THOUGHTS ON OBAMA AND REV. WRIGHT
I wish I could say "I told you so" but I don't think I told you at the time. I recorded a note on my digital voice recorder in the car, and like many such notes, it never made it here.
On Feb 8, 2007 I listened to an interview of Rev. Jeremiah Wright on XM's black power channel 169. The interviewer/host was a member of Rev. Wright's church.
1. You can say whatever you like about "snippets" and "context" and understanding the plight of the black man in America, but what I heard that day, if I had to characterize him in five words or less, was an angry black man.
2. When I got home I told my wife what I had heard on the radio and that there was no chance, once the media reported on the theology being preached at Obama's church, that Obama could be elected POTUS. Right or wrong, Americans are not going to elect an angry black man.
3. The argument now is whether Obama is himself an angry black man. At the time I didn't see how you could separate him from that characterization. Churches are volunteer organizations, and adults vote with their feet. Longtime membership suggests that one ascribes to the teachings of the church because there is always another church down the block.
4. I don't disagree with all the individual comments that have Hannity and others so upset. The country *is* run by rich white people. We *do* have a history of institutionalized racism in America. And we are not hearing the comments in context. If, for example, by "God damn America!" Rev. Wright means that America was founded on biblical principles and that God, in the Bible, has made clear that he can and will remove his blessing from a nation that strays from his will, then I've heard the same thing preached with less fire in white churches.
5. I don't deny blacks their anger or sense of injustice. It is real and I cannot speak to it because that has not been my experience. I am part of the privileged class by accident of birth.
6. That does not disqualify me, however, from speaking *about* it. If we are really going to talk about race, then blacks and sympathizers can't shut me up just because I'm not black. If I'm wrong, let's find out by talking it through. If Obama wants to have the discussion then let's have it. None of us is post-racial. Race and racism are hard realities in American culture.
7. The key point for me, however, is that what I heard out of Rev. Wright's mouth was not biblical, or more precisely, was selectively biblical. The United Church of Christ minister did not mention Christ in his long-winded remarks. His message was not the message of Christ but that the white male European brand of Christianity is racist and unjust. He spoke repeatedly of "black theology" as if Christ and Christian doctrine were not color-blind, and as if the term needed no explanation, justification, or definition. His theology at its heart is the simple quest for social justice, which, while a biblical truth ("seek His kingdom and His righteousness," care for the poor and needy, minister your gifts unto others, give and it will be given to you, love thy neighbor), ignores or minimizes, at least in what I heard, core Christian doctrine of salvation by faith through grace, propitiation, redemption, sanctification. . . none of that, just that "the founders of our country were slaveholders and rapists." Where in that is the light of the world?
8. His remarks were in response to a question asking him to explain to the listeners what Trinity UCC was all about.
9. I must consider what I heard to be a representative sample of what one would hear in Obama's church.
10. In any event, his worldview was clear: whitey is evil.
11. Obama cannot run from that. There is nowhere to hide.
12. My point is not to argue whether whitey is evil. My point is that America will not elect an angry black man.
13. Anyone who regularly attends a church supports the pastor generally through their attendance and supports him directly through their tithe or contributions. Obama did both. Galatians 6:6 (paraphrased): "pay those who instruct you in the truth."
14. I left a church that, after 8 years, I found I no longer agreed with. I made the difficult decision to pull my kids from their familiar routine and their Sunday school friends and begin the unpleasant task of church-hunting. That's what you do when you disagree with what your church is about. In the name of integrity, you cannot sit in a church that you fundamentally disagree with.
15. For Obama to sit under Rev. Wright for *20 years* speaks loudly that he either agrees with him, or that he didn't agree with him and lacks integrity. Neither is good for his electability.
16. His way out of this is Clintonesque -- if we come to believe that his affiliation with Rev. Wright was not so much a spiritual decision as a practical one, one of political opportunism, knowing he needed to connect with and serve Chicago's black community to further his political ambitions and knowing Rev. Wright had the contacts and the clout to help him do that.
17. That would make him less the great post-racial unifier and more your standard politician, but he's going to become that anyway, it's just a matter of public opinion catching up to political reality. He's an ambitious empty suit whose magic is that he helps me feel good about myself, but ultimately he's a self-interested self-promoter, and what else would he be.
18. He has the gift of making it unseemly for me to ask whether he's ever actually done anything important. His magic is wearing off due to the need for news content during this long hiatus in the primaries schedule.
19. I don't understand how he made it this far without this story surfacing. It's been out there forever. I would like to see some reporting on why this story wasn't reported until now. Maybe that would advance this discussion of race that we're supposed to have.
20. Obama is the blank slate upon which we are asked to color our dreams. As stories like these fill the news and he has to respond to them, he risks becoming a real person, with complexities and tensions, which is not good for his electability.
21. Here we are, still 7 1/2 months from Election Day, and Obama was out campaigning for President 13 1/2 months ago. This thing has been going on for so long already, and we have so much longer to go.
22. The Democrats are stuck with two poor candidates for President and I can only hope that they are about to do what the party does best: lose an election that they were all set up to win. Even the great gift of an economic collapse may not be enough to save them.
23. I am on record that the detestable Hillary Clinton will be our next president -- in large part, I think, because she wants it the most. The math is not in her favor and neither are her "unfavorable" ratings, but I still fear her lust for power and the Clintons' lack of conscience.
24. I hope the net effect of the Rev. Wright story, what changes the calculus of this election, is that good people are reminded that character matters and leadership is about trust, which I hope will be enough to keep Hillary Clinton and her band of pirates out of the White House.