“Why Not Join Another Church?”

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This quote from Barack Obama’s speech today caught my attention:

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? [No, the question is why stay in for years after these remarks.] And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way…

This was neither the most politically significant nor the most moving of passages from Obama’s speech. But the question, “why not join another church,” which seems to be at the crux of the controversy, is more difficult and multifaceted than it might seem to those who have never personally confronted it.


What’s more, it’s a question that has some personal resonance to me as a devout and politically active individual. Years ago, I made clear to my childhood Rabbi that I did not care for his characterization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular what I felt was his dehumanization of Palestinian Arabs and his downplaying of their grievances. Demonization has no place in a house of worship. What’s more, I reasoned, a Rabbi has no business using his authority as a religious leader to make an essentially political point with no obvious connection to his community’s shared religious teachings and values. My objections were dismissed, so I pushed my family to find a new synagogue.
I’ll admit to being both radical and a touch hypocritical on these points. I cringe whenever Rabbis — or any religious leaders — demand political unity on from their congregants on the basis of religious values. Yet I applaud the more basic manifestations of religious values in the political sphere such as fighting poverty, creating peace, ending injustice and enhancing freedom. It’s a tricky and complicated distinction with which I still struggle.
In any case, tough customer that I am, I insisted that my family join a new synagogue that satisfies everyone. It was hardly that easy. No alternatives seemed to make sense. One synagogue lacked a substantial education program. Another was too small. Services were too long for my elderly grandmother at a third. A fourth synagogue featured no traditional music, through which my father finds connection to the community and fulfillment. And would any of us enjoy the High Holy Days without the familiar faces of our congregation to greet us?
Such is the plight of the consumer in today’s religious marketplace. It is a question of how much discomfort and discontinuity we are each willing to endure in order to find a spiritual home that may be slightly less misaligned with our values and beliefs.
I do not share this experience to excuse Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary comments or to support Obama’s continued membership in his church; in fact, I would have myself left the congregation regardless of any debt I felt to Rev. Wright or connection I had made to the congregation. I share it to suggest that we understand Obama’s tolerance of otherwise intolerable rhetoric not only in the context of race in America, as he suggests, but also in the context of his family’s pursuit of a broader set of spiritual and practical goals.
I hope readers will excuse this personal and faith-driven missive on a usually very wonky policy blog. I’ll admit that this post only touches on the periphery of issues raised by the Wright controversy and Obama’s speech today. That’s ok by me, so long as it sheds some light on one critical dimension of the nexus between faith and politics that will almost certainly be ignored by the chattering class. If it also nudges religious leaders away from demanding political conformity and injecting their personal political views — even tolerant ones — into their religious sermons, well, then so much the better.
— Scott Paul

Comments

58 comments on ““Why Not Join Another Church?”

  1. Courtenay Barnett says:

    @ Mr. Murder – while terming my post “brash” – there is nothing in your post that contardicts the truth of what I posted – nor – is there any denial of the turths as posted by me:-
    1. In 1979 did the then Soviet Union invade Afghanistan?
    2. Did the C.I.A give monetary and military assistance to resistance fighters that fought the Soviets under a banner of Islam?
    3. Did the same fighters funded in what some have called “Charlie Wilson’s war” not morph from Mujahadin into the Taliban?
    4. Since the Mujahadin and Taliban were trained with US help then is it illogical for Wright to focus on the original monetary source of the funding, with bin Laden being a beneficiary, himself accused of being behind the 9/11 attack, to conclude in by reference to those interrelationships that in a certain sense America did bring the 9/11 attack upon itself? Having fanned the flames of militant Islam with the C.I.A’s money, then the militancy was unleashed on America is Reverend Wright so wrong about that?

    Reply

  2. Mr.Murder says:

    Courtney Barnett’s brash post blames America for Guiliani’s favorite topic in accordance with Wright, citing the policy ideas of Obama’s major foreign policy endorser Brzezinski as enablers.
    His input would cultivate similar items elsewhere. South America comes to mind.

    Reply

  3. Tintin says:

    I was one of the pure in heart who in 1968 could not bring
    myself to vote for Humphrey and voted for Cleaver instead.
    Politically it was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. However, I
    did learn something: elections are about deciding who will be
    the next president, senator, governor or whatever, but they
    should not be psycho-dramas conducted to allow people to
    demonstrate their high-mindedness.
    Those supporters of HRC who cannot bring themselves to vote
    for Obama or vice versa will a few weeks into the McCain
    administration wake up and realize that they’ve been jackasses.
    Or, at least I hope they will realize it.
    If Nader wants to create a TRUE third party, great. The Greens
    are a joke. In PA, they were funded by the Republicans to run
    against Casey when he was running against Santorum. Until
    Ralph starts a real party from the ground up, instead of just
    sauntering into the race at the last minute, he’s a sad joke. And
    a vote for him is a total waste, if not, for a Dem, worse.

    Reply

  4. Linda says:

    Just because some people condemn Wright, doesn’t mean that THEY are racist. I strongly condemn what he says, not because he’s Black, but because what he said is OFFENSIVE and RACIST! I find ALOT of comments by Hagee, Falwell, Parsley,and the Pope, OFFENSIVE, OBJECTIONABLE, RACIST, or outright LIES! I won’t defend them just because they are white, I condemn them because they are wrong! They are just as wrong as Wright is! As a matter of fact, I can’t believe how many times I think that they are absolute IDIOTS and can’t see how anybody can take them serious. ANY pastor or spiritual advisor that would exploit another person’s pain, guilt, or suffering, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual, for whatever reason, is just SCUM! (It goes without saying that I am thoughly disgusted by ALL the tele-vangelists that shout “SEND ME MONEY”.) I won’t excuse Wright. He EXPLOITS the racial divide instead of HEALING it, and in MY BOOK that is just pure EVIL!

