastor at their longtime church in Chicago, President Barack Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, were treading carefully in choosing a worship community in Washington.
Obama told a round table of religion reporters at the White House July 2 that his family has felt particularly comfortable with the small church community that meets weekly at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland, but that they have not settled on even whether to become affiliated with a particular church in Washington.
The Obamas were longtime members of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Last year, Trinity’s longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, came to national attention as excerpts of some of his sermons spread like wildfire on the Internet.
Internet clips included video footage of Wright espousing the idea that HIV was created by the government as a form of genocide against blacks and that the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were the price the country paid for its actions against other countries.
Obama told the reporters that the experience was “deeply disturbing to us, and it was disappointing to us personally.” He said he and his wife became “very sensitive to the fact that the church we attend can end up being interpreted as speaking for us at all times.”
He also said they’re very conscious that when the Obamas attend any church, every member of the congregation that day has to submit to a Secret Service security screening.
“Unfortunately, I am now very disruptive wherever I go,” he said.
Obama said he misses being a part of a church community, and that he thinks in this second half of the year he and his wife will decide how to approach churchgoing in Washington. “We may choose, rather than to join just one church, to rotate and attend a number of different churches.”
“Obviously that takes away somewhat from the church experience of being part of a community and participating in the life of the church,” he said. “But as I said, we are resigned now to the fact that we change the atmospherics wherever we go, and it may be more sensible for us to get in and out on any given Sunday and not try to create blockades around places where we attend.”
In the meantime, Obama said Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and a former associate pastor at a Massachusetts Pentecostal church, provides him with a daily devotional, delivered to his personal BlackBerry electronic organizer.
Obama said DuBois started the service during a rough spot during the presidential campaign.
“And it was just such a wonderful practice that we’ve continued it ever since,” he said. “So every morning I get something to reflect on, which I very much appreciate.”