Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why Rev. Wright's Comments Do Not Disqualify Senator Obama


Attention has recently focused on the incendiary comments of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's pastor at Trinity for many years. In the clips -- shown repeatedly on the news and on web sites -- Rev. Wright expresses contempt and rage at rich whites who he believes control the country and at the U.S. itself. He also praises Obama as the only candidate who knows what it is like to be black in America. Predictably, questions about Senator Obama's own racial views and his own patriotism have arisen in the wake of these clips. Some talking heads have suggested, in fact, that his affiliation with a person who expressed such offensive sentiments, apparently on more than one occasion, may disqualify him from seeking office. Such claims are foolish. And if we all pause to consider them for a moment, their patent absurdity will become inescapable.

Barack Obama is a grownup, not a naive child who clings only to people who are perfect and who view the world exactly as he does. As he expresses more poignantly and eloquently than I could ever hope to do, he attended the church that he did for so many years because it was a place where he found a loving, nurturing, and kind community. It was a place where the pastor expressed religious faith in a manner that resonated with Obama's inner world; it was a place where the pastor emphasized the importance of serving the poor and of helping the sick. It was and is, as Obama describes it, a typical black church on the south-side of Chicago.

In that church worship rich and poor, welfare moms and doctors, A students and former gang-bangers. And significantly, in that church worship people of different generations -- those who grew up in the 1950's and '60's and view race relations with pessimism and bitterness, and those who grew up in the generations that followed, many of whom were able to seize opportunities of which their parents and grandparents could never have dared dream. Barack Obama is not cynical or bitter or hateful, but he understands and loves many people who are all of those things, among blacks and among whites, and that understanding is his strength, not his weakness.Barack Obama was a classmate of mine at Harvard Law School. I don't know that he could pick me out of a lineup, but I remember him well, and I remember him fondly. No matter how heated the political debates that took place in our classroom -- about race, about rape, about crime -- he always spoke with wisdom, humility, and calm resolve. He was an adult, even in his 20's, when most of us were still quite happily ensconced in the narcissism of extended adolescence. He was self-confident but not arrogant, and he did not strike me or anyone in the class as angry, dismissive, or bigoted in any way. Indeed, though his views on issues were never a secret, everyone respected Barack Obama, because he listened to what his classmates had to say -- even when what they had to say was radically and fundamentally at odds with his view of the world.

All of us now have or have in the past had people whom we have loved but who made remarks that we found alienating and offensive. Some people even marry individuals whose political views are diametrically opposed to their own. And the people we love -- often those who are much older than we are -- look at the world and see a very different place from what we see. Such people sometimes embarrass us by expressing ideas that we find repugnant. And yet other times, they fill us with pride and remind us of why we have stood by them. We can appreciate what such people offer us in friendship, mentoring, community, and connection, without signing onto every speech they give. For Barack Obama, one such person is undoubtedly Rev. Wright. Much of what he said inspired Obama as a Christian, and he offered a congregation of people whom Obama views as his church family. He officiated at Obama's wedding and baptized Obama's children.

Obama has not insulated himself from angry people or from bigotry. He has instead striven to find the good in everyone he has known, and he has overlooked people's imperfections and identified their strengths. Far from disqualifying Barack Obama from the office of President of the United States, this makes him all the more appealing. I am not sure whether I have as much faith in the American people as Barack Obama does. One test of that faith, however, will emerge as the country decides how to handle the fact that our most talented, inspiring, intelligent, and wise candidate for office has a place in his heart for an imperfect pastor.

Posted by Sherry Colb

28 comments:

Garth Sullivan said...

i thought it was an amazing speech that will go down in history.

i can't recall a politician in my lifetime ever attempting anything like it while occupying such a high profile.

it was a gamble that i think will pay dividends.

egarber said...

Good post Prof.

The big takeaway for me today was that just when he could have gone into conventional damage control mode, Obama was himself (or at least I believe it was truly him): he took on a complex issue head on and rose above it, but not in a condescending way. He was honest and real -- and he told America exactly what it needed to hear. In a way, he had a difficult conversation with us, yet he managed to not pit us against each other, no easy feat when it comes to race.

And I dare say, he looked mighty presidential.

egarber said...

Thinking about this more, I think there's another more general matter embedded within the Wright "controversy" and Obama's handling of it.

For people in general, where is the moral line for choosing associations? For Barack, his larger experience easily created enough common purpose to make his association with Wright and the church desirable, notwithstanding the comments Obama has clearly denounced.

