Politics

Obama’s ‘Wright Problem’ Escalates

If his former pastor doesn’t believe Barack Obama, why should voters?  In a speech yesterday at the National Press Club, Rev. Jeremiah Wright indicated – for the second time – that he doesn’t take Obama’s criticisms of his anti-American rhetoric seriously. 

When Obama denounced Wright’s inflammatory comments (“God damn America” and “US of KK A” most notably), Wright said Obama was only “saying what a politician had to say.”

“If Obama didn’t say what he said, he would never get elected,” Wright added.

During a Friday interview with Bill Moyers, Wright said he and Obama both say what they must to do their jobs.

“He says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. Those are two different worlds. I do what I do. He does what politicians do,” said Wright.

Wright maintained that the public outcry against the controversial remarks recorded in his sermons were not an attack on him, but on all American black churches. He also said he was not a “spiritual mentor” to Obama – simply a pastor. Wright obviously believes that he still is Obama’s pastor although Obama characterizes the relationship in the past tense. Who is right? 

Wright said now an “honest dialogue about race in this country” will begin because of Obama’s willingness to take it on.

Obama did not address the issue squarely until forced to justify his relationship with Wright, his pastor at Trinity United Church in Chicago, for over 20 years. In a speech several weeks ago, Obama denounced Wright’s comments but justified them by saying that America didn’t really know Wright. Obama’s connection to the pastor runs deep, as he titled his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after a sermon Wright gave. Wright also baptized Obama and his children as well as performing the marriage ceremony of Michelle and Barack Obama.

To several standing ovations and a mostly black crowd that delivered several “Amens” during the Press Club event, Wright’s remarks were based on his view of America’s (and Europe’s) history of slavery. He said that because America has never “confessed the sin of racism”, the black church continues the fight for equality and justice.

He suggested that much of America holds “faulty assumptions” about social order. He noted a theory of Dr. William Augustus Jones, which says a person’s theology (“how I see God”) determines one’s anthropology (“how I see humans”) and one’s anthropology determines one’s sociology (“how I order my society.”)

Therefore, “If I see God as male…if I see God as a white male…if I see God as superior…white males are superior,” he said to exemplify what he believes a typical white American viewpoint.

He said black America cannot forgive racism when leaders refuse to apologize and the country wants forgiveness for an act they are still committing (“still stepping on my foot,” he put it.)

Several times during the speech Wright contended that his words were only the “context of a sound byte.” He said the prophetic theology of the Black Church is rooted in Isaiah 61, where one can see “God’s desire for a radical change in a social order that has gone sour.”

Wright said the black religious experience was still “invisible” and kept his words planted in context of slavery and segregation.

“Black people…gathered to worship in brush arbors or hush arbors where slaveholders, slave patrols and Uncle Toms’ ‘couldn’t hear nobody pray,’” Wright said, in a not-entirely understandable comparison to his own preaching.

Wright implied he was apolitical, saying he speaks only the words of a pastor but nevertheless lambasted American political leaders who “call me unpatriotic” and “use their positions of privilege to avoid military service while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls to die over a lie.”

Regarding his prior statement – delivered a week after 9-11-01 – that “America’s chickens [were] coming home to roost,” Wright said America is “do[ing] terrorism on other people” and we cannot “expect that its not going to come back to [us].”

He also responded to a question over his statement that “the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.”

He said he believes the government “is capable of doing anything” though he would not confirm that specific statement. He also affirmed his belief that the U.S. Marine Corps – in which he served – can be likened to the Roman soldiers who killed Jesus and said Louis Farrakhan is “one of the most important voices…”

“When he speaks, all black American listens,” Wright said, adding that those who listen may not agree and that Farrakhan is certainly not an enemy. “He didn’t put me in chains, slavery…or make me this color.”

Wright let Obama’s decision to distance himself slide and said he (Wright) will answer to God on November 5 and January 21 – not the American people.

“I said to Barack Obama last year, ‘If you get elected, November the fifth I’m coming after you, because you’ll be representing a government whose policies grind under people,’” said Wright, noting that if it is God’s will for Obama to become President, “God will do what God wants to do.”

Wright remains a big problem for Barack Obama’s campaign. The more he speaks out, the less credible are his statements and those Obama has made to distance himself from Wright. 

HUMAN EVENTS emails to the Obama campaign to answer questions for this article were not returned by press time.

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