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  5. Linda says:

    It’s amazing how many of you are giving Obama and Wright a free pass. Obama’s comments are disturbing, but apparently too many of you are racist. Wright embraces Black Theology and the Black Values System and Louis Farrakhann. Obama embraces Wright and his church who both embrace Black Theology and the Black Value System. The New Black Panther Party has an official website that espouses the exact same thing that Wright has been heard to say. Obama will never renounce Wright because of the tenets of the Black Value System endorse loyalty to it and Black Leaders that adhere to it, such as Jeremiah Wright. BTW, comparing his grandmother’s admission that she was afraid of black men, to the racist garbage spewed by his “spiritual” advisor was ridiculous. Just maybe, it was the Black-on-White crime she had seen or experienced. One more thing, when Obama made the comment that what she said was echoed by the ‘typical’ white person, I was offended. Maybe I should say he sounds like the ‘TYPICAL’ black person, but again THAT WOULD BE RACIST!

    Reply

  6. Kathleen says:

    Voting for Nader is NOT a throw-away vote. It is a vote to preserve alternative access to the ballot. If you don’t vote for the candidate who expresses your views best, soon you won’t have a candidate for whom to vote. If I’m not going to feel like a prostitute when I vote, it has to be Nader for me.
    I think Obama’s speech was admirable in many ways, but I disagree with him on some key issues, like Israel-Palestine and impeachment, to name a couple. I’ll probably argue with myself all the way into the voting booth because I can also do the math, assuming we actually have another election. Don’t forget Dopey said it would be a lot easier if this was a dictatorship and he was the dictator. It’s the one time I think he was being honest.

    Reply

  7. Courtenay Barnett says:

    RACIST AMERICA AND ITS DOUBLE STANDARDS MAKING WRIGHT WRONG!
    Obama’s preacher has said that America brought 9/11 on itself, but first consider:-
    1. In 1979 did the then Soviet Union invade Afghanistan?
    2. Did the C.I.A give monetary and military assistance to resistance fighters that fought the Soviets under a banner of Islam?
    3. Did the same fighters funded in what some have called “Charlie Wilson’s war” not morph from Mujahadin into the Taliban?
    4. Since the Mujahadin and Taliban were trained with US help then is it illogical for Wright to focus on the original monetary source of the funding, with bin Laden being a beneficiary, himself accused of being behind the 9/11 attack, to conclude in by reference to those interrelationships that – in a certain sense America did bring the 9/11 attack upon itself? Having fanned the flames of militant Islam with the C.I.A’s money, then the militancy was unleashed on America – is Reverend Wright so wrong about that?
    With America having marched into Iraq for its oil, it is now the Iraqis to be blamed for resisting the illegal invasion and US occupation – not Bush and his misguided foreign policy.
    With true double standards so many are up in arms about what Reverend Wright has to say about America, but just consider from 19th March,2008, ABC’s Good Morning America just how much VP Cheney cares:-
    CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.
    RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.
    CHENEY: So?
    RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?
    CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
    But, back to Reverend Wright, just look below at how in actuality he squares with and decide whether there aren’t double standards and racism. But also link to http://www.911truth.org/article.php?story=20041221155307646 to consider the top 40 reasons to doubt the official version on September 11 –2001 – huh?
    The White Preacher Double Standard: How Hagee, Parsley and the Rest Get Away with Everything
    Posted by Cenk Uygur, Huffington Post at 12:03 PM on March 19, 2008.
    Reverend Rod Parsley believes America was founded to destroy Islam.
    Rudy Giuliani’s priest has been accused in grand jury proceedings of molesting several children and covering up the molestation of others. Giuliani would not disavow him on the campaign trail and still works with him.
    Mitt Romney was part of a church that did not view black Americans as equals and actively discriminated against them. He stayed with that church all the way into his early thirties, until they were finally forced to change their policies to come into compliance with civil rights legislation. Romney never disavowed his church back then or now. He said he was proud of the faith of his fathers.
    Jerry Falwell said America had 9/11 coming because we tolerated gays, feminists and liberals. It was our fault. Our chickens had come home to roost, if you will. John McCain proudly received his support and even spoke at his university’s commencement.
    Reverend John Hagee has called the Catholic Church the “Great Whore.” He has said that the Anti-Christ will rise out of the European Union (of course, the Anti-Christ will also be Jewish). He has said all Muslims are trained to kill and will be part of the devil’s army when Armageddon comes (which he hopes is soon). John McCain continues to say he is proud of Reverend Hagee’s endorsement.
    Reverend Rod Parsley believes America was founded to destroy Islam. Since this is such an outlandish claim, I have to add for the record, that he is not kidding. Reverend Parsley says Islam is an “anti-Christ religion” brought down from a “demon spirit.” Of course, we are in a war against all Muslims, including presumably Muslim-Americans. Buts since Parsley believes this is a Christian nation and that it should be run as a theocracy, he is not very concerned what Muslim-Americans think.
    John McCain says Reverend Rod Parsley is his “spiritual guide.”
    What separates all of these outrageous preachers from Barack Obama’s? You guessed it. They’re white and Reverend Jeremiah Wright is not. If it’s not racism that’s causing the disparity in media treatment of these preachers, then what is it?
    I’m willing to listen to other possible explanations. And I am inclined to believe that the people these preachers go after are more important than the race of the preacher. It’s one thing to go after gays, liberals and Muslims – that seems to be perfectly acceptable in America – it’s another to accuse white folks of not living up to their ideals.
    I think there is another factor at play as well. The media is deathly afraid of calling out preachers of any stripe for insane propaganda from the pulpits for fear that they will be labeled as anti-Christian. But criticism of Rev. Wright falls into their comfort zone. It’s easy to blame him for being anti-American because he criticizes American foreign and domestic policy.
    If Rev. Wright had preached about discriminating against gay Americans or Muslims, there probably would not have been any outcry at all. That falls into the category of “respect their hateful opinions because they cloak themselves in the church.”
    But one thing is indisputable – the enormous disparity in how the media has covered these white preachers as opposed to Rev. Wright. Have you ever even heard of Rod Parsley? As you can see from what I listed above, all of these white preachers have said and done the most outlandish and offensive things you can imagine – and hardly a peep.
    If the disparity in coverage isn’t racist, then what is it?
    Reverend John Hagee has called the Catholic Church the “Great Whore.” He has said that the Anti-Christ will rise out of the European Union (of course, the Anti-Christ will also be Jewish). He has said all Muslims are trained to kill and will be part of the devil’s army when Armageddon comes (which he hopes is soon). John McCain continues to say he is proud of Reverend Hagee’s endorsement.
    Reverend Rod Parsley believes America was founded to destroy Islam. Since this is such an outlandish claim, I have to add for the record, that he is not kidding. Reverend Parsley says Islam is an “anti-Christ religion” brought down from a “demon spirit.” Of course, we are in a war against all Muslims, including presumably Muslim-Americans. Buts since Parsley believes this is a Christian nation and that it should be run as a theocracy, he is not very concerned what Muslim-Americans think.
    John McCain says Reverend Rod Parsley is his “spiritual guide.”
    What separates all of these outrageous preachers from Barack Obama’s? You guessed it. They’re white and Reverend Jeremiah Wright is not. If it’s not racism that’s causing the disparity in media treatment of these preachers, then what is it?
    I’m willing to listen to other possible explanations. And I am inclined to believe that the people these preachers go after are more important than the race of the preacher. It’s one thing to go after gays, liberals and Muslims – that seems to be perfectly acceptable in America – it’s another to accuse white folks of not living up to their ideals.
    I think there is another factor at play as well. The media is deathly afraid of calling out preachers of any stripe for insane propaganda from the pulpits for fear that they will be labeled as anti-Christian. But criticism of Rev. Wright falls into their comfort zone. It’s easy to blame him for being anti-American because he criticizes American foreign and domestic policy.
    If Rev. Wright had preached about discriminating against gay Americans or Muslims, there probably would not have been any outcry at all. That falls into the category of “respect their hateful opinions because they cloak themselves in the church.”
    But one thing is indisputable – the enormous disparity in how the media has covered these white preachers as opposed to Rev. Wright. Have you ever even heard of Rod Parsley? As you can see from what I listed above, all of these white preachers have said and done the most outlandish and offensive things you can imagine – and hardly a peep.
    If the disparity in coverage isn’t racist, then what is it?
    Cenk Uygur is co-host of The Young Turks, the first liberal radio show to air nationwide.

