Rev. Wright vs. Rev. Right

The argument was inevitable: If Barack Obama is being held responsible for the views of his preacher, shouldn’t Republicans be held responsible for the views of all of those right wing white preachers who support them and who can sound (especially to secularists) just as whacky? See E. J. Dionne Jr. – Fair Play for False Prophets – washingtonpost.com. Is there a moral equivalence here? How would you answer this argument, or can it be answered?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Kathy

    A person has to be MY preacher to whom I have been a loyal listener before I can be linked to him in any way … right?

  • Kathy

    A person has to be MY preacher to whom I have been a loyal listener before I can be linked to him in any way … right?

  • Carl Vehse

    B. Hussein Obama is not being held responsible for the views of his preacher, but for his own close personal association and friendship with Wright for over twenty years . McCain has no similar association with a pastor like Wright.

    Dionne and the religious liberals he quotes are blowing smoke, trying to divert the public’s attention about Obama’s previous statement concerning the religious views of small-town Pennsylvanians, as well as Obama’s questionable ability to pick personal friends who express such racist views and hatred of America, and not just being wacky.

    Now if we can just focus public attention to Obama’s long-time desire to maintain close associations with known advocates of murder-by-abortion.

  • Carl Vehse

    B. Hussein Obama is not being held responsible for the views of his preacher, but for his own close personal association and friendship with Wright for over twenty years . McCain has no similar association with a pastor like Wright.

    Dionne and the religious liberals he quotes are blowing smoke, trying to divert the public’s attention about Obama’s previous statement concerning the religious views of small-town Pennsylvanians, as well as Obama’s questionable ability to pick personal friends who express such racist views and hatred of America, and not just being wacky.

    Now if we can just focus public attention to Obama’s long-time desire to maintain close associations with known advocates of murder-by-abortion.

  • http://www.parentalrights.org Rich Shipe

    There is a big difference between someone who supports you and your personal pastor of 20 years who you have described as your mentor.

    Another big difference is that it is actually Democrats, rather than the GOP, who are driving the issue. If this had come out after the nomination than the press would have circled the wagons around Obama and we would just being hearing about it from Rush and the blogosphere.

  • http://www.parentalrights.org Rich Shipe

    There is a big difference between someone who supports you and your personal pastor of 20 years who you have described as your mentor.

    Another big difference is that it is actually Democrats, rather than the GOP, who are driving the issue. If this had come out after the nomination than the press would have circled the wagons around Obama and we would just being hearing about it from Rush and the blogosphere.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I don’t doubt that, if the personal beliefs and views of any candidate’s individual supporters were to be examined–including those of a confessional Lutheran–heads would spin on all sides. If the secular world knew that I believed I was eating and drinking Christ’s very body and blood at communion, or that I believed in a 6-day creation, and I’d be voting for McCain, they’d conclude McCain’s ‘followers’ included certifiable nuts.
    Besides, the notion that we’re holding Obama responsible for Wright is wrong and irrelevant (like carl vehse said). We’re holding Obama responsible for not only his 20-year CLOSE association with Wright and his church’s theology (because we dare to presume that as a member of a church body, you subscribe to its teachings), and now he’s equally responsible for the unbelievability of his convenient outrage.
    He’s responsible, in other words, for looking disloyal and dishonest.
    I can’t help be reminded of other peoples in other times and places, who knew nothing and saw nothing, then were likewise made uncomfortable when they ‘learned’ what they ‘learned.’

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I don’t doubt that, if the personal beliefs and views of any candidate’s individual supporters were to be examined–including those of a confessional Lutheran–heads would spin on all sides. If the secular world knew that I believed I was eating and drinking Christ’s very body and blood at communion, or that I believed in a 6-day creation, and I’d be voting for McCain, they’d conclude McCain’s ‘followers’ included certifiable nuts.
    Besides, the notion that we’re holding Obama responsible for Wright is wrong and irrelevant (like carl vehse said). We’re holding Obama responsible for not only his 20-year CLOSE association with Wright and his church’s theology (because we dare to presume that as a member of a church body, you subscribe to its teachings), and now he’s equally responsible for the unbelievability of his convenient outrage.
    He’s responsible, in other words, for looking disloyal and dishonest.
    I can’t help be reminded of other peoples in other times and places, who knew nothing and saw nothing, then were likewise made uncomfortable when they ‘learned’ what they ‘learned.’

