Obama can’t escape former pastor

The Jeremiah Wright flap is really hurting Barack Obama.

According to a new USA Today poll, one-third of likely voters say that Obama’s ties to his former pastor make them less likely to vote for him.

tjndc5-5jsx5wax77nckwjzdc4_layout.jpgClinton’s hurt by her ties to her husband. McCain is hurt by his ties to Bush. But those ties are unavoidable.

The idea that Obama is paying a steep cost for the statements of his former pastor is sure to anger many African-American ministers, based on the conversations I had last week. The ministers I spoke with couldn’t understand why Wright has dominated campaign news or why Obama has to say anything more about it.

tjndc5-5jsb3mfoih215rzgjha_layout.jpgThey’re also baffled by why Wright keeps talking. The Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson told me that Wright is acting so strange because he is a wounded man.

Well, Obama may now be a wounded candidate.

Jeremiah Wright: media superstar

Have the media overdone it on the Obama/Wright relationship?

A liberal group called Media Matters, which claims to correct “conservative misinformation” in the media, is saying that the NYTimes and Washington Post have published 12 times as many articles about Obama/Wright compared to televangelist John Hagee’s endorsement of John McCain.

“It is time for major media outlets to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves if they’ve been covering the candidates for president with equally critical eyes,” said Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters. “If they are honest, they’ll admit they have not, just as this study show.”

tjndc5-5jsavor2ghl1eyb1ajha_layout1.jpgOf course, Wright was Obama’s pastor for 20 years, someone Obama has spoken of as family. McCain simply sought Hagee’s endorsement, apparently knowing little about him other than his influence with GOP voters.

For the past two days, I’ve been speaking to African-American ministers about the whole Jeremiah Wright affair. Boy, do they have conflicting emotions. They hate seeing Obama pay for Wright’s words and feel that Wright’s media coverage has gone way overboard. But they understand that Wright has been asking for more attention and that Obama has to get past this politically.

I’ll be writing about it within a few days…

Obama: ‘I am outraged by the comments that were made’

Obama can’t seem to outrun his former pastor.

I just watched Obama on CNN and the AP summarizes his comments here:

Associated Press Writer

5597cd5f6bf94062b3cf018d4087a8da.jpgWINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) _ Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday he was outraged and appalled by the latest comments from his former pastor, who asserted that criticism of his fiery sermons is an attack on the black church and the U.S. government was responsible for the creation of the AIDS virus.

The presidential candidate is seeking to tamp down the growing fury over Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his incendiary remarks that threaten to undermine his campaign.

“I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday,” Obama told reporters at a news conference.

After weeks of staying out of the public eye while critics lambasted his sermons, Wright made three public appearances in four days to defend himself. The former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has been combative, providing colorful commentary and feeding the story Obama had hoped was dying down.

“This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright,” Wright told the Washington media Monday. “It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.”

Obama told reporters Tuesday that Wright’s comments do not accurately portray the perspective of the black church.

“The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago,” Obama said of the man who married him.

Wright criticized the U.S. government as imperialist and stood by his suggestion that the United States invented the HIV virus as a means of genocide against minorities. “Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything,” he said.

Obama said he heard that Wright had given “a performance” and when he watched tapes, he realized that it more than just a case of the former pastor defending himself.

“What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for,” Obama said.

In a highly publicized speech last month, Obama sharply condemned Wright’s remarks. But he did not leave the church or repudiate the minister himself, who he said was like a family member.

On Tuesday, Obama sought to distance himself further from Wright.

“I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia explaining that he’s done enormous good. … But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS. … There are no excuses. They offended me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced.”

Wright recently retired from the church. He became an issue in Obama’s presidential bid when videos circulated of Wright condemning the U.S. government for allegedly racist and genocidal acts. In the videos, some several years old, Wright called on God to “damn America.” He also said the government created the AIDS virus to destroy “people of color.”

Obama said he didn’t vet his pastor before deciding to seek the presidency. He said he was particularly distressed that the furor has been a distraction to the purpose of a campaign.

Good times, and bad, for preachers

The eminent Protestant scholar Martin Marty has a timely column about public preaching.

He never mentions the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his relationship with Barack Obama. But Marty clearly has the news of the day in mind when he writes that the top preachers of modern times all alienated some followers. (By the way, his Mt. Rushmore of 20th century preachers would include busts of Walter Rauschenbush, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Sloane Coffin.)

mem.jpgMarty sums things up like this:

Preachers seldom have had it so good, or so bad, as they have it during the current campaign, as treated not so much by campaigners as by media commentators. So good? The commentators propagate the idea that preachers have enormous and spellbinding power. This implies that if a preacher says something, everyone will hear and, unless restrained, act upon what they heard, for good or evil. During a campaign, that means “for evil.” They also never had it so bad because they have not gotten the point across, culture-wide, that congregants are smart enough to filter, discreet enough not to tear the sermons apart, and hungry enough that they want to hear “the gospel,” messages of faith and hope and love as they try to put their week or part of their lives together.

Obama on dealing with ‘contradictions’

From Barack Obama’s speech this morning on race:

tjndc5-5j79tkuis9y17et80601_layout.jpg…we’ve heard my former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation and that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy, and in some cases, pain.
For some, nagging questions remain: Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely, just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagree.


The church (Trinity United Church of Christ) contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and, yes, the bitterness and biases that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding and baptized my children.
Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect.
He contains within him the contradictions — the good and the bad — of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

United Church of Christ defends Obama’s pastor

Now that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s super-controversial Chicago pastor, has resigned from Obama’s campaign, here is a statement released by their denomination, the United Church of Christ.

It’s written as a news article, but is really a long statement supporting Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago:

tjndc5-5j5km2×3d101g3fzd60u_layout.jpgCleveland, OH– In the wake of misleading attacks on its mission and ministry, Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ is being lauded by United Church of Christ leaders across the nation for the integrity of its worship, the breadth of its community involvement and the depth of its commitment to social justice.

“Trinity United Church of Christ is a great gift to our wider church family and to its own community in Chicago,” says UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas. “At a time when it is being subjected to caricature and attack in the media, it is critical that all of us express our gratitude and support to this remarkable congregation, to Jeremiah A. Wright for his leadership over 36 years, and to Pastor Otis Moss III, as he assumes leadership at Trinity.”

Thomas says he has been saddened by news reports that “present such a caricature of a congregation that been such a great blessing.”

“These attacks, many of them motivated by their own partisan agenda, cannot go unchallenged,” Thomas emphasizes. “It’s time for all of us to say ‘No’ to these attacks and to declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends.” Continue reading