    Reply

  8. Carroll says:

    Posted by Frank Mar 20, 9:41AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Well I agree that Nadar is the only one that tells the truth about Israel.
    But how much you gonna like yourself if Mr. Bomb Iran wins?
    In this election my vote will be about limiting future damage by voting against McCain.

    Reply

  9. Frank says:

    Can one be blamed for voting for Nader? I always thought Obama’s brass plate words in his speeches, “we have to change the mindset in Washington so that the Iraq fiasco does not happen again”, was a cleverly disguised jab at Israel. I was drawn to him because of those words.. But when he bowed to Israel in his racism speech, he lost me.
    Nader is the only candidate that states the truth about Israel’s control of this country’s foreign policy. It may be a throwaway vote, but since I look in the mirror every day, likeing me is more important than voting for liars.

    Reply

  10. steambomb says:

    I think Obama is doing the right thing by not allowing the Faux media outrage to determine which church he should. After all the damage that the MSM and the current administration have done all this outrage over a few statements that a preacher made from a pulpit seems like crocadile tears to me. We all need to move on.

    Reply

  11. JamesL says:

    I thought Obama’s speech was the best political speech I’ve heard in my lifetime, and that goes back to Ike. I did not like and do not agree with the ‘bad Islamists and good Israel’, nor the lack of linkage of blowback to America’s economic imperialism which is as real as America’s real racism. But I can’t think of another political speech that matches this one, unless you include Martin Luther King. What kind of speech would we have heard from Bush, or McCain, or Hillary if their pastor was the cause. Forget Bush. He doesn’t do thinking speeches. Or McCain for that matter.

    Reply

  12. Mr.Murder says:

    Maybe he’ll reach across the aisle and offer Lieberman a VP slot as a way to concede the vote to certain aims.
    It won a close elction before….

