By now everyone has seen, or heard, some of the exceedingly provocative clips taken from Dr. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons in which he advocates his Afro-centric black liberation views. Under normal circumstances Wright’s opinions would not much matter to a national audience, since there are a number of black pastors (and for that matter many white liberal pastors) who would agree with him about much of what he says in these sermons. But Jeremiah Wright happened to have been Barack Obama’s pastor and friend for the past twenty years.

Over the last 48 hours this has been the biggest political news story in the American media. I have tried to read and listen to this story quite a bit over the past few days. For some this proves once-and-for-all that Barack Obama is a racist. For others it proves nothing of the kind. One thing is clear here: To objectively confront the implications of Obama’s personal relationship with his pastor is an extremely difficult matter. It calls for both intellectual honesty and a kind of discussion that will be very hard for most Americans to have in the coming weeks or months. And this could all prove fatal to Obama’s campaign.

On the other hand the “race” issue was bound to become an issue in this campaign sooner or later given the long history of this struggle in our country. Cynics will wonder who started all of this but the fact is these videos were available a long time ago? I wonder why they just now became a “big” issue?

I have said this before and will say it again: I am not a fan of Obama’s political views. But I do not have a dog in this hunt. I truly don’t. I think this allows me to listen to this debate and then to try and ask a lot of questions. I try to hear what is being said by both friends and foes of Obama. My interest is that of a Christian observer/minister who cares about the soul of the nation. I care about how we live in the public square. I care about our neighborhoods more than who holds office. And I care about issues like honesty, civility, respect, love and justice far more than the agenda of the two major political parties. (I have also made clear some of the issues that I think are central to the moral fabric of this nation.)

I watched Senator Obama’s interview with Fox reporter Major Garrett very carefully last evening. I have spoken with several who also saw it. It seems that each one of us heard and saw something different. Some believe Obama was covering has back and dodging the questions. They were, in other words, very cynical about what he said and how he said it. I was not cynical at all. I felt he answered the questions quite well. I also feel the political fall-out from this could destroy him in the coming primaries or the general election. Here is what I see, at least to this point in the debate:

1. There is an undeniable close knit 20 year relationship between Dr. Wright and Senator Obama. Pastor Wright married Barack and Michelle, baptized their children, dedicated their new house and has been a personal "sounding board" for him during all this time. One of the offensive sermons was, in point of fact, a message in which Wright attacked Hillary Clinton in order to defend Obama as a black man who has known the hurt of real racism, something Wright says Hillary Clinton can not understand. The title of Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, admittedly comes from a sermon of Jeremiah Wright’s. Book
I also recall that Wright was one of the first people that Obama thanked after his election to the Senate in 2004 in the Illinois general election. Furthermore, Barack Obama clearly consulted Wright before deciding to run for president and prayed privately with him before announcing his candidacy last year. How can he now distance himself from this relationship? He cannot and that it quite obvious. But Obama’s answers showed respect for Wright last evening. He then added that he never heard the strong racially based messages that are being played for the national audience. There certainly is room for more questions here and I expect journalists will, rightly so in this instance, not let go of this story too quickly. If Obama is not letting on about what he actually heard, and how he responded to it when he heard it, this will hurt him very profoundly, perhaps even with many of his black supporters. But white Americans must understand that the level of trust for whites is very, very low in the African-American community. Often this distrust is based on a shared life experience, not simply on reverse racial prejudice.

2. In one sermon the pastor called the United States the number one killer in the world and held the country, and white leaders in particular, responsible for things like the AIDS epidemic, 9-11, Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and apartheid, the Palestinian plight, and even the killing of innocents to bring down Castro & Libya. And this was not just one sermon, or one address given at Howard University, but several sermons and in several contexts. I have previously defended Wright for preaching a gospel that speaks of personal faith and the living Christ. He clearly also preaches the social gospel. Most evangelicals do not see how one can preach both messages, especially most white evangelicals. But the question Obama must now face is this: “How do you explain sitting through such incendiary sermons with your family?” (He said last night he did not personally hear these kinds of sermons, as I noted above, and this could make or break him if it is shown that he did hear any of them.) At a minimum we do know that Obama continued having a spiritual relationship with Wright despite such rhetoric, which was known. This is apparently why Obama canceled having Wright give an invocation when he announced that he would run for the presidency in 2007 in Springfield, Illinois. Looking back now it seems that he should have made it clear many months ago that he personally loved Wright but that he was in no way in agreement with this particular kind of message.