What about person X who believes in the gospel of Jesus yet opposes his church's position on gay clergyman? Does he have to leave the church, or is the common interest enough to keep the bond?

Or how about the military? -- is a military career hypocritical for somebody who opposes the policy on homosexuals?

Should I keep my 8-year old out of cub scouts because of BSA v Dale -- even though the character / confidence building is exactly what he needs, and the pack's environmental awareness is a family value for us?

Can Prof Dorf ever represent a food company that distributes both vegetarian and beef products, given his vegan lifestyle?

Borrowing Prof Colb's point about Barack -- where his looking for the good in people makes him MORE appealing as a candidate -- does that dynamic also make average folks more rounded when they make similar choices?

Ok, I'm rambling, but you get the point. I know there aren't any easy answers for much of this. But I think that if anything, the Obama episode teaches us that the world isn't perfect when it comes to moral alignment; if all of our associations were required to sync up 100% on that count, we pretty much wouldn't have any.

PS: anybody bold enough to pick Cornell over Stanford? :)

Tam said...

Obama's speech has all the characteristics that one wishes weren't so noticeably absent from contemporary American public life: authenticity, empathy, relevance, intelligence, honesty. To say nothing of the speaker's eloquence and delivery, the speech easily ranks among the most important of this generation by virtue of its substance alone.

It would be a huge missed opportunity not to elect him.

Sobek said...

Well first of all, he said before the speech that he wasn't in church for the incendiary comments, and said in the speech that of course he heard controversial statements. No, he actually hedged on that: he said he heard things that "might be considered" controversial. Because claiming that white people invented AIDS to kill black people may or may not be controversial, right?

Second, Wright's statements don't disqualify Obama in any technical sense, of course, just as David Duke's membership in the Klan didn't technically bar him from elected office. It is to Obama's credit that he now (equivocally) repudiates Wright's views, but the fact is he went to this church for 20 years, donated thousands of dollars to it, and as Prof. Colb said, Wright's faith "resonated with Obama's inner world." But although I credit Obama with the extremely belated repudiation, I just don't believe he's telling the truth. He knew this man for 20 years, knew about Wright's insane conspiracy theories, disinvited Wright from speaking at events, and he's just now finding out that Wright's race-bating just might not go over so well with demonized white voters? Please. He's lying, or he's at a GWB level of stupidity.

"Barack Obama is a grownup, not a naive child who clings only to people who are perfect and who view the world exactly as he does."

But when conservatives take donations from or campaign at Bob Jones University (for example), they are roundly condemned for it.

Additionally, this is not an isolated case. Michelle Obama was proud of her country in her adult life, until her husband started campaigning. Obama's staffers notoriously fly flags and wear shirts featuring mass murderer Che Guevara. Obama is good friends with terrorists Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. He has the Black Panther endorsement proudly displayed on his web page.

At some point, we can start to judge a man's character by those with whom he associates, yes?

"...it was a place where the pastor emphasized the importance of serving the poor and of helping the sick."

It was also a place where his pastor was practically dancing behind his pulpit after terrorists murdered 3,000 Americans in cold blood. How many meals do you have to hand out to undo the damage from that kind of hatred?

"All of us now have or have in the past had people whom we have loved but who made remarks that we found alienating and offensive."

Have all of us donated thousands of dollars to such people? Hired them on our political campaigns to represent us to the American people? Fired them as soon as we started getting blowback from their virulent race-hatred? I haven't.

Egarber said: "...notwithstanding the comments Obama has clearly denounced."

Obama didn't clearly denounce anything. He says Wright made some statements that he denounces, but which ones?

egarber said...

But when conservatives take donations from or campaign at Bob Jones University (for example), they are roundly condemned for it.

Actually, what happens is that the candidate is asked if he agrees with certain statements made by the donating party; once there is clarity, the issue goes away. McCain faced scrutiny after the Hagee (who has blasted the catholic faith over the years) endorsement for all of five minutes, I think.

I think Huckabee said it well today on MSNBC:

"[Obama] made the point, and I think it's a valid one, that you can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do. You just can't. Whether it's me, whether it's Obama...anybody else.......Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Reverend Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say "Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that."

"And one other thing I think we've gotta remember. As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say "That's a terrible statement!"...I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack -- and I'm gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who's gonna say something like this, but I'm just tellin' you -- we've gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told "you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can't sit out there with everyone else. There's a separate waiting room in the doctor's office. Here's where you sit on the bus..." And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me."

egarber said...