    Reply

  13. Carroll says:

    Posted by PissedOffAmerican Mar 19, 9:16PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    No, I was just addressing the race factor he was talking about. I thought he was being honest on that because I see it myself. And of course I don’t agree with the Israeli crap. As far as I am concerned instead of the black white thing we ought to be discussing the US -Israeli thing. Or jews vrs gentiles in American politics.
    I don’t think either that Obama is “willingly” pro Israel. but we never know do we until someone gets in office.
    And as far as Obama goes…do we have a better choice?
    BTW, read this:…..the pentagon is still infested.
    http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/
    Is the Pentagon Policy Shop Funding Likudist Fronts?
    March 18th, 2008

    Reply

  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Geez Carroll, don’t tell me this posturing fraud has hoodwinked you as well?
    What, pray tell, was “honest” about his speech?
    The part where he says that Wright has a “distorted” view of America? Exactly which of Wright’s views are “distorted”, in your, or Barack’s, opinion?? Here is one example of what Barack sees as Wright’s “distorted” view…
    “a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”
    So, you agree with Obama’s effort to place the full brunt of the blame into the laps of the so called “radical Islamists”????
    That statement might just as well have come from Richard Perle, Douglas Fieth, or Rush Limbaugh. Do you really think this denounciation of his pastor’s sermons, and this embracement of a key neocon/zionist premise is “honest” or stated with conviction?
    After twenty years of sitting in this Pastor’s church, all the sudden he recognizes his pastor as having “a profoundly distorted view of this country”?? Despite the fact that his pastor’s views are not really that distorted, and echo sentiments and opinions that both you and I have expressed on numerous occassions right here on this blog?
    “Honest”???
    Well, to each their own, but I saw just another weaseling Washington whore, saying whatever he needs to say to slither his way into the Oval Office.

    Reply

  15. Carroll says:

    I think I will tell what I think.
    First, I like his speech. It was honest. I don’t know how many people who commment on race actually know a lot about black’s and white’s relationship. Being a Southerner I grew up with black people, they were an intimate part of every white person’s life in the South. Because they didn’t have rights and opportunities they were in every white person’s home as servants, but really more than servants to most people. It would take a long time to describe the complicated relationship that existed between whites and blacks in the old days. I had a black nanny who use to take my brother and I to the movies when we were little, we sat “upstairs” in the black section with her because she wasn’t allowed in the downstairs white people section. Actually she was more than a hired hand, she was at my wedding and I was at her funeral.
    I can understand the anger of black people, although it should be dying out and not continued.
    I don’t know how angry or resentful I would be if I were the daughter of black man who was humilated in front of his children by not being able to take them into a resturant for food or use a restroom or the dozens of other denials of dignity and humilations. Like I said it should die out but family history and stories get passed on and black history hasn’t been exactly a walk in the park so some are going to be more impressed and affected by their history. Is that Obama’s Pastor’s past family recollections? I don’t know.
    The town I live in was an slave trading port where slaves were brought in and then sold..and so now has a 60% black population from those days. I look at the jobs and positions they have now in this town and think we have come a long way. But two years ago at a party I heard a woman I know use the word “nigger”. That was the first time in my life anyone I knew every used that word, at least in front of me. Then there was the time in a store that I overheard a black woman complaining to another black woman that the job she wanted was given to a “white girl”. In both instances I was , I won’t say shocked, but hurt somehow by the remarks.
    Soooooo?….
    Obama was being honest. That’s the way it is. There are still “attitudes”.
    But all that said…this hyping the race issue is taking the place of discussion about other issues.
    From my following it appears to me Hillary forced the race thing out so that Obama would have to make something of it and to try and throw him off stride.
    Well, he addressed it…he was honest…more honest that I have seen any politican be on the race. It’s enough. Move on. And on yea…this crapola about anti-American this and that being slung around about this flap….you know what that is about.

    Reply

  16. aeolius says:

    dlai Stevenson said in eulogy of Eleanor Roosevelt
    ” She would rather light a candle then curse the darkness”
    But Senator Obama feels secure in defending his spiritual leader’s need to curse the darkness.
    Obama’s speech pure and simple was playing the race card. With ever so much more elegance then Clarence Thomas did at his confirmation hearing.
    But the message is always the same.the rest of our community
    It is unfair to hold a descendant of slaves to the same moral standard as the rest of us.
    David Patterson knew he was to replace Mr. Spitzer who was bounced because of a sexual scandal.
    Did he tell us before his swearing in about his past infidelities? Why no hue and cry? Surely not because of his race.
    Mr. Sharpton made his debute on the national stage savaging certain officials in Dutchess county NY. It was all a tissue of lies. He made the most inflammatory race remarks Never brought up?
    Obama may have distanced himself from Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. But Jackson’s son ignited the whole racial fire by using his father’s and Sharptons tactics on Bill Clinton (yup that was the start, check it out.)
    In 1950’s movies there was what was played what was called the Angelic Chorus for events as the Gate of Heaven opening.
    I made it a point to read the NYTimes editorial on the web, hoping they would gave added this audio to their Paean on Obama’s speech.
    Barf

