Just in case you’ve been under a rock for the past week or so, here’s a quick review of the story: Barack Obama has been an active member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for 20 years. His preacher throughout that time, Jeremiah Wright, just retired in January. Last week the media started airing clips of Wright’s hate-filled sermons. You can find transcripts and videos all over the internet, but suffice it to say that this guy doesn’t have anything good to say about America or white people in general. Shocking isn’t it? Personally, I’m blown away that a black preacher in an all black inner city church would harbor such militant feelings against whites and the U.S.A. - shocked I tell you!
Why is this such a big deal? Besides the obvious, Wright has also served as Obama’s spiritual mentor, married Obama and his wife, and baptized both of their children. People are asking why Obama did not distance himself from the controversial Wright years ago. There is a simple answer to this question but you’ll never hear it from Obama. It’s called political expediency.
Obama is a half-white graduate of both Yale and Harvard. Thus, his black credentials and street credibility have always been in question. How does an aspiring young black politician counter such attacks on his blackness? Duh, join a black church with lots of members (Wright’s flock is 10,000 strong). As for the advice, marriage ceremony and baptisms, if he used another preacher for those things he’d blow his cover. If you want to reap the benefits of membership, you have to be a full member, not part-time or half-hearted. You’re either in or out or, as Bush would say, you’re either with us or against us. Obama did what he though he had to do to climb the political ladder. He’s not the first politician to do so and he won’t be the last.
What’s my take on all of this? I still support him. Does it mean that his connection to Wright doesn’t bother me? No, it bothers me. It’s just not a deal-breaker. I’m not aware of any politician without connections to unsavory preachers. It’s just that most of them don’t damn the U.S. and its “rich white people” because they’re too busy damning everybody else (women, homosexuals, and pretty much anybody who doesn’t agree with them). Many of these guys (they’re always men) blamed both Hurricane Katrina and September 11th on homosexuality, abortion, and a “Godless” America. Who’s crazier? At least racism and inequality can be quantified. How can these other guys even begin to prove their claims of a vengeful God punishing us for our sins? Exactly, they can’t. Nor should any of them be commended for making their livings by telling other people what happens to them after they die – something else they cannot possibly know anything about. In short, Rev. Wright is not alone. On the contrary, he’s just another charlatan. This will blow over because the conservatives will eventually back off. Why? Because their religious affiliations are just as offensive to rational thinkers.
* Quick sidebar – I was discussing this with my father last week when I told him that this will not hurt Obama long-term but it may take the “shine off of the apple”. He gave me one of those fatherly lectures that thankfully get shorter as I grow older but still get my attention. “I wouldn’t use an offensive term like that if I were you” he said. I was confused. He then informed me that “shine” is a racial term on par with the “N” word. Wow. I consider myself a reasonably educated and perceptive person, but I have never in my entire life (born in 1971) heard this. This is an interesting example of generational differences and how language changes. I though you might find it interesting. I did.