Obama didn't clearly denounce anything. He says Wright made some statements that he denounces, but which ones?

He was on Fox Friday with Major G -- and he was very clear that he denounced everything in the clips that were circulating. His comments yesterday also clearly applied to that collection / context.

egarber said...

Have all of us donated thousands of dollars to such people? Hired them on our political campaigns to represent us to the American people? Fired them as soon as we started getting blowback from their virulent race-hatred? I haven't.

The fact that Wright was removed from his post represents a correction on the political side of Obama's life. And sure, I’ll admit Barack should have realized that earlier. But the bigger point of his speech and Prof Colb’s post is that in a candidate’s personal experience, he can’t – and shouldn’t – apply those types of zero tolerance filters. Like Barack says, people represent their experiences, the good and the bad.

At some point, we can start to judge a man's character by those with whom he associates, yes?

On some level, of course. But at the same time, some “associations” are mere acquaintances, no matter how much political opponents try to create the perception of intimate ties. And any fair assessment would have to examine ALL associations, if the goal is to somehow use them to project a person’s values. Even there, it’s of fairly limited use, imo.

The core question for me comes back to this:

“Like Barack says, people represent their experiences, the good and the bad.”

So as voters, we simply have to ask ourselves: What kind of whole person have Obama’s experiences helped create? In my view, he’s (for once) a candidate who has seen first hand both sides of what ails our nation in racial matters. And in a way, he sits above it – with a view that is ultra-unique in a presidential candidate. That’s a QUALIFICATION, not a liability.

Of course, if you think he’s lying when he says he disagrees with certain incendiary comments, there’s not much further to say. *I* think he’s being truthful, maybe more honestly truthful than any candidate in a long time.

Sobek said...

Egarber, I agree with much of what you say, especially that people don't need zero-tolerance filters when choosing their friends. I don't even disagree much with Prof. Colb's post -- no, you can't automatically ascribe one person's views to another simply by virtue of the association between the two people. All fair enough.

"...once there is clarity, the issue goes away."

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. And if I could take Obama at his word here, then it would be a totally dead issue for me. But it's not just a casual acquiantance, it's Obama's spiritual advisor for the past 20 years and a member of his campaign. And it's not just one person, it's his wife, it's his friends Dohrn and Ayers, it's the dude in the Che shirt, it's the proudly-displayed Black Panthers endorsement, etc. The former two (pastor and wife) can't be written off as mere acquaintances, and the latter two suggest the kinds of political bedfellows with whom he is comfortable lying down.

So as I said before, I appreciate that Obama now denounces some of Wright's hate speech, but I have no confidence in his sincerity.

"Of course, if you think he’s lying when he says he disagrees with certain incendiary comments, there’s not much further to say."

As far as that goes, no. But I can present evidence for why I think he's less than honest here, just as I think Sen. Byrd's use of the word "nigger" after being elected to the Senate is proof that he's lying when he says he no longer has any sympathy for the Klan.

If I were to run for public office (which I won't), and it came out that my pastor of 20 years/staffer is a white supremacist (he isn't), that my wife has never been proud of this country (she is), that I associate with people whose sole regret is not having set off more bombs (I do not), that my staffers wear shirts with pictures of Hitler on them (they wouldn't), and that my web site includes an endorsement by a neo-Nazi group (it wouldn't), how much credence would you give me when I went on camera (only after a huge scandal erupted, and not before) and said I disagree with what my pastor said? Would you shrug, explain how impressed you are that I've been able to rise above racial politics, be impressed that I have a place in my heart for flawed people?

Sobek said...

One more point.

egarber: "a candidate who has seen first hand both sides of what ails our nation in racial matters. And in a way, he sits above it..."

Barack Obama: "But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now."

Obama criticized his own grandmother's "racist" fear of young black men on the streets, then said that everyone who thinks like her is prejudiced (inlcuding, presumably, Jesse Jackson). In what sense is Obama sitting above race issues?

egarber said...

If I were to run for public office (which I won't), and it came out that my pastor of 20 years/staffer is a white supremacist (he isn't), that my wife has never been proud of this country (she is), that I associate with people whose sole regret is not having set off more bombs (I do not), that my staffers wear shirts with pictures of Hitler on them (they wouldn't), and that my web site includes an endorsement by a neo-Nazi group (it wouldn't), how much credence would you give me when I went on camera (only after a huge scandal erupted, and not before) and said I disagree with what my pastor said? Would you shrug, explain how impressed you are that I've been able to rise above racial politics, be impressed that I have a place in my heart for flawed people?