3. One of Obama’s strongest appeals has been his good sense of judgment and his ability to unite us as a people. This is both noble and commendable. If people question his judgment for keeping a very close kinship with someone who was asking God to damn America, which Wright says in one of these widely-seen video clips, then how will Obama respond? What will he say when the press, and the GOP, pours on the heat in the coming months? And if he wins election how then can he unite us? These are very hard questions for Senator Obama and will plague him I would guess. I pray he will find grace and wisdom. Again, he may be able to respond well in due time. He shows the ability to speak with candor in very convincing ways.

4. Obama’s candidacy is significantly based on his crossover appeal as the, so-called, agent of real change. That means he had amassed appeal to both Republicans and Independents. Is this appeal fatally compromised by these connections to Jeremiah Wright and his Afro-centric liberation theology? And how can Obama hold on to the “high ground” of being the less divisive candidate while having a very close long-term spiritual relationship with such a radical preacher? Alan Colmes, on The Hannity & Colmes show on Fox, tried to link John McCain to Rod Parsley and John Hagee because McCain has uttered a positive sentence or two about these fairly strong right-wing fundamentalist ministers. The comparison, to me at least, falls flat for one primary reason—McCain has not sought their counsel again and again and they were never helping shape his life for the past twenty years as his pastor.

5. Obama’s fresh appeal to the youngest voters, and the so-called "latte liberals," has been rooted profoundly in his sincerity and honesty, which will now come under withering attack. Dreams_book
This will include a mixture of racism and bad stuff for certain but it will also impact many people are not inherently racists at all. Is Geraldine Ferraro divisive and a racist? I do not think she is at all nor should she be seen this way in light of her comments this week but she was forced out of her alliance with Clinton by a bogus debate about her honesty regarding the role both gender and race play in our nation. So, how does this play out in the bigger picture? Remember, Jeremiah Wright leveled a broadside on “whites” in general and on European culture and people in particular. His comments are very inflammatory. Virtually all who have commented, including most liberal media pundits, have agreed on this point. If the shoe was on the other foot and the pastor was a white racist saying blacks, and their actions, were the cause of God’s judgment on America I have no real doubt the candidate would be driven from the field in a heartbeat.
6. One Obama supporter, writing on a blog spot, gave a pretty objective response to what transpired this week and thus concluded: “Of all the incendiary things one can say about race and society and country where is an Obama supporter or surrogate who now has the moral high ground to accuse the opponent’s surrogates for being divisive? What is disheartening here is that Obama has forever ceded that high ground to Clinton/McCain.” I think this is a good question coming from an Obama supporter. The Senator may be able to explain this in time but he had better be very straightforward or he will be flawed beyond repair.

Having said all of the above my primary concern over the past few days is not really about Obama, Clinton or McCain. I do care about who the next president will be, as a citizen, but I care much more, as a Christian, about what the Church of Jesus Christ is in America. I care with all my soul about its mission of reconciliation and hope. I thus urge you, if you are a Christian, to consider the following:

1. The Church is still one of the most racially divided places in American society. White Christians seem to care very little about addressing this problem and are thus satisfied to proclaim, “This is all about reverse racism and we are not racists. Cross
We may have been in the past but we are now beyond that problem. These radical blacks need to stop their bigotry against us.” This is a classic half-truth but when it presents itself as the whole truth it becomes a dangerous untruth that further divides me/us from my/our black brothers and sisters.

2. I listened to Jeremiah Wright very carefully in the various clips on You Tube. In fact, I watched them several times. There are nuances here that many whites can not and will not try to hear. Some of what he said has the ring of truth to it. And some of it sure sounds like anger and bitterness rooted in pain and frustration. A great deal of it presents a vision of America that will divide us further and does not honor the true greatness of our common national experience. But, and this is important, there is enough truth in what he says to make me uncomfortably sad and broken, thus I pray: "God heal our land."

