Obama/Wright: A Pastor is not a community

Barack Obama has made a strong statement of repudiation as regards the extreme sermonizing of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, which has been the subject of much attention, particularly here on the internets.

Spake Obama:

I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.
Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he’s been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

You’ll want to read the whole thing and make up your own mind about it. Jay asks is it enough?.

For some, yes. For me, yes. For others, nothing ever will be enough.

I was in the car today and flipped on Sean Hannity and heard him really carrying on, saying that because Obama “sat in those pews for 20 years,” even if he repudiated Wright it would not be “credible.”

That’s baloney, and as a Catholic, Hannity should know better. We Catholics have more than spent our fair share of time listening to priests with whom we disagree. I don’t know how it is with Protestants – maybe their relationships with their pastors are different from ours (I do have a few Protestant friends whose families seem to shift churches whenever a pastor doesn’t 100% reflect their feelings and opinions) – but as someone who has been sitting in a particular pew for over 20 years, I know that a church is more than a pastor; it’s a community. We can say, “well, this priest or preacher doesn’t agree with me all the way – or even “I am ashamed of this priest” – but the community is my home, I love the people and programs and the worship here, so I stay.”

Is Hannity suggesting that a politician must review a pastor’s sermons each week and run around denouncing and deserting those preachers who might cause him a little bit of political heat? Wouldn’t that be both extreme behavior and a bit dis-crediting?

I think all the “denouncing” and “demanding that denouncements be made” and “denouncing whoever doesn’t denounce” and “disbelieving the denouncing” is beyond absurdist theater – it is an intellectual wasteland of expedient “gotcha-ism” that is utterly shredding our political process.

Things are getting out of hand; and I am concerned that some flames are being recklessly fanned in a way that could be very, very detrimental to the country. It seems some – both on the right and on the left – are looking to help along a perfect storm of politics/religion/race which could wreck more than mere political careers. Rather than being horrified by the prospect, some seem almost giddy with anticipation.

I denounce them.

Wright’s rhetoric is extreme, but it’s just rhetoric. After 9/11 he said “the chickens have come home to roost?” Yeah, well, so did Pat Robertson and – I think -Jimmy Swaggart. Either Ruth or Billy Graham once said “if God doesn’t punish America, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” For that matter, just last Tuesday, completely buying some badly reported nothingburgers from Rome, Jimmy Swaggart’s Wife announced that Pope Benedict XVI was espousing witchcraft.

On her show “Frances and Friends” with Francis Swaggart she was answering listener email…she just announced to the world that Tae kwon do was evil and not a good thing. The second email was “Francis can you please talk about these new “Social Sins the Pope has added?”.

Well, One would think that Frances Swaggart of all people would be careful of how the secular media reports religion and Christianity…However she was off to the races…Francis announced that Pope is talking about sins relating to the Environment and if you threw a wrapper down on the ground you could be damned!!! That the Pope was basically promoting witchcraft and that all this Pagan Mother Earth stuff was coming from the Vatican now. She ended her commentary by going ” Well You Catholics know what your Pope is doing now!!!!”

How is that for ignorant and inflammatory? And a look at – ferinstance – oh, say the September 2006 issue of her magazine suggests this was no mere blip in her radar. That’s from a nice little Christian middle-aged lady, not from an angry black Christian man who has served in the military of a country that has not always done itself proud in matters of race, and his politics originate stage left, rather than stage right.

And don’t kid yourself, “stage” is also an operative word, here. There is a bit of theatricality in all preaching – at least if it is meant to stir.

Rev. Wright is a Christian preacher from the left wing. He’s going to preach to left-wing sensibilities, overfocusing on some of the touchier parts of American history (because every nation and history has its darker moments, and it is stupid to pretend otherwise).

Some Christian preachers on the right do the same in reverse, glossing over issues that perhaps could stand some constructive criticism, and overfocusing on the shinier pages of history.