    Reply

  17. Will Bower says:

    An Open Letter to Senator John Edwards
    Dear Senator Edwards,
    I am not writing to you that I might sing the praises of one
    candidate or condemn the actions of another. You already know
    the faults and merits of Senator Clinton and Senator Obama
    more intimately than most of us ever will.
    I am not writing to you in outrage over the now-(in)famous
    preachings of the now-(in)famous Reverend Wright. You by now
    have heard these sermons for yourself and have come to your
    own conclusions.
    I am writing to you because Barack Obama — for all his many
    strengths and merits — is no longer an electable candidate in
    his 2008-bid for the White House.
    To win the White House, a candidate must win Ohio in
    November. To win Ohio in November, a candidate must win
    Ohio’s independent voters. The events of this past week have
    lost Barack Obama those very voters, and irrevocably.
    If you want your party to win the White House in 2008 — and if
    you want it to do so as peaceably as possible — you now must
    endorse Senator Clinton.
    Yes, Senator McCain probably will win with the male
    Independents of Ohio. Senator Clinton, however, has a good
    chance of winning over the women there; and with the women,
    the state.
    I could have written to Al Gore about this matter, but his
    resentment towards the Clintons is all but too well-known. I
    could have written to Howard Dean, but he’s busy enough as it is
    with the crises in Florida and Michigan. I could have written to
    Nancy Pelosi, but she has already abused her power as a
    potential broker in this situation in such a way as to make her
    voice illegitimate. I could have written to Jimmy Carter, but he
    would not have the same impact on this race as could you.
    That leaves only you, Senator Edwards.
    I am not writing to you to tell you how your endorsement of
    Senator Clinton may or may not help you in your own causes.
    You already have an idea as to this as well.
    I am not writing to tell you that Senator Obama still will have a
    bright future waiting for him; whether it be in the halls of the
    Senate, or in the State House of Illinois, or perhaps — one day,
    in the years to come — in the White House itself. You already
    know of the many great things Senator Obama can still do for
    our nation.
    I am writing to you to shine a light on the fact that you now are
    the last, best hope of giving an endorsement which will actually
    make a helpful difference to your party; especially with your
    party being in the predicament in which it now finds itself.
    Now is the time, Senator Edwards, for you to endorse Senator
    Clinton for President of the United States in 2008.
    Thank you,
    Will Bower

    Reply

  18. jim miller says:

    Huckabee threw all you RW haters under the bus today….condemn the sin…lover the sinner!!!!

    Reply

  19. easy e says:

    Posted by Chesire11 Mar 19, 11:40AM – Link
    Obama threw Wright under the bus???
    >>>>>>>
    Not what I said. Obama rightly threw Wright “off” the bus, NOT “under” the bus. Other than that, we are both in agreement with Obama’s speech.

    Reply

  20. WigWag says:

    Klevenstein, nobody said that Barack Obama “enjoyed all those many sexist remarks of his supporters.” The point was that Obama and his supporters were conspicuously silent when the main stream media engaged in night after night of sexist commentary about Hillary Clinton.
    Navigator, the so called “racial innuendo” pales in comparison to the blatant sexism that Hillary has been subjected to. I don’t agree with Geraldine Ferraro that Obama’s race has been an asset to him but so far it hasn’t been a big liability either, at least as far as how his campaign is reported by the press. On the other hand, Hillary’s gender has been used against her continuously by newspaper columnists and TV pundits alike.
    Mr Haisley, support Senator Obama if you want to. It’s not an unreasonable choice. But spare us the the malarky about Obama’s “new kind of leadership.” In his remarks about his pastor he was the same old type of politician doing what politicians always do when caught in a tight spot; he was trying to cover his behind.
    If Obama wins the nomination (still probable but less likely every day)it will be in part because he ran a good campaign but also because he benefited from a sexist media following the “Clinton Rules.” That is, forget what the candidates say and instead attack Hillary’s laugh and the timbre of her voice, comment on her cleavage, say everything she has accomplished in life is because of her husband, etc. etc. etc.
    Senator Obama and his supporters witnessed all of this and said nothing. Now they expect us to rise in outrage that the press is criticizing his pastor. Give me a break.
    If you want to know why millions of women who would otherwise vote for Obama will instead vote for Nader, vote for McCain or stay home, here’s why. We’re sick of women being held to a different standard than men. And we are even more sick of the fact that the left is as bad as the right. We knew that republicans wouldn’t know better, we hoped that Obama supporters would. Unfortunately, they obviously don’t.

    Reply

  21. carsick says:

    I’m a Protestant whose Jewish son attended a Jewish day school. Kids like to see the world in Black and White, good guys and bad guys etc. The Jewish day school did a very good job of feeding an idea that Palestinians were evil, bad guys and that fit right into my son’s need to understand the world in simple terms. I did not yank my son out of the school. That part of his education was regular but minimal. And, as his father I was able to explain another point of view and we were able to have deeper discussions about race, religion,history and even land ownership.
    The school taught my son a solid approach to his studies and gave him confidence in tackling new challenges. It did not make him a racist because he was not being raised by the school.

    Reply

  22. Chesire11 says:

    Obama threw Wright under the bus???
    I’m sorry, but in the speech I read, Obama explained how a good and reasonable man could become bitter about a country that flatters itself on ideals it all too rarely bothers to attain. He disavowed Reverend Wright’s excesses in this respect, but not only did he expressly refuse to reject him personally, he also praised his virtues and accomplishments, fleshing out what had been a ridiculous caricature of a man. Obama rejected neither Wright as a man nor as a pastor, he simply expressed his strong disagreement with some of the man’s conclusions.
    Obama made the argument, that America’s cartoonish absolutist worldview in which all men are either an angels or a devils, in which you are “with us or against us” is absurd. In the case of Reverend Wright as well as his grandmother, good and bad are present. In defiance of the decidedly immature American craving to turn everything into entertainment pitting the “goodies” against the “baddies”, Obama chose instead to hue to the Christian faith to which so many Americans pay lip service and see Christ in the face of his fellow man.
    In my book, Obama’s conduct in this instance demonstrated remarkable integrity.

    Reply

  23. Cay Borduin says:

    My family left a church we were deeply involved in (I was the congregation president for example.) we left during a long journey towards atheism. It is really tough to pull yourself and your kids out of a community of people who brought you food when recovering from surgery, with whom you go on vacation and among whom you find your closest friends. If we had not ultimately rejected the faith itself, we might very well still be at that church.