My mind went back to William Wilberforce this morning. England ended the slave trade and never had the war that we fought. Blacks and whites are not, therefore, divided from each other in the U.K. they way they are in America. It seems that we have never recovered from our past and one wonders how we can begin to repent and move forward? I suggest this must begin in the Church. This is one reason I find so many young Christians want Obama to win since they see hope in the fact that a black man could bring the national healing that we so desperately need.

What grieves me even more is that most conservatives have no capacity to “hear” what Wright said, both the good and the very bad. As a Christian I need to learn to listen in a way that respects and honors people and the truth even if I do like how it is delivered or by whom. When Barack Obama said last night that most of what he heard from Pastor Wright was about family, faith and being a better Christian person in the world I tend to think that he was telling the truth. I have not heard scores of Wright’s sermons but I do not think what we’ve heard in the last few days in these You Tube segments is the normal sermon fare given at Trinity United Church of Christ. (Again, I disagree with a great deal of Wright’s more liberal theology so I am not speaking about agreeing with him on every point at all.)

3. There is a strong tendency in this whole debate to insist that Barack Obama should have left this congregation and his pastor if he was not himself guilty of racism. This is a kind of “guilt by association” theme and it is playing very large right now with white Christians. I simply do not agree with this conclusion. An interested blogger put it this way in a post that I came across on March 14:

As a racist preacher’s daughter, now an adult, I can only say that it is reductive and simplistic to make an association between a member of a church and the pastor. So are you ready to condemn all 10,000 members of Trinity Church of Christ as racist bigots?

People choose to attend churches for reasons that go far beyond the pastor himself. Churches are complex organisms and pastors don’t walk around with big badges saying I’m a racist, I love Louis Farrakhan, etc.; they preach three times in a week and the things they say, especially in such a large congregation are rarely, if ever, heard by everyone. So I think everyone should calm down and realize that Obama is not a bigot because his pastor is and that his decision to remain in this church 20 years isn’t necessarily a bad one.
Thank goodness there were good and generous people in my church, I would hate to have been left with only those who agreed with my Dad.

Those comments speak a lot to my point. I think those who believe Obama should have left Trinity miss a number of important points including the fact that he loved this pastor as an “uncle.” (This was the way he expressed it last night when I watched him.) Jeremiah Wright is the man who led Barack Obama to confess his faith in Christ and then counseled him as a young man. I have had many who counseled me with whom I strongly disagree. Some of them have even made outrageous statements, at least in my view. And some of my friends hold positions, politically and religiously, that are very different from my own. Must I “leave” them to prove that I differ with them?

The whole argument seems to be that you must leave a church because you disagree with the pastor. This is at the heart of a very real problem in conservative churches. We choose our church affiliation based upon complete agreement with the pastor. If we then think he is wrong we must leave. In fact, we expect this to happen and thus multitudes follow this practice and move from church to church. If this is true then I do not understand why white Christians stay under many of the pastors they follow in many of our more conservative churches. The fact is that such a decision is ultimately between them and God. I have sat under pastors who held views that I found very unacceptable but I did not leave the church simply for that reason.

4. I fear for our political future if this kind of debate becomes the center of another election cycle. Who will want to run for office if this continues? I desire to hear an honest debate about the vision these candidates have for America. In our system of government the people decide who will lead them. We are a country of laws. But when this kind of racially charged debate becomes central we are in real danger of more division and potentially more lawlessness. Yes, Wright’s words do create racial division, at least I think they do. But so do the words of Bob Jones IV, John Hagee, Pat Robertson and many others. But responding to Wright’s words in this present inflammatory context can only fan a much bigger flame of hatred and division before a world that is lost and confused. Cooler heads and more Christ-centered hearts need to prevail. I am praying for such and hope that many of you will commit yourselves to this approach in the weeks ahead. What is at stake here is much more than who will be our next president. What is at stake here is the role the Church will really have in an increasingly non-Christian country. Will we be able to speak both justice and mercy to a dying civilization that needs to hear the Word of Christ much more than this kind of rhetorical debate? 