First off, if Obama is in any way associated with radical folks in your equivalent categories, he should be vetted. The fact that the wider associations haven’t bubbled up indicate to me that these are over/mis statements.

As to the “racial” classifications, I’m gonna have to give you an answer conservatives don’t like: It’s simply different when it’s white supremacy / nazism compared to minority backlash. If Michelle Obama or reverend Wright (coming to be in an oppressed generation) know a much different and far uglier history than a dorky white guy like me, who am I to say anger and disappointment are the “wrong” mental states for them?

White supremacy takes on a different flavor; it dangles a harsh reminder of history in front of us -- of actual and brutal oppression. So whereas anger, suspicion, and even shame of country on some level are understandable in the mind of a black American, there simply is no such room to agree with a white supremacist’s sentiments. Put another way (loosely), to a white supremicast, the modern day represents a fall from eden; to a black person, the country still hasn't reached it's true promise.

So in the end, it’s just not the same comparison, imo.

Now, moving a little off-topic, whenever I say that to conservative friends, they’ll typically reply with something like, “fine. I get it. But that’s no reason to hold *me* accountable for that oppression just because I’m white. And I see racism as racism, period.”

Yesterday, Obama acknowledged this concern – and he didn’t dismiss it the way some do who have chosen a side in the race battle. He basically said that black people need to listen when white folks say that, and they shouldn’t trash the argument out of hand. I think that reflects Obama’s unique experience.

egarber said...

Obama criticized his own grandmother's "racist" fear of young black men on the streets, then said that everyone who thinks like her is prejudiced (inlcuding, presumably, Jesse Jackson). In what sense is Obama sitting above race issues?

I mean that he has seen how race plays out in different life contexts -- and that he thinks we need to have an enlightened conversation about it. I don't equate being "above it" with ignoring or simplifying it; it's more like a good constitutional lawyer who weighs all the inputs vs. being blinded by one frame.

Sobek said...

"First off, if Obama is in any way associated with radical folks in your equivalent categories, he should be vetted."

The Black Panthers aren't a redical organization? A pastor who danced around on stage after 9/11 and who thinks the CIA invented AIDS to kill black people isn't a radical? Ayers and Dorhn aren't radicals?

"...who am I to say anger and disappointment are the 'wrong' mental states for them?"

Advocating the murder of white folks (per the Black Panthers) is "anger and disappointment"? Blowing up government offices (per the Weathermen) is "anger and disappointment"? Lunatic conspiracy theories about AIDS are "anger and disappointment"? I'm sorry, but we seem to have a serious disconnect about how the right adjectives for open advocacy of murder and terrorism.

You next argue that white supremacism is qualitatively different from black supremacism. Even assuming arguendo that to be the case (I disagree; racism is racism), one cannot make that case and still pretend to be above the racial divide.

"I mean that he has seen how race plays out in different life contexts -- and that he thinks we need to have an enlightened conversation about it."

I don't think that makes Obama unique or even unusual. And taking him at his word, Obama apparently thinks "enlightened conversation" means scolding his own grandmother and all like-minded people.

Sobek said...

Garth Sullivan said: "i can't recall a politician in my lifetime ever attempting anything like it while occupying such a high profile."

How about the "tear down this wall" speech?

egarber said...

Sobek,

I'm pretty sure the New Black Panthers page was taken down (or will be), but more importantly for this conversation, it was part of a public forum not controlled by the campaign (as I understand it). If true, then it's a ridiculous stretch to call that a "relationship" with Obama.

As to Ayers and Dorhn, I think they're just basically Illinois constituent now. Obama crossed paths with Ayers serving on boards and meeting about community issues from time to time -- how does this equate to Obama supporting terrorism and violence?

These efforts to make Obama come across as "radical" seem manufactured -- Swift Boat-like -- to me. But again, let's vet it in the media with facts and reason.

In any case, I'm obviously not advocating violence when I speak of understandable anger and disappointment in the black community. You know that dude.

Sobek said...

"I'm pretty sure the New Black Panthers page was taken down (or will be)..."

It has been, and now that I've done more digging it looks like you are right, that it was posted on a forum by the Black Panthers themselves, rather than anyone in Obama's camp. So I stand corrected.