  • Bror Erickson

    E.J. Dione Jr, has showed hismelf to be no religious scholar. I’m sure the catalogue of white and right-wing false prphets go way further back than 1980. And I don’t thinkg the guy he quoted at the 1980 southern Baptist convention was trying to be anti-semitic in saying the prayers of a jew are not heard by God. (I’m fairly sure he didn’t mean the prayers are not heard by those of the Jewish race, but those of the Jewish faith, and was possibly a call to evangelism, which in the Christians mind is the most loveing thing a person can do.)
    I think though he may be on to some things here. My initial thought is that the media actually seems to give the left and black more of a pass in ignoring them. But then why give the white and right-wing what they want which is plublicity. Of course the incidents he cited were ones in which Falwell and Robertson also backed off fairly quickly. Has Rev. Wright backed down?
    I think with a qquick review of Falweells carreer i could have come up with some more damaging eviodnces than this. Mabe Dionne is calling the kettle black.

  • Bror Erickson

    E.J. Dione Jr, has showed hismelf to be no religious scholar. I’m sure the catalogue of white and right-wing false prphets go way further back than 1980. And I don’t thinkg the guy he quoted at the 1980 southern Baptist convention was trying to be anti-semitic in saying the prayers of a jew are not heard by God. (I’m fairly sure he didn’t mean the prayers are not heard by those of the Jewish race, but those of the Jewish faith, and was possibly a call to evangelism, which in the Christians mind is the most loveing thing a person can do.)
    I think though he may be on to some things here. My initial thought is that the media actually seems to give the left and black more of a pass in ignoring them. But then why give the white and right-wing what they want which is plublicity. Of course the incidents he cited were ones in which Falwell and Robertson also backed off fairly quickly. Has Rev. Wright backed down?
    I think with a qquick review of Falweells carreer i could have come up with some more damaging eviodnces than this. Mabe Dionne is calling the kettle black.

  • Don S

    Any rational person can easily see that there is no parallel between John Hagee’s endorsement of McCain, for example, and Obama’s choice to sit under the ministry of Rev. Wright for 20 years. The nonanalogousness of these circumstances are well brought forth in the thread above. But this is a tried and true liberal tactic — attempt to divert attention from their own difficulties by trying to draw some parallel to show that conservatives do the same thing. They know that the fawning media will buy their spin hook, line, and sinker. E. J. Dionne is as “fawning” as the media gets.

    In that vein, it is funny how serious the liberals are this cycle about “focusing on the issues”, and getting away from that personal politics of looking into the past of a candidate. Quite a different approach than they took in 2004, when Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service was an obsession of the left for months, so much so that they were willing to fabricate documents to further the controversy. This was after he had already served a term as President and there were all kinds of ideas and policies of his that we could have been busy studying!

    Liberal hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  • Don S

    Any rational person can easily see that there is no parallel between John Hagee’s endorsement of McCain, for example, and Obama’s choice to sit under the ministry of Rev. Wright for 20 years. The nonanalogousness of these circumstances are well brought forth in the thread above. But this is a tried and true liberal tactic — attempt to divert attention from their own difficulties by trying to draw some parallel to show that conservatives do the same thing. They know that the fawning media will buy their spin hook, line, and sinker. E. J. Dionne is as “fawning” as the media gets.

    In that vein, it is funny how serious the liberals are this cycle about “focusing on the issues”, and getting away from that personal politics of looking into the past of a candidate. Quite a different approach than they took in 2004, when Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service was an obsession of the left for months, so much so that they were willing to fabricate documents to further the controversy. This was after he had already served a term as President and there were all kinds of ideas and policies of his that we could have been busy studying!