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  1. David Bahnsen March 15, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Barack Obama is a liar and a coward if he continues in this putrid nonsense that he was “unaware” of what his Pastor has said and believed over the years. This lunatic’s folly is the stuff Proverbial wisdom is made of, as in, “don’t have anything to do with it”. I desire to see Christians interact with this man’s hate-filled messages as much as I desire to see us have a serious conversation with the town drunk at a tavern at 2am on a Friday night. Wisdom requires Christians to say and do serious and hard things. I do believe this will be the undoing of this man’s campaign. And what’s more, I think it should be. Only an unfathomable lack of moral clarity could lead to people playing footsie with the likes of this. Obama can only insult the intelligence of the American people for so long. I don’t want any friends that hang alongside people like Jeremiah Wright, and I sure as heck don’t want them as my President.

  2. David Bahnsen March 15, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    If this monster is Barack Obama’s personal spiritual mentor and 20-year friend and confidante and counselor, does that help explain why he is so eager for a coffee chat with the likes of Chavez and Ahmadinejad? Some men, perhaps, just lack the gift of good judgement.

  3. Gene Redlin March 15, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I have sat under some great men of God as Pastors. I have also been part of Churches where I had to get up and leave the fellowship. Particularly when the church I was in embraced Homosexuality in the Pulpit and was neutral on Abortion.
    That Church lost me. If Obama had been discerning it should have lost him. It didn’t.
    Every pastor I have ever embraced as Obama apparently embraces Wright are pastors that to this day I will name the name and say I stood with them in every word they ever preached and taught. I have many tapes and transcripts.
    Dan Rothwell in Fargo, Bob Schmidgall in Naperville and Dr Barry Kolb in LaFox.
    I will stand and say everything they ever said is what I would say because they were fully faithful to the word and Spirit of God.
    That is the problem with Rev Wright. He is not. That he has done some good is not the issue. People in Germany are still thankful to Hitler for the good he did in infrastructure. The problem is Wright inflames and embraces racially divisive views meant to divide.
    For that alone he should be repudiated and Obama and by the way Oprah should have stood and walked out rather than listen to hate and racism.
    You are far too kind to him and see tolerance as a virtue where none exists in this case. See Jesus and pharasies . Tolerance wasn’t part of those discussions.
    You know I love you John, but this is an issue I think we must take a stand on as Christians.
    I did.

  4. Bob Myers March 15, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks John for a balanced analysis. I view myself as a political conservative (but with increasing nuance, and awareness that neither political philosophy is Christ’s) but I am nauseated by the right wing’s reaction to this. You raise important issues that show you are fair minded.
    Obama was led to the faith by this man. That claim has full credibility, and that history may explain a lot. It puts the whole relationship in a very different light. If Obama lacks judgment for attending this church, does that call into question his judgment to become a Christian and be “led to Jesus” by Jeremiah Wright? I don’t think many of your readers would want to go there. Grant that Wright’s views are divisive and irresponsible on some areas, are Christians going to assume that Wright could not have been the human instrument that led Barack to faith?
    I’d be pretty careful about making that kind of judgment. I think I’d sooner play with forked lightning….

  5. Adam S March 15, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Thank you for your thoughts. It is clear that you really have thought about this and not just made a knee-jerk reaction. What many white Evangelicals do not have a concept of is the history of the African American church and the large amount of racism that has held both the church and the community down. Also, there is a sense of forgiveness that is apart of the African American church that is much stronger than in the White Evangelical church. There are some negative consequences of this. Many African American pastors that I know have children that are wayward. Many have strained relationships with their spouses. On the other hand many I know have given everything to their ministry (they maxed out their credit cards to pay for church expenses or for rent for a member that was going to be evicted, they families suffered because they were striving after the Lord’s work, etc.) I seriously question the decision making of many African American pastors that I know.
    On the other hand, many White Evangelicals resist the hard parts of the world. They want to ignore a 35 percent graduation rate for African American males from high school, or the fact that 1 in 10 African American males between 20 and 30 are in jail. The rampant corruption of our local government in areas of poverty. There is a reality there that needs to be dealt with.
    An SBC leader recently condemned the recent environmental statement. His main argument was that work on the environment detracted from evangelism and church planting. His contention was that the other stuff was not important to God.
    Wright talks about AIDS, one of the first African American churches in the country to start an AIDS outreach program, because he sees it as part of the church’s mission. I may not agree with everything he is saying, but why are we not spending time condemning the lack of work by the White evangelical church. Both the sins of commission and omission are equally sin.

