My morning Chicago suburban paper, The Daily Herald, has a front page story titled: "Misplaced Scrutiny: Suburban Black Clergy Speak." It includes interviews with five African American ministers in my region commenting on the present Wright-Obama controversy. It is safe to say that four of the five ministers clearly see Jeremiah Wright’s comments this last week as over-the-edge and inflammatory. But is is also safe to say they understand the reasons for this very differently than most white Christians. What was helpful to me was reading how serious Christian leaders in the black community understand and now process this national controversy.

1. They believe that the media is using Wright to unfairly attack Obama. They see, in most cases, that there is a "subtle" institutional racism in this response. Terms like "political posturing and propaganda applied unfairly to a candidate" jump out at me from the interview.

2. They further believe that Jeremiah Wright has done a great deal of good and almost none of that matters to the media at all. One man said, "I know his church. I know his work." (His point was that it was a very good work and that it had done a great deal of good for thousands of people, a point I have made from the outset.) Another added, "Without the election there wouldn’t be much controversy."

3. They do believe, universally among the five men, that racism is still a major issue in America in ways that whites do not. Says one minister: "I think there is a tenor of racism, and the country is struggling with how it relates to African American leaders."

4. Barack Obama is clearly hurt by this discussion, maybe even significantly. Said one, "I believe Obama has been placed in a no-win position, and I believe he’s answering questions that would not be asked of a candidate of a different hue, so to speak." Added another brother, "No other candidate, pastor or religious adviser has been given the same scrutiny. Giuliani was not asked about his conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. Romney was not attacked about the beliefs of his church. McCain was not attacked for Falwell’s stand on gays."

It is this last comment that I most profoundly agree with as I read the interview. One minister, when asked how his flock sees all of this, answered: "We know Rev. Wright to be a champion of social justice issues and it’s just untimely for those efforts of his to be overshadowed." Another added, "Yes, we are very politically astute and involved, but it does not dominate our worship experience." The same brother concluded: "The word of God and the need to save souls, care for the needy, help those Jesus called ‘the least of these’ is far greater than the media frenzy of this debate." Amen!

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  1. Gene Redlin May 2, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Is it possible that this whole thing is about an agenda of maintaining the theology of Black Liberation and the Election of Obama would weaken this agenda. This isn’t original with me, Mike Huckabee said it. He understands a great deal about building a giant Christian empire based on an agenda.
    Mike Said:
    “”The Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s anti-American comments and racially charged remarks demonstrate that Wright does not want Obama to prove that the country’s race relations have progressed, said Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas.
    “Jeremiah Wright needs for Obama to lose so he can justify his anger, his hostile bitterness against the United States of America,” Huckabee said.””
    I reviewed Matthew 7:15-23 carefully again today. I wonder where Jeremiah Wright fits into that spectrum in spite of all the good works he and his church have done.

  2. Jack Isaacson May 3, 2008 at 6:56 am

    McCain was not attacked for Falwell’s stand on gays.”
    I didn’t know that McCain went to church in Lynchburg,VA? He probably would have left if he had.

  3. Mike F. May 4, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I agree with much said by the men quoted in the interview. However, is it really accurate to say that Romney was not attacked for his religious beliefs? The media ran endless stories about people who refused to vote for Romney primarily because he is a Mormon. Why did Romney feel compelled to issue a major statement, much like Obama, addressing this issue? There were also many stories about evangelical Republicans who don’t like Guiliani precisely because he is in conflict with Catholic teaching on abortion and other moral matters. And why would McCain get scrutiny for his pastors and religious advisers when he doesn’t seem to be very actively involved in the church? I think it is Obama’s long and close association and friendship with Wright that explains part of the scrutiny (but not necessarily all of it).

  4. Brandon May 4, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    This thoughtful guy has said this for awhile about Wright – coming from a african american perspective
    that he(wright) does not reflect the average “black” man or woman

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