    Reply

  24. questions says:

    Okay, I have too much time on my hands this morning….
    Anyway, on the original post, I think there’s something to say for sitting in the pews listening to things you disagree with instead of shopping for that which confirms your views. But this is an issue only if you think that much of what Wright has said is wrong. In fact, though he exaggerates for effect, he is largely correct. The AIDS thing is the craziest one, but let’s remember that Ronald Reagan was president when AIDS was starting to show up. I watched the news as Hatians, gays and IV drug users were blamed. Reagan did not speak out on AIDS and people died for lack of information. So even if the gov’t didn’t invent it and inject it, the official policy of not speaking about “those” people did indeed lead to death.
    Okay, I’ll stop for the day!

    Reply

  25. questions says:

    Oops. I always have problems witht the captchas on this site and I had to copy and paset to redo it and the paste part didn’t quite work…
    The rest of the above post is:
    nor explain to John McCain the difference between Sunni and Shi’a. Get real people. Obama didn’t throw Uncle from the train and there’s more important work to do than to scream out all day long “Hagee/Parsley/Wright” at each other.

    Reply

  26. questions says:

    I don’t think Obama threw anyone to the wolves. What he did, and did well, was to contextualize the righteous anger of a large number of Americans of all races. White anger at affirmative action, Black anger at the legacy of slavery, all legitimated and all put into a context. He then asked us all to get beyond that anger and use the energy to help the next Ashley not feel the need for mustard and relish sandwiches. Basically, then, he asks us to get real. The anger is real and is a part of this country. The need to band together and work for justice is real. We can argue about whether Obama should’ve/could’ve all day long and that argument won’t give one person decent health care, nor give one soldier a respite from the battle, nor explain to John McCain the difference

    Reply

  27. arthurdecco says:

    MITZI MORRIS said:
    “Obama’s speech today hardly convinced. He obviously has lied…
    … but we white folks are too square to understand how anger is never frgotten and we don’t know what happens in Black Churches. He refused to reject Wright.We shold all keep this a race issue, of course.”
    I have a suspicion you don’t consider yourself white “folk” when you step away from your keyboard, Ms Morris. And I’d be interested to have a go at the transcripts of the conversations that take place in your synagogue. Or in the hallways of Bush’s church, for that matter. Of course, we’ve all heard the disgusting opinions emitted by McCain’s religious cult leader supporters, just not through our disingenuous and braying MSM.
    For the record, Reverend Wright said nothing that wasn’t true, no matter how unpalatable his opinions may be to some.
    And if Obama did indeed throw him to the wolves yesterday, as has been claimed by POA, then he has lost the respect that I have been begrudgingly developing for him over the past few weeks. The ploy worked – his political enemies have won this round. But only because he capitulated to the growing pressures to step away from someone he obviously respected in order to cover his political ass, NOT because of his pastor’s opinions.

    Reply

  28. bob h says:

    Joe Klein, who usually is such a fool, reasonably speculated yesterday that the Obama-Wright bond might represent the need of the former for a Father figure, having been abandoned by his real Father at age two.
    I thought it was a great speech, but fear that the damage has been done among whites who are unreasonably frightened by black militancy. Obama has given the Republicans an opening they will continue to exploit.

    Reply

  29. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi, karachi-Pakistan says:

    By all themes of giving dignity to one’s rectitude and straightforwardness, Mr Obama’s fragment of speach throws enough light on his understaning about his personal and religious affiliitions, surely one may not put his case under the shelf of scepticism.

    Reply

  30. easy e says:

    The knuckleheads and closet conservatives will never be convinced. Obama’s speech was most eloquent by the way he framed the broader perspective. This issue has always been much bigger and complex than Jeremiah Wright. Obama rightly threw Wright “off the bus” for some of his inflammatory comments—without having to throw him “under the bus”. Invalidating an imperfect world that shaped some of Wright’s symbolic preachings would have been an injustice. Reminding us all of our history can perhaps make some of us more understanding.
    Wouldn’t hurt to listen to Obama’s speech again,
    http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/031808A.shtml
    or at least the highlights,
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/184150.php

    Reply

  31. TonyForesta says:

    Though I am finding it difficult the forget Obama’s failure to floor a single committee on Afghanistan, – speeches like this renew my hopes in some individual in position of leadership actually giving voice to the voiceless, and – unimaginable as it may seem, – being honest and forthright with all Ameircans.
    White America, must recognize and accept the sad fact and grim reality that – after all these battles, and all the rivers of innocent blood shed, and rank perversion and betrayal of our Constitution and our laws, – large pockets of Americans remain prejudice and racist. Prejudice and racism is based and rooted in ignorance.
    While Occidents roamed the forests of Europe like barbarians, woefully lacking in sanitation, or personal hygene – the magnificent and prosperous nations of the Orient were building fantastic cities, aqueducts, sewage systems, and temples, mapping the heavens, exploring the furthest reaches of mathmatics, developing practical industrial technologies, producing extraordinary works of art, and becoming civilized.
    Occidents and particularly Americans look through the glass darkly, and myopically.
    Obama spoke the truth today. Praise Jesus, Allah be praised, hallalueah. Finally, and at long last, an American politician is honest.

    Reply

  32. neill says:

    A President is more than the sum of the sounds that he emits.

    Reply

  33. neill says:

    actually, his political judgement is not bad — locally.
    I mean, what street cred does he have arriving in a black ward of Chicago as a Harvard grad raised in Hawaii, with a white mom…….?