    Liberal hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  • S. Bauer

    I think Dionne reveals his true agenda in the conclusion of the article. He simply wants religious voices (and prophets) silenced in the public square:

    None of this absolves Wright. Allen Dwight Callahan, one of the nation’s leading African American scripture scholars, argued on the Web site of PBS’s “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” that “prophets of old didn’t announce their prophetic prerogatives at press conferences and press clubs” and that Wright “is wrong to wrap his recent media attention in the mantle of the prophetic tradition.”

    Exactly right. Now the question is whether we will be just as tough on false prophets who happen to be white and right-wing.

    To me, Allen Wright Callahan’s statement is a complete anachronistic absurdity. The reason that the prophets did not use press conferences to proclaim the “Word of the Lord” may have more to do with the fact that press conferences didn’t exist then rather than that they must not have been interested in publicizing their message to the society at large. In fact, the prophets used any means within their grasp to get people’s attention and “spread the Word.”

    At the same time, I am willing to cut Obama just as much slack as I cut “conservative” candidates who cozy up to white preachers who say stupid things. John McCain told “right-wing” evangelicals a little of the truth back in 2000 at Bob Jones University. This time around he makes nice with them.

  • S. Bauer

    I think Dionne reveals his true agenda in the conclusion of the article. He simply wants religious voices (and prophets) silenced in the public square:

    None of this absolves Wright. Allen Dwight Callahan, one of the nation’s leading African American scripture scholars, argued on the Web site of PBS’s “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” that “prophets of old didn’t announce their prophetic prerogatives at press conferences and press clubs” and that Wright “is wrong to wrap his recent media attention in the mantle of the prophetic tradition.”

    Exactly right. Now the question is whether we will be just as tough on false prophets who happen to be white and right-wing.

    To me, Allen Wright Callahan’s statement is a complete anachronistic absurdity. The reason that the prophets did not use press conferences to proclaim the “Word of the Lord” may have more to do with the fact that press conferences didn’t exist then rather than that they must not have been interested in publicizing their message to the society at large. In fact, the prophets used any means within their grasp to get people’s attention and “spread the Word.”

    At the same time, I am willing to cut Obama just as much slack as I cut “conservative” candidates who cozy up to white preachers who say stupid things. John McCain told “right-wing” evangelicals a little of the truth back in 2000 at Bob Jones University. This time around he makes nice with them.

  • The Jones

    I refuse to be impressed with the media furor suddenly besieging Obama. Hasn’t this always been how politics works? Media follows “the story” and “the story” isn’t always (and rarely is) what’s relevant to a presidential election. Like 2004, and 2000, the most important election issue for 2008 appears to be BS.

    Huckabee got played up for his creation beliefs, John Edwards most famous appropriation in his senate career was his haircut, Hillary Clinton is “a hag,” and John McCain is old. And they just found out that Obama has a crazy pastor. Whoop de doo.

    I’m guessing the reason that conservative crazies don’t have to answer for themselves is because those stories are either “nothing new” or the general public (read: viewers) have some sympathies with them, so they are less inclined to get outraged.

  • The Jones

    I refuse to be impressed with the media furor suddenly besieging Obama. Hasn’t this always been how politics works? Media follows “the story” and “the story” isn’t always (and rarely is) what’s relevant to a presidential election. Like 2004, and 2000, the most important election issue for 2008 appears to be BS.

    Huckabee got played up for his creation beliefs, John Edwards most famous appropriation in his senate career was his haircut, Hillary Clinton is “a hag,” and John McCain is old. And they just found out that Obama has a crazy pastor. Whoop de doo.

    I’m guessing the reason that conservative crazies don’t have to answer for themselves is because those stories are either “nothing new” or the general public (read: viewers) have some sympathies with them, so they are less inclined to get outraged.