  6. Gene Redlin March 15, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Bob, that John is fair minded was never in question.
    He is.
    What is in question is the idea that Obama (left or right wing) would embrace a steady track record of racist, divisive, irresponsible preaching and teaching to maintain a too wide divide.
    It doesn’t matter that Obama was led to faith by this man. That’s a good thing. Lots of people are led to Jesus by preachers who lack responsible leadership. In fact the fact that Obama, led to faith by this man and doesn’t recognize the flaws in his divisive rhetoric means he is flawed in discernment and wisdom.
    If YOU sat under such preaching I white or black I suspect you would get up and walk out the door. As you should.
    I don’t fear judgment for this because it is pretty clear this is not a man (Wright) who holds much esteem for the USA as it is today. This helps me understand Michelle Obama’s quote regarding “for the first time in my LIFE I am proud of this country”.
    Disunity in this way is not only unhelpful, it is dangerous and causes problems that we see here in Illinois in a big way.
    The test of how many souls has he led to Jesus is moot if in his discipling there are deep wounds drawn that are unhealed. I believe that’s what we see in Obama.
    I see shades of a Jim Jones and other despots in all this. At the least are some stupid comments made from the pulpit over the years by John Hagee and Pat Robertson on his Program. What needs to happen is that when these comments are made people rise up and repudiate them. Seems to me that with Pat and John that happens pretty regularly.
    Where is the outrage about the kind of God Damn America venom coming from Wright?
    We must not let this pass, right or left wing. Obama is backing away. He shouldn’t have stayed the first time he heard this kind of thing if he is the fair minded wise man he hopes many believe he is. At the very least as a person of stature he should have gone directly to the Pastor and said, ” I heard what you said, I believe there is a problem with it”. He has not said, and I doubt that conversation ever took place. I suspect he heard what Rev Wright said without question.
    That is bad news. You probably have, I certainly have heard things suspect from Ministers I love, I have always been quick to question and even in a couple cases rebuke them.
    That is your responsibility. Read 1 Corinthians 14. Obama didn’t know that verse evidently.

  7. David Bahnsen March 15, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Amen, Gene. Your post echoes my thoughts across the board. Excessive charity to a man of this kind of malignant gas is dangerous.

  8. David L. Bahnsen March 15, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Read Victor Davis Hanson’s extraordinary word on this travesty.

  9. Anthony March 15, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    “What grieves me even more is that most conservatives have no capacity to “hear” what Wright said, both the good and the very bad. As a Christian I need to learn to listen in a way that respects and honors people and the truth even if I do like how it is delivered or by whom.”
    Mr. Armstrong – Thanks for a good article and particularly the above statement you made. When I was a grad student at Wheaton College, I remember a slogan on campus was “All truth is God’s truth.” which was made popular by former Wheaton Prof. Arthur Holmes. I imagine that this quote has stuck with me over the years because it expresses a sentiment that is close to my heart. Your post in many ways captures this sentiment as well, insofar as it refuses to come to easy conclusions about this current Obama brouhaha, as well as the problems regarding race in America.
    Recently, I was struck by the narrative of Jesus standing before Pilate declaring “My kingdom is not of this world”. One implication of this statement is that the categories the world uses to process experience and sort the truth are not going to align with Jesus’ kingdom. This, being the case, however, I all too often find many of my brothers and sisters in Christ allowing their thinking, particularly their political thinking, to be held by the polarizing options this world offers.
    The Church would much more effectively proclaim the hope of the resurrected Christ, and the reality of his kingdom, if it didn’t get so bogged down in the culture wars. In order to do this, we, as you say, must learn to really listen, and after we have listened, we must pray, reflect and ultimately discern the truth, which requires that we must ourselves be disentangled from the manifold ways the world ensnares us.