The Ayers connection, while hardly iron-clad, is highlighted by the fact that Obama apparently went to Ayers' and Dohrn's home to discuss the beginning of his public career, as late as 1995. That seems a little more intimate and personal than just accepting a campaign donation or serving together on a board by mere coincidence. To answer your question more directly, none of that equates to Obama supporting terrorism and violence. It does suggest who Obama's philosophical peers are, especially in light of statements by his wife and pastor. One piece does not make a puzzle, but we're talking about accumulating pieces.

"But again, let's vet it in the media with facts and reason."

I don't trust the media to vet anything with facts and reason. I trust reporters to display the natural human tendency, common to every human being on this earth, to view things through the lenses of their personal biases.

"In any case, I'm obviously not advocating violence when I speak of understandable anger and disappointment in the black community. You know that dude."

I know you aren't advocating it. I'm saying that all the examples I've cited can't really be minimized in the way you have done. I won't even say Obama advocates violence. To his credit, he specifically denounced the use of violence by the Weather Underground. He just tends to hang out with people who say some crazy and offensive things.

egarber said...

I don't trust the media to vet anything with facts and reason. I trust reporters to display the natural human tendency, common to every human being on this earth, to view things through the lenses of their personal biases.

I disagree here. I think journalists can separate the two and see that their role is to be a professional -- the same way it's possible for a good lawyer to faithfully represent any client. Don't get me wrong, not all folks in the trade ARE professional; however, there are a number of good journalists out there.


He just tends to hang out with people who say some crazy and offensive things.

But really, do we think the off-beat acquaintance is the norm for his intimate associations? I mean, he's also hung around a bunch of constitutional lawyers, almost all of whom say his intellect is unique and fair. If anything, to me this background simply reflects his unique experience living across multiple divides -- race, culture, trade, etc. Overall, I think that background is a good thing and a qualification that works in his favor.

And I simply don't think there's any reason to characterize his wife as a radical. In the end, she's super smart and fully capable -- regardless of how she does on empty "patriotism" tests. She's a concerned mother (among other things) who wants to see improvements in overall conditions.

Let me ask a sincere question -- not in the hot partisan / rhetorical sense, but because I'm sincerely curious:

Does a conservative see any difference (the way I do) between the type of anger that comes from the victim side of racial oppression, vs. that stemmng from the former oppressOR side? In other words, isn't it understandable on some level that an older black minister -- with his direct and family history of being oppressed -- might be angry about the state of things in the country? None of this excuses extreme statements, but I do think it justifies allowing some latitude, and it creates context. There's no equivalent justification for a white supremacist.

Wright's AIDS comments are certainly outrageous, but I saw that in one poll 35-40% of black Americans believe it could be true. So even there, Wright's statements reflect something prevalent in the black community (not that I'm assuming it's monolithic). This is why I think Obama's speech marks such a great opportunity to finally start an honest discussion.

I always hear my conservatives friends say, "but that's the past -- they've got to get over it". But really, unless Rush Limbaugh, et al have been in those shoes, how can they speak with any authority on those complex identity issues? Without deeper reconciliation, you simply can't just declare "colorblindess" as the new way to think.

I read just today a post written by a white woman, who says she's now MORE likely to vote for Obama. The reason: he basically told the black community in his speech to not assume she's a racist just because she says she worries about crime downtown. She now feels empowered, because maybe, just maybe, a hole was blasted through the dividing wall.

Again, we know where we both stand, so I have no intention of yelling back and forth with you (I've got plenty of other "associations" for that :) ) -- I'm just interested in the answer.

And Prof Dorf, sorry for blog-hogging with all the length.

Thanks.

Sobek said...

"Does a conservative see any difference ... between the type of anger that comes from the victim side of racial oppression, vs. that stemmng from the former oppressOR side?"

I do. Even so far as wondering if the word "anger" really applies to a white supremacist -- it's more like hatred, which seems to me a different thing.

"None of this excuses extreme statements..."

We agree.

"...but I do think it justifies allowing some latitude, and it creates context."

Maybe you can define "some latitude" for me. And I also think that Rev. Wright is doing more than just using extreme words, he's picking at a scab so that it can't heal. I'm not advocating ignorance of the past, I'm suggesting that building a career on past injustices gives a person strong financial incentive to make sure past injustices are never remedied.

"Without deeper reconciliation..."

That's another term I'd like to see defined, as well as some discussion of what you think would cause that deeper reconciliation.

egarber said...

I'm suggesting that building a career on past injustices gives a person strong financial incentive to make sure past injustices are never remedied.