    Reply

  34. Kofu says:

    Why the confusion between the community that Obama joined, and the pastor? Could it be that he found a broader community, as he describes it in his speech, that grounded him and kept him inspired in his work as an organizer in that part of Chicago?
    He does emphasize pastor Wright as an important part of his inspiration, perhaps because of the convention that puts the pastor (priest/rabbi) first and foremost. But from what I know of the Jewish approach, for example, and in my own Quaker tradition, the congregation as a whole is the better conduit for relations with the divine.
    Obama, in his speech, reflects this understanding. I don’t think he should be held to account for the views expressed by one member of the congregation, especially if the larger community is at least as important to him as the pastor.

    Reply

  35. neill says:

    scott, it’s really sad that you have to apologize for making the point that somebody had really bad judgement.
    TWENTY YEARS listening to sermons in this pastor’s pews?
    One MARRIAGE and two BAPTISMS?
    a pastor who is a MENTOR and a FRIEND?
    a property transaction that clearly breached Senate ethics rules?
    We elect Presidents for their perceived judgement.
    This man’s judgement stinks.

    Reply

  36. Spanky Sullivan says:

    I agree with Mitzi Morris. I am so tired of hate crazed blacks denouncing me because they were white.
    Slavery was the best thing that ever happened to them.

    Reply

  37. klevenstein says:

    Wow! A lot of commenters here must be much more insightful than I am. I mean, I just can’t look into Barack’s soul and divine his devious intentions the way some of you seem to do.
    …and somehow, I missed the obvious way that Barack enjoyed all those many sexist remarks of his supporters (could someone give me a link to those, because I’m apparently reading the wrong blogs).
    …and I have trouble judging the historical-ness of his speech without at least a few days or months passing.
    All I know for sure is, having read his books and observed his record and his rhetoric, he seems to speak and write with genuine inspiration, with very admirable ideals (most people won’t appreciate that one much, because ideology is so passe, especially now that we’ve seen the neo-con and Friedmanite’s devastating demonstration of their heartless, destructive ideology; still I believe idealism can be a constructive force).
    He also advocates for inclusiveness and fairness (I’m sorry; I can’t help myself; I just like that stuff; please don’t deride me for it), and he seems to understand from where different people are coming. He’s certainly had an educational upbringing, having already seen much more of life on Earth than I ever will (and sisters/brothers, I’ve seen my share).
    He has a poetic, intelligent and practical style that is undeniable, even by many of his greatest critics. Come on, admit it: if nothing else, the guy can turn a phrase, and the contrast with recent examples of oration by our current political “leaders” is unmistakable.
    Oration isn’t necessarily a core task of the President, but it sure wouldn’t hurt for whoever it is to be able to speak without stepping on their tongue every other word.
    He sounds like I want America to sound. My gut tells me that, among the candidates, he’s the best fit for the job.
    Oh, also, can we please ignore the concern trolls’ worrying about “cynical” things?

    Reply

  38. Jake Haisley says:

    “Here’s the problem, Obama is cynically trying to move the discussion about Reverend Wright’s comments to the broader issue of race.”
    I’m having a really hard time understanding how there is anything ‘cynical’ about this move. Politically motivated and shrewd, for sure, but writing one’s own speech in an attempt to contextualize racially charged speech and elevate the racial discourse wouldn’t make my list of the year’s most Machiavellian ploys.
    Obama wants us to see Pastor Wright’s comments as America’s problem, an element of black indignation and resentment that is one piece of the complex tapestry that is the American experience. It is not a rhetoric that he or I or you agree with, but it must be acknowledged as symptomatic of a tragic history that is much bigger than one man’s rhetoric.
    Obama’s detractors, on the other hand, want us to see the pastor’s comments as purely Obama’s problem. They find it enormously frustrating that he is successfully turning something that should scandalize him into Exhibit A in why the country needs a new kind of leadership. Per the examples of media generated scandals past, it isn’t supposed to happen like this, and they aren’t about to let him off easy.
    It all makes a lot of sense coming from Republicans, but not from Democrats. In using this issue to attack Obama, and rejecting Obama’s call for clarity as entirely self-interested, many Clinton supporters, who are otherwise very reasonable and fair, are buying into a conservative mindframe that views the black preacher as something alien, a strange, terrifying anomaly, so profoundly un-American that it might taint anything and anyone it touches. Hillary’s supporters and surrogates are using the same framing devices that have been used against American born and bred blacks and leftists to marginalize them within the political process since the 50s. They are doing far more harm to liberalism and the Democratic party than Obama supporters have done by ‘being silent as church mice’, as you claim they were.
    Clinton and her supporters continue to bolster conservative frames for the sake of her candidacy and the short term goal of Democratic presidential power. Whether using the ‘Dangerous World’ frame that Steve has mentioned, or this ‘Dangerous Black’ frame that is now being produced, they repeatedly show that they are not interested in doing the same things that Obama, Howard Dean, and others have been trying to do – to show that liberal, progressive values are more patriotic and more American than the failed and depleted conservative ones; to build a new liberal consensus that will last for decades.
    It will be very unfortunate for us liberals if a Hillary victory comes at the expense of this great opportunity.

    Reply

  39. MITZI MORRIS says:

    Obama’s speech today hardly convinced. He obviously has lied when he told Fox as I heard him say on Friday, “If I ever heard him say anything like this I would have objected before. I objected when I STARTED RUNNING, BUT HE REMAINED ON MY RELIGIOUS ADVISORY BOARD.When asked again if in 20 yrs he had heard these infammatory remarks and accusations of hate speeche, he said, “I never heard him say anything like these speeches, Never.”
    Then today he said he DID hear these, but we white folks are too square to understand how anger is never frgotten and we don’t know what happens in Black Churches. He refused to reject Wright.We shold all keep this a race issue, of course.