(The extreme hate-and-madness of the Westboro church goes beyond either example. For all that Wright may piss some off, he is basing a good deal of his stuff on history and perception and his perspective as a black man in America; he is not standing outside of AIDS funerals with signs saying “God hates fags;” he is not out disrupting soldier’s funerals).

I wrote yesterday,

What a way to run an election, or divide a nation. This is using a massive and annihilating cannon to destroy an opponent when something much less destructive could do the trick.

If someone wants to defeat Candidate Obama in this election, there are plenty of ways to do it that don’t involve messing with his church and igniting an issue that can flare into a conflagration uncontrollable. You don’t defeat the candidate by scorching the earth, unless you don’t give a damn about the nation and care only for your own voice, your own sensibilities or your own acquisition of power.

I say let’s get back to talking about real issues – let’s get back to the real game of politics instead of the secondary game of illusion, misdirection and character assassination, which serves more to run out the clock than to move the ball. Let’s stop – for heaven’s sake let us stop – this endless goosing and gotcha-ing which has become a substitute for substance in this horrid election cycle. We all deserve better than this.

I’m sure many will disagree with me – I seem to be out of step with everyone, everywhere, lately – but I really do believe that you don’t destroy a candidate because of his pastor – I think this is a place we don’t want to go.

Rich Lowry read a bit of Obama’s book and again, I don’t see anything so awful. “White folks greed?” You don’t have to be black to say that, if you’re on the left – or even on the right, sometimes. Again – Wright is a preacher of the left. The right may not like his message, but he’s not saying much that most extreme leftists – white or black – would not agree with. Obama, let us remember, is (like Hillary) a guy on the left. The folks on the left are entitled to their preacher’s too.

Richard Miniter says it much better than I do. H/T Instapundit.

Also writing:
Jim Geraghty
Ed Morrissey
Stop the ACLU
Transterrestrial Musings, who also writes here.
Just One Minute
Protein Wisdom
Andrew Sullivan

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  • RoseAnne

    Add me to the list of people disagreeing with you.

    I don’t think religion should be a test of a politician either, but I don’t see Wright’s comments as “religous”. They are hate-filled and bigotted. That’s not my definition of religion.

    How many Christians continued to listen to Robertson and Falwell after they said we deserved the 9/11 attacks? A lot of them did and still do.

    How many people would hear Robertson, Fallwell, etc, at all if they weren’t routinely trotted out by major news organizations as the “religious perspective” on news stories? Not only do I find their views to be offensive, but I am offended that the news organizations think that they represent a Christian viewpoint.

    How did I react? By NOT listening to Fallwell, Robertson, etc AND by not listening to programs that would have them as guests.

    I understand feeling a connection to a church, but, I would not sacrifice the reason I was in the church in the first place – to follow the teachings of God – in order to remain in the good graces of someone like Wright.

  • TheAnchoress


    Never never never let it be said that this site does not give ample hearing and space to those who disagree! :-)

    Okay, I’ve heard/read it all, and I am not saying anyone else is wrong. There are good reasons to be upset about this man and his preacher and all your points are taken.

    Now that I have seen some tape of Obama w/ Major Garrett I am less inclined to give the benefit of a doubt; he was just being Clintonian at that point.

    But I still contend that some of this is misdirection, and that misdirection will continue to be applied until a crown can be scooped up from the gutter…and if cities have to burn for that to happen, well, I suspect the crown-scooper will be fine with that.

    Perhaps part of the problem here is that I have always fundamentally disagreed with the “keep Hillary in the game” idea. She should have been out a few weeks ago. I have always thought Obama would, in the end, be easier to beat – would make huge errors through his own inexperience and his loose-cannon of a wife.

    If this has made Obama unelectable, a dynamic has been changed, and I fear at great cost to our society.

    And I am still very uneasy with the whole church connection.

    But bottom line, everyone’s had their say, valid points have been raised (I would like to think I raised one or two in the process).

    Now, we see where it all leads.

    I think the subject is pretty much exhausted. Thanks for all of your comments – as usual, I have the best and most polite, well-mannered and well-spoken bunch of readers and commenters on the internets, which I find kind of humbling, as I always learn from youse!