  10. David Bahnsen March 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I am glad people are so concerned to “really listen” to what a racist murder-condoning madman has to say. Truly, that is the need of the hour – for Christians to better “listen” to a immoral fruitcake like Jeremiah Wright.
    My suggestion is that we quit “listening” to piranhas like this, and try practicing a potent Christianity. I am stunned at what I am reading on this board.

  11. Jim H. March 16, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    The very fact that Obama has based so much of his campaign on him being a voice of reason, and someone who is above it all, makes this all the more troubling.
    Recalling the accusations of racism against Republican candidates who only visited Bob Jones University demonstrates the huge double standard here.
    Pardon me if I don’t feel guilty about not hearing the nuances of Wright’s hateful rhetoric.
    It defies logic for Obama to weasel out of this by claiming he never heard any of the hate. Chances are that in his long personal relationship, he heard much more than Wright ever said from the pulpit.
    If the Democrats are foolish enough to nominate Obama he will be justifiably exposed as a coward and a hypocrite. McCain will win in a landslide.

  12. Adam S March 17, 2008 at 5:41 am

    As a brother in Christ we need to remember that Wright deserves our love and respect because of his position in Christ, even if you disagree with his views. And if you don’t believe he is a Christian you are still commanded to pray for your enemies. So if you really consider his views those of an enemy, then start praying that the Holy Spirit will change them.

  13. Gene Redlin March 17, 2008 at 10:34 am

    The question you raise is a good one. IS Rev Wright a brother in Christ? I don’t know that. This is not about theological differences regarding vestments or practices. This is about a man who overtly propagates hateful attitudes among a people who are victimized by his teachings.
    This has happened before and the church left it along because they “deserve our love and respect because of his position in Christ”.
    In the early part of the last century the KKK was all over the state of Indiana burning crosses, murdering people, hating Catholics and spreading hate. Were they our brothers who deserved love and respect? Or the John Birch Society. They professed to be Christians just as Jeremiah Wright does. They used the Bible. They framed their hate in Biblical stories and metaphors. They were not brothers in Christ. They were deluded hate mongers.
    How is it that because of the color of his skin we give Wright a pass? What about the men and women who need hope and a future but are held in a victim position by preaching that it’s all whitey’s fault: Aids, 9-11 and the one that’s amazing, We knew about Pearl Harbor.
    My concern is that as Christians we have become fuzzy in our thinking and squishy in our disernment. We have somehow become so tolerant because of the demands in being a man pleaser we have lost our capacity to be discerning. BIBLE: The fear of man is a snare. It still is. This is why we end up with a spirit of calling evil good and good evil. There is no relativity on things that are clear. Hate is pretty clear.
    The test for me is this, IS the man speaking (as a leader) saying what God says? If not, he is to be disregarded. That includes me. Am I saying what God says? Not quoting the Bible, I mean saying what God would say. If it doesn’t stand the scrutiny and screen of the Word of God, it’s false. Having listened to and read much of what Rev Wright said that has been called into question leaves me with little doubt of who he really is.
    We can pray for him, but the damage he does remains. This is pure and simple hate mongering.
    The problem in this whole disucssion is this, do we as Christians have a spiritual compass that always points north, or do we try to fit in, compromise, reach across the aisle and lose our soul.
    It’s time to call Jerimiah Wright what he is. A racist Bigot that should be denounced as we should have denounced the KKK 100 years ago.
    Time to learn from history.

