Thursday, April 10, 2008

Who Is Rev. Jeremiah Wright?

One of the complaints from Obama supporters about the discussion we've been having regarding the senator's spiritual mentor is that we're judging him based on "just a few soundbites."

"What about the context?" Obama supporters ask, implying that there is some context in which the statement "The government created AIDS to kill black people" would make sense.

Let's assume that the Obama campaign is serious, and that Sen. Obama continues to support Rev. Wright because he knows more about his minister than we do. Is it safe, then, to assume that Sen. Obama knew this:

From Wright and others, Obama learned that part of his problem as an organizer was that he was trying to build a confederation of churches but wasn't showing up in the pews on Sunday. When pastors asked him the inevitable questions about his own spiritual life, Obama would duck them uncomfortably. A Reverend Philips put the problem to him squarely when he learned that Obama didn't attend services. "It might help your mission if you had a church home," he told Obama. "It doesn't matter where, really. What you're asking from pastors requires us to set aside some of our more priestly concerns in favor of prophesy. That requires a good deal of faith on our part. It makes us want to know just where you're getting yours from."

After many lectures like this, Obama decided to take a second look at Wright's church. Older pastors warned him that Trinity was for "Buppies"--black urban professionals--and didn't have enough street cred. But Wright was a former Muslim and black nationalist who had studied at Howard and Chicago, and Trinity's guiding principles--what the church calls the "Black Value System"--included a "Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.'"...

As a result, over the years, Wright became not only Obama's pastor, but his mentor. The title of Obama's recent book, The Audacity of Hope, is based on a sermon by Wright. (It's worth noting, however, that, while Obama's book is a coolheaded appeal for common ground in an age of political polarization, Wright's sermon, "The Audacity to Hope," is a fiery jeremiad about persevering in a world of nuclear arms and racial inequality.)

Rev. Wright's previous incarnation as a Muslim certainly puts his ongoing support for Louis Farrakhan in perspective. And yet again, the typical American--who finds Sen. Obama's continued membership at Trinity UCC indefensible--is told that our concerns are signs of bigotry or racism.

At what point, then, am I allowed to become concerned? As a person who would immediately reject a potential presidential candidate who attended a church of white nationalism, am I really a racist for rejection a parishioner from the church of black nationalism? Do you have to be a bigot to decry the bigotry and anti-Semitism of Sen. Obama's chosen church?

If it turned out Rev. Wright helped organize the Jim Jones Kool-Aid massacre, would racists be the only people criticizing him for it?

This is pure, partisan-driven stupidity by unthinking Obama supporters who are defending in their own candidate what they would denounce from any other.