The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He's drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.
Because these particular statements by Rev. Wright are so contrary to my own life and beliefs, a number of people have legitimately raised questions about the nature of my relationship with Rev. Wright and my membership in the church. Let me therefore provide some context.
As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It's a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.
Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.
Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.
With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.
ADDENDUM -- POSTED TO THE OBAMA BLOG:
The country is getting a needed education. FOX's campaign will not achieve their purpose. By the end of this more and more will recognize that what Jeremiah was saying was merely a recapitulation of what Malcolm X said, minus the threat of an eye for an eye which was also a part of Malcolm's message. By the end Malcolm had achieved a state of peace and was not preaching a separatist message. The reality is that every human being is a spectrum from the most base and infantile to the sublime and trancscendent. Character is where one is on the spectrum. Barack and anyone with open eyes knows full well the part of the spectrum where the reaction is one of anger and hurt and hostility. He also knows and believes that we as a people can move forward just as Malcolm did. In his whirlwind tour of the MSM last night Barack made it clear that this is a teaching moment for America. I think that is what this is basically about, bringing more people to a more mature understanding of the pain in our past and the hope in our future. Truth marching on.
It is also a theological education. The Biblical prophets voiced the judgment on a disobedient nation. It was not treason. It was faith and the hope of repentance and change.