  14. George C March 17, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Your general attitude of charity and humility is probably more of why I read your blog than any other aspect. I genuinely appreciate your insights and learn quite a
    bit, but I would probably find something else to read if it was not for what I learn from example (even if only in writing). I in all honesty appreciate what you
    do here and have to offer.
    Obviously from comments I have made on your blog, I do not agree with you on some points. I have no problem with that. Both of us have blind spots and it is entirely possible that either or both of us is wrong in any particular case. How we disagree
    is probably as, if not more, important than the actually getting things right part.
    I write this both for your own encouragement and to make it clear to other comment readers here that nothing I am writing comes in any sort of antagonistic spirit towards you.
    That said, in reading some of the various things you have written dealing with racism issues, I wonder if your views are not somewhat tainted by both a degree of
    white guilt and a view that is more shaped by past memories of another time or very specific locales rather than than present reality and the overall view of most Americans.
    There is no denying that hateful racism exist in the US. As long as there are differences between people there will alway be those who find those differences (no matter how irrelevant) to be enough of a reason to hate. As the world becomes increasingly
    smaller I believe this sort of racism will be forced to die that death it should. At the very least it will probablt become much more of a minority view through social pressure.
    I have spent a lot of time among predominantly black communities and while the makeup of my present collection of friends is mostly whites, I have people that I
    call my aunts and uncles that are black. (I am Scandinavian on my dad’s side and Celtic on my mom’s. It’s obviously that we are not blood relatives.) I do also have
    a biologically related nephew who’s father is black.
    My experience is that most people that I know are in a way racistwhether they themselves are white or black.
    By racist, I mean that they act very differently towards a person based only upon the color of their skin
    and in most cases give preferential treatment to blacks.
    White racists I know tend to suffer from white guilt and therefore make concesions for blacks that they would not make for fellow whites.
    Black racist I know tend to subscribe to an assumption of powerlessness and
    The way that both Obama and Wright are being treated by some shows both these types of racism.
    I do not believe that a white man would receive half the “understanding” that both these men are wrongfully getting and that people are demanding that they get.
    There is also quite a different response to critisism from fellow blacks as there is from whites.
    If we want racism to be a nonissue let’s just treat these men like men.
    Mr. Wright is a racist, period. Based on that fact alone he needs our prayers and deserve our disassociation and contempt. What he is teaching is shameful and should receive church discipline.
    Yes, there is probably some things that we could all learn from his sermons, but there is much to be learned from reading Nitchze. Both should be listened to in the same light though, as men who are confused and whose opinions are very tainted by bitterness and hatered.
    I believe Obama is clearly trying to cover his butt and is a coward. His only honest outs were to either:
    1- Claim that he either doesn’t really pay much attention to the sermons. A lot of congregants can honestly say this.
    2- Claim that he has never heard those particular sermons. He’s out of town a lot and quite busy, I am sure.
    3- To denounce those views, but to claim that while that is a negative aspect of that church’s life, there are positive aspects that out weigh them and keep him there.
    4- Admit that he is a closet racist.
    What he has done is tried to weasel out of it. Quite political of him. Doesn’t mean he is any worse than any of the other candidates or past president, but it is still shameful.
    I do not agree with everything that is preached at my church’s Sunday services, but I am in dialog with the men that preach about those disagreements and there is much more to church’s lifer than the sermons.
    If questioned as Obama was, I would have to state my specific disagreements. If the level of disagreement I hold was of the kind that I hold with Mr. Wright’s views, then either Mr.wright would have to recant, I would have to be convinced that I was wrong, or one of us would be meeting elsewhere.

  15. Adam S March 17, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Gene Redlin, no one that I know in Chicago would seriously question Rev. Wright’s Christianity. Those are the people that interact with him on a daily basis. I honestly can’t think of a single pastor, Black or White, that knows the man, and I know many that do know him fairly well, question his Christianity.
    My second point in the controversial one. And if this is going to start a flame war please just disregard it. But virtually all African American that I know and most serious scholars of racism (both in theology and sociology) have a definition of racism that says that only those in power can be racist. I am not going to justify the view. I am just pointing it out.

  16. Muslims Against Sharia March 17, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Muslims Against Sharia call on Senators McCain and Obama to cut all ties with their racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic supporters.
    McCain: http://muslimsagainstsharia.blogspot.com/2008/03/mccains-spiritual-guide-destroy-islam.html
    Obama: http://muslimsagainstsharia.blogspot.com/2008/03/racist-congregation-cheering-racist.html

  17. Phil Wyman March 17, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks John for a clear yet complex post to a difficult situation. This tears at the heart of our nation, and I can see by the posts here that it tears at the heart of the church as well.
    This reminds me of Jesus words about the keeping of the tithe. People were tithing from the mint in their garden, but forgot the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faith. And of course in the matters of justice and mercy we should remember that mercy rejoices over judgment. May we learn to apply mercy in our judgments.
    Grace and Peace to you John.