If you were to sit down with black Americans who lived through rev Wright's generation and suggest this, you'd get a look of intense and painful disbelief. And even if you're right about Wright's motives (I disagree with that characterization), it doesn't explain the fact that his anger is a reflection of opinion in the larger black community.

Really, any sincere assessment would examine his whole career.

This was from a Kristof op-ed yesterday:

"Many well-meaning Americans perceive Mr. Wright as fundamentally a hate-monger who preaches antagonism toward whites. But those who know his church say that is an unrecognizable caricature: He is a complex figure and sometimes a reckless speaker, but one of his central messages is not anti-white hostility but black self-reliance.

“The big thing for Wright is hope,” said Martin Marty, one of America’s foremost theologians, who has known the Rev. Wright for 35 years and attended many of his services. “You hear ‘hope, hope, hope.’ Lots of ordinary people are there, and they’re there not to blast the whites. They’re there to get hope.”

Professor Marty said that as a white person, he sticks out in the largely black congregation but is always greeted with warmth and hospitality. “It’s not anti-white,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who’s white who walks out of there not feeling affirmed.”
"

Is this not evidence that Obama is sincere when he says he sees more in the man than what's been shown over and over in :30 clips?

That's another term I'd like to see defined, as well as some discussion of what you think would cause that deeper reconciliation.

Good question. For a short answer, I'd say it means that black and white Americans come to a respectful understanding that there are equally valid perspectives from each side of the current divide -- and that it doesn't have to be a zero sum game of gains / losses when views are different.

And there's an irony in all of this. I think if people really and honestly see what Obama is saying, they'll see that in many ways, he's making an argument I've heard through the years from conservative friends. For example, Obama says that when a white woman feels uneasy upon seeing a black man walking down the street, it's not fair to assume she's a racist; you simply have to acknowledge that good people have had the stereotype imprinted on their thinking.

Well, that's very similar to what I hear from conservative friends when they say, "I'm tired of being called a racist every time I make a comment about urban crime or say I don't want my wife downtown by herself."

Whereas other more polarized leaders might equate the above sentiment with racism, Obama understands that white frustration. I think it's sincere, and I think it's because of his unique background, having personally lived across the racial divide.

Sobek said...

"Is this not evidence that Obama is sincere..."

Evidence, yes. Convincing, not so much. On the one hand, we have purely anecdotal evidence from one person, as filtered through Nick Kristoff. On the other hand, you have :30 second clips of Wright saying outrageous things. I concede that a :30 second clip can be used to take things out of context. But I will also submit that (a) the more :30 second clips, the more likely that they represent a significant undercurrent (if not a major theme), and (b) at least one of those clips -- the post-9/11 speech -- was not out of context at all. Wright was positively luxuriating in describing how evil America is (conveniently omitting the evil acts of our enemies that brought military responses), before his now-famous "Americans chickens ... have come home ... to roost!" (complete with delighted dance).

At the time he was busy revelling in the blood of innocent people, it was widely believed that tens of thousands of people had been killed in the WTC attacks. Firefighters were still sifting through the ashes looking for their fallen friends.

And today I read reports that, according to Wright, a "basis for Trinity's philosophies is the work of James Cone," founder of black liberation theology, who famously stated that the U.S. is a white racist nation, and the "white church" is the Antichrist. Cone pointed to Obama's church as the institution that most embodies his message.

egarber said...

And today I read reports that, according to Wright, a "basis for Trinity's philosophies is the work of James Cone," founder of black liberation theology, who famously stated that the U.S. is a white racist nation, and the "white church" is the Antichrist. Cone pointed to Obama's church as the institution that most embodies his message.

Well, the first item that tempers your assessment is the fact that the UCC denomination is overwhelmingly white. On pure logic, if white churches are the "anti-christ", it's mighty odd that the Chicago church is a proud member of the larger -- overwhelmingly WHITE -- denomination.

As to the evolving caricature
in the rightward part of the media, it's funny how the opinions of the actual churchgoers don't seem to mean anything. If you broaden your search, you'll see and hear actual church members express outrage and general confusion about how their church is being characterized.

Yes, there's a loose black liberation basis at the core, but from what I'm reading, it's laughable to call it radical. Judges, lawyers, and professors frequent the church. And you can't just throw out what Martin Marty (the Kristof source) says about it. He's extremely respected as an expert in theology and has said point blank that Trinity is within the mainstream of black church practice.

The national conversation about Trinity is in dire need of some perspective.

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