  • fw

    To answer the good Dr.Veith´s important question:

    My interest in the souls of these people completely trumps my disappointment at what is wierd about these people.

    I will therefore not publicly enter into speculation about the faith of public figures or it´s authenticity. Interesting that the most conservative republican presidents belonged to the most liberal denominations were divorced, and their wives practiced astrology ardently (reagan…). Democratic presidents have belonged to southern baptists and such. So what? I cannot really see how delving into any of this could serve the purpose of the Holy Gospel and I could see how it could be a distraction from our sacred mission to witness to Christ´s death.

    I tire of explaining that Falwell and Dr Dobson et all do not represent christianity as I know it. Ditto for liberal episcopalians. Ditto at times even for some views voiced here and in the LCMS. Yet I remain here and in the LCMS. Ok. I have my reasons. They have to do with my Jesus.

    Most non-Lutherans are not affiliated with a church because of doctrinal agreement as even one of their top priorities.

    This assumption however would not compell me to believe that his account of how his connection to Trinity UCC lead him to the foot of the cross was phony or simply expedient. The Word and Sacraments still work through the means of flawed individuals. I thank God for that daily! I put my faith in that believing Christ´s promise here.

    One additional thought… so we are going to decide who is president based on the man or woman’s relation to their pastor? okayyyyy I would not do that with McCain or Clinton OR Obama… Don´t hear alot about McCain or Clinton´s pastors in any case, for whatever reason…….

  • fw

    To answer the good Dr.Veith´s important question:

    My interest in the souls of these people completely trumps my disappointment at what is wierd about these people.

    I will therefore not publicly enter into speculation about the faith of public figures or it´s authenticity. Interesting that the most conservative republican presidents belonged to the most liberal denominations were divorced, and their wives practiced astrology ardently (reagan…). Democratic presidents have belonged to southern baptists and such. So what? I cannot really see how delving into any of this could serve the purpose of the Holy Gospel and I could see how it could be a distraction from our sacred mission to witness to Christ´s death.

    I tire of explaining that Falwell and Dr Dobson et all do not represent christianity as I know it. Ditto for liberal episcopalians. Ditto at times even for some views voiced here and in the LCMS. Yet I remain here and in the LCMS. Ok. I have my reasons. They have to do with my Jesus.

    Most non-Lutherans are not affiliated with a church because of doctrinal agreement as even one of their top priorities.

    This assumption however would not compell me to believe that his account of how his connection to Trinity UCC lead him to the foot of the cross was phony or simply expedient. The Word and Sacraments still work through the means of flawed individuals. I thank God for that daily! I put my faith in that believing Christ´s promise here.

    One additional thought… so we are going to decide who is president based on the man or woman’s relation to their pastor? okayyyyy I would not do that with McCain or Clinton OR Obama… Don´t hear alot about McCain or Clinton´s pastors in any case, for whatever reason…….

  • Don S

    Frank, your statement “most non-Lutherans are not affiliated with a church because of doctrinal agreement as even one of their top priorities” means what? I will agree with it if you mean by that the entire group of the world’s population that is non-Lutheran (some 5.99998 billion people). On the other hand, if you are saying that most non-Lutheran evangelical Christians do not prioritize doctrinal agreement with their church, I must disagree strongly. It is true that nominal relativistic Christians don’t care strongly about particular doctrine (like, is the Bible really true and inerrant?). But the rest of us do, even though we are not Lutheran.

    Of course, the United Church of Christ has no conventional Christian doctrine, because it does not hold to absolute truth. Based on his statements about his faith, and the doctrinal statements of Trinity UCC, it would seem likely that Barack is a “Christian” only in the most nominal sense of the word.

  • Don S

    Frank, your statement “most non-Lutherans are not affiliated with a church because of doctrinal agreement as even one of their top priorities” means what? I will agree with it if you mean by that the entire group of the world’s population that is non-Lutheran (some 5.99998 billion people). On the other hand, if you are saying that most non-Lutheran evangelical Christians do not prioritize doctrinal agreement with their church, I must disagree strongly. It is true that nominal relativistic Christians don’t care strongly about particular doctrine (like, is the Bible really true and inerrant?). But the rest of us do, even though we are not Lutheran.