  18. Nick Morgan March 19, 2008 at 11:48 am

    John, Thanks for taking the risk to write a very thoughful and considerate post about a very delicate and explosive situation like race relations in the American Church. I agree with most of what you wrote, however I believe George C. made some very accurate points as well. Yes, calling Dr. Wright names and assuming the worst about his motives is dangerous and divisive itself. However, as a minister of the Gospel, he was very irresponsible in making the types of immflammatory statements he made. I’m sure he has been, in many ways, a positive influence in Senator Obama’s spiritual life. However, if I had a pastor who made such imflammatory statements about Blacks in America, he and I would have a serious talk! (probably more like a shouting match) Having worked in an older and very racially divided midwest city for the past 17 years, I have heard many of these same condemnations and “conspiracy theories” by African american co-workers and colleagues; and some of them are pastors in their own churches. This saddens and grieves me deeply! In my line of work, I have access to enormous amount of credible data that explains how the Twin Towers fell and why on 9-11. I lost people I knew in that tragedy, and have even more friends who lost friends, family members, and lifelong colleagues in that disaster. It is objectively provable that those towers fell because of the damage done by the aircraft collisions and resulting fires!!! To anyone interested, check with the New York Fire Dept. or the book “Building Construction for the Fire Service” 4th ed. by Francis Brannigan and John Corbet. This is just an example of how carried away people get with these conspiracy theories and then are not honest and responsible enough to check them out before proclaiming them from the “pulpit” as “God’s truth”. Much racial healing desperately needs to happen in the Church in America. All I can hope and pray is that statements and sermons like Dr. Wright’s might cause all of us, black or white, who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, to really get honest with ourselves about what we really believe. Especially as it relates to other people who are different from us. You are correct in pointing out, John, that at the root, this is essentially a “spiritual” issue, not mainly a political one. May God in His grace and mercy grant healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation among brothers and sisters in Christ in our country, especially among us of European and African descent. God bless!

  19. midniteangel April 1, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    I just do not understand how anyone could possibly think this man is capable of leading this nation. He must be the only person on earth with a muslim name that claims he is not muslim or believes in the islam faith. He has said enough times what he thinks of whites in his books and threw his grandmother under a bus during the I WASN’T THERE speech. His wife made herself clear as well. What is it going to take to convince people there is no way he should be president? Why do people keep making all kinds of excuses for him? There are red flags flying all over the place and people are blinded.

  20. Peter Deprogram April 23, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    “He must be the only person on earth with a Muslim name who claims he is not Muslim”… BWA HA HA. “Hussein”, in particular, is a very common name in most of the world. Just because one person with that name got a lot of bad press here in the US doesn’t mean we should be afraid of it. And yes, we liberals need to stop being defensive about his middle name: if we’re going to be hearing it for four years, then it is quite reasonable to bring it up. I attended a liberal college where the professors were teaching that “people of color cannot be racist” because they don’t have power, so I am familiar with that problem. I am willing to bet that if you called Rev Wright racist to his face, that is how he would respond, and that’s part of his problem: tell a racist that he can’t be racist because of his race, and he’ll believe the racist lie, and proceed to be more racist than ever before. Barack Obama called his pastor’s controversial statements “wrong and divisive”. That’s pretty tough talk, isn’t it? I do have trouble relating to his assertion that we all have, at one time or another, heard things from the pulpit that we violently disagree with, and I’m not sure why he didn’t take his business elsewhere. But his grandmother analogy was supposed to get the idea across that Rev Wright is someone who he is kind of stuck with. None of the videos of Rev Wright show Obama present. I agree with Rev Wright on one thing: the World Trade Center bombing was payback for what we have been doing to other folks for years. I realize that statement is controversial, but it is what I believe.

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