    Of course, the United Church of Christ has no conventional Christian doctrine, because it does not hold to absolute truth. Based on his statements about his faith, and the doctrinal statements of Trinity UCC, it would seem likely that Barack is a “Christian” only in the most nominal sense of the word.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I don’t think media could be any tougher on ‘the false prophets of the right’ than they have been. I don’t see how Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, or many others could be anymore denounced and belittled than they already are, in the polite, erudite, tolerant circles of liberal media.
    But I don’t beat myself up with guilt by association, for the truth that Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, etc., are often on the same political side as I. Doesn’t make us theological fellow-travelers, nor does it do so for McCain or Reagan or Bush.
    The theological fellow-travelers of these men are the people who support their ministries and sit in their pews, like Obama did.
    That distinguishing fact doesn’t seem to sink in to Obama’s defenders, nor to the denouncers of ‘false prophets of the right.’
    That being said, I wonder what media would make of a Lutheran who reveres Dr. Martin Luther, known himself to have said ‘unkind’ (but not necessarily false) things about other Christians, other faiths, and the powers-that-were.
    No, I don’t wonder. I know full well.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I don’t think media could be any tougher on ‘the false prophets of the right’ than they have been. I don’t see how Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, or many others could be anymore denounced and belittled than they already are, in the polite, erudite, tolerant circles of liberal media.
    But I don’t beat myself up with guilt by association, for the truth that Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, etc., are often on the same political side as I. Doesn’t make us theological fellow-travelers, nor does it do so for McCain or Reagan or Bush.
    The theological fellow-travelers of these men are the people who support their ministries and sit in their pews, like Obama did.
    That distinguishing fact doesn’t seem to sink in to Obama’s defenders, nor to the denouncers of ‘false prophets of the right.’
    That being said, I wonder what media would make of a Lutheran who reveres Dr. Martin Luther, known himself to have said ‘unkind’ (but not necessarily false) things about other Christians, other faiths, and the powers-that-were.
    No, I don’t wonder. I know full well.

  • LAJ

    Dr. Veith

    Have you brought up the movie “Expelled” yet? It is definitely worth seeing and writing about.

  • LAJ

    Dr. Veith

    Have you brought up the movie “Expelled” yet? It is definitely worth seeing and writing about.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Haven’t seen it yet, LAJ, though I want to. Maybe I’ll blog about it before I do, asking for reactions.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Haven’t seen it yet, LAJ, though I want to. Maybe I’ll blog about it before I do, asking for reactions.

  • RhetoricProf

    There is an element to this whole “relationship business” to which we need to attend very closely. It’s not just about hateful things Obama’s pastor says. It’s about the “Alinsky method” and those who practice it; it’s about the “Chicago connection.”

    We need to connect a few dots here, friends! Barak Obama was mentored by hard left activists in Chicago who, changing from (but not repenting of) violence, to the methods advocated by Saul Alinsky, have taken the revolution underground and wish to try and change the whole system to fit their radical vision! They are not being honest with the American people and are not interested in winning hearts and minds, only getting elected. There is a fundamental stealthiness to their approach to politics that is dishonest (if you value reasoned, honest civic discourse). It’s time to sound the alarm! (Oh my gosh, I’m coming off like a conspiracy nut . . .)

    Really though, David Horowitz’s DiscovertheNetworks.org has a great section on the “Chicago Connection” (PLEASE see the article by Richard Poe). You will learn there that Saul Alinsky was the prophet of change whom the New Left adopted after the failure of their violent tactics. What is the “Alinsky method”? Say whatever you need to say to get power. This is Obama’s playbook. He has a long history of using, and teaching, the method to political organizers. His associates, like William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, are using it to teach social science teachers to make liberal activists of their students (at UI-Chicago) and teaching lawyers from that perspective at Northwestern Law School. Do you know who William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are? You should. And I’ll tell you what they are not: They are not just people who happen to live in Barak’s neighborhood. Obama has ties to them. And to Rev. Wright’s church, which imbibes in a Marxist-inspired black liberation theology. Obama helped organize the “Million Man March.” No, it’s about more than Reverend Wright’s naughty sermons.

    On a lighter, though related note (somewhat,) I have seen “Expelled.” Ben Stein is doing America a great service with this documentary. It is an anti-Michael Moore attempt to engage in the culture war. Well done. Deserves our support, IMO.

  • RhetoricProf

    There is an element to this whole “relationship business” to which we need to attend very closely. It’s not just about hateful things Obama’s pastor says. It’s about the “Alinsky method” and those who practice it; it’s about the “Chicago connection.”

    We need to connect a few dots here, friends! Barak Obama was mentored by hard left activists in Chicago who, changing from (but not repenting of) violence, to the methods advocated by Saul Alinsky, have taken the revolution underground and wish to try and change the whole system to fit their radical vision! They are not being honest with the American people and are not interested in winning hearts and minds, only getting elected. There is a fundamental stealthiness to their approach to politics that is dishonest (if you value reasoned, honest civic discourse). It’s time to sound the alarm! (Oh my gosh, I’m coming off like a conspiracy nut . . .)

    Really though, David Horowitz’s DiscovertheNetworks.org has a great section on the “Chicago Connection” (PLEASE see the article by Richard Poe). You will learn there that Saul Alinsky was the prophet of change whom the New Left adopted after the failure of their violent tactics. What is the “Alinsky method”? Say whatever you need to say to get power. This is Obama’s playbook. He has a long history of using, and teaching, the method to political organizers. His associates, like William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, are using it to teach social science teachers to make liberal activists of their students (at UI-Chicago) and teaching lawyers from that perspective at Northwestern Law School. Do you know who William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are? You should. And I’ll tell you what they are not: They are not just people who happen to live in Barak’s neighborhood. Obama has ties to them. And to Rev. Wright’s church, which imbibes in a Marxist-inspired black liberation theology. Obama helped organize the “Million Man March.” No, it’s about more than Reverend Wright’s naughty sermons.

    On a lighter, though related note (somewhat,) I have seen “Expelled.” Ben Stein is doing America a great service with this documentary. It is an anti-Michael Moore attempt to engage in the culture war. Well done. Deserves our support, IMO.

  • http://boundedirrationality.blogspot.com econ grad stud

    The difference between Obama and McCain is obvious.

    However EJ Dionne didn’t focus on McCain’s personal pastor.

    EJ focused on how the media pays so much attention to Wright and ignores controversial far right preachers.

    That doesn’t pass the smell test. Anyone who’s lived in America can remember when Falwell, Robertson and Haggard were raked over the coals.

    In comparison, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton are quietly ignored or praised.

  • http://boundedirrationality.blogspot.com econ grad stud

    The difference between Obama and McCain is obvious.

    However EJ Dionne didn’t focus on McCain’s personal pastor.

    EJ focused on how the media pays so much attention to Wright and ignores controversial far right preachers.

    That doesn’t pass the smell test. Anyone who’s lived in America can remember when Falwell, Robertson and Haggard were raked over the coals.

    In comparison, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton are quietly ignored or praised.

  • CRB

    Just a word of encouragement to all you lay folks who are McCain supporters: Please discuss with your friends
    and acquaintances why you support him, as pastors cannot be seen to be advocating one candidate over another (certainly not in the pulpit, and probably not a good idea privately, either, at least not with members of his congregation)

  • CRB

    Just a word of encouragement to all you lay folks who are McCain supporters: Please discuss with your friends
    and acquaintances why you support him, as pastors cannot be seen to be advocating one candidate over another (certainly not in the pulpit, and probably not a good idea privately, either, at least not with members of his congregation)


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