    Reply

  40. The Navigator says:

    WigWag and Sue,
    I see, and the Clinton campaign spoke up forcefully to oppose racial innuendo about Obama when?

    Reply

  41. Sue says:

    WigWag is right. Obama supporters can’t complain about the media’s obsession with the story about his pastor’s comments, when they were perfectly happy to see Hillary smeared with sexist lies.
    You know what they say, “paybacks a bitch.”

    Reply

  42. WigWag says:

    Here’s the problem, Obama is cynically trying to move the discussion about Reverend Wright’s comments to the broader issue of race. Why? Because this is a topic that he thinks he can control. He’s convinced he can use his media appointed status as a transformative figure to wax eloquent about race, wow the pundits and change the subject away from the objectionable comments made by Reverand Wright. Why shouldn’t Obama be conviced that this strategy will work? After all he was able to take an innocent comment made by Hillary Clinton about President Johnson and Martin Luther King and use the media to paint both Clintons as racists. If that’s not cynical, what is?
    The problem of sexism has been far more prominent in this campaign than race. Pundits in newspaper columns and cable talk shows have critiqued Hillary’s crying (when she didn’t), her laugh (ever heard a male candidate’s laugh criticized?), the timbre of her voice (“shrill”) and her “emasculating” nature (remember Tucker Carlson’s comment that he crosses his legs whenever he sees Hillary?) And while all this was happening, Obama and his supporters were silent as church mice. Why? Because it gave them a temporary tactical advantage.
    I can’t help but wonder how Senator Obama and his supporters feel about being hoisted on their own petard.

    Reply

  43. DonS says:

    Spunkmeyer, certainly when it comes to the CW reference to our wonderful Israeli allies that Obama mouthed, POA isn’t at all alone in noting the the obvious. You can visit this parallel universe by opening your eyes.
    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2008/03/obamas-speech.html

    Reply

  44. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I, like a good many of the people that don’t even know this blog exists, could care less about religious convictions and more about
    the ability to competently govern.”
    Hey “Spunkmeyer”.
    We have twenty years of Obama’s apparent “religious convictions” through which to draw conclusions, based on his faithful attendance to this church, and his association to with this pastor. (Whom he just threw in the gutter)
    Now, how many years of “competent governance” can we attribute to him, through which to draw conclusions? Seems to me you’re the one singing Kumbaya to a campfire on the planet Mars.

    Reply

  45. Chris Brown says:

    Spunkmeyer,
    I watched the JFK speech. It was quite a different situation. JFK was not answering for the remarks of his pastor, but was addressing the anti-Catholic bigotry pervading society at the time.

    Reply

  46. Spunkmeyer says:

    POA, this is amazing. I’d love to know how to visit this parallel
    universe.

    Reply

  47. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I listened to Obama’s speech twice today, as well as a few snippets from the more “controversial” of Wright’s sermons, that are being played ad nauseum on RW talk radio.
    I can actually say that Obama’s comments bother me more than Wright’s do. Wright’s incendiary comments are indeed very close to the mark, and any human being with even an iota of intelligence, reasonably informed, knows full well that our leaders have committed this country to some extremely slimey, murderous, and inhumane policies. There is truly much to be ashamed of. And we can love our nation, its ideological tenets, and its intended body of values, yet still despise and be ashamed of policies our leaders have pursued in our name. Wright’s mistake has been in attacking the nation for these abominational policies, instead of attacking the policy makers.
    But Obama? His speech was a display of furious backpeddling, insincere posturing, and a pathetic desertion of a pastor and a Church that he has been a member of for over twenty years. And the sentence he threw in about our “staunch ally” Israel, terrorism, and “radical Islam” shows us just how far he will go to whore himself to the same destructive forces that have contributed to to our current condition. Certainly I would have far more respect for Obama if he would have strongly defended his pastor, and taken the more controversial aspects of Wright’s sermons and faced them head on with explanations and thoughtful analysis. His contention that he was unaware of the more incendiary contents of Wright’s sermons is surely pure unmitigated horseshit, and to any reasonably intelligent party must be recognized as such.
    Really, I think Obama has done more than his fair share of humming along to Wright’s song, never expecting to actually be in a position to vie for the Presidency. I would bet you that as recently as two years ago he had no idea he would be running for Pres in ’08, and that for most of his adult life he has internally thought of himself as a “black activist”. Now, the alliances and associations that he nurtured as a “black activist” are biting him in the ass, for they have become liabilities, to be used by the RW to demonize him into a black radical with dangerous associates and mentors. And its working.
    He should have stood up today. Instead, he cow-towed and mewled.
    Stick a fork in him, he’s done.

    Reply

  48. Spunkmeyer says:

    Jake, carriage returns are your friend.
    I, like a good many of the people that don’t even know this blog
    exists, could care less about religious convictions and more about
    the ability to competently govern.

    Reply

  49. Jake Haisley says:

    I have a deep suspicion that at some point during their 20 year relationship Wright was able to convince Obama that Christianity involves a preferential option for the poor, that the Gospel demands that the economically downtrodden be elevated by the power of love, much as Jesus is said (by adherents of the myth) to have done for people he encountered. The same mentality can lead to angry, partisan (though not necessarily militant) denunciation of wealthy and politically connected people, just as Jesus is said to have done, and is generally frowned upon by those who favor a more practical, politically expedient gospel. If Obama’s Christianity does entail this element of social dogma, it is out of line with the American mainstream and will become a liability in both politics and governance. Much like his patriotism, Obama’s religion may be too deeply seated and integrated with his conscience, which will alienate many of this country’s most vocally Christian voters. Obama’s now difficult task is to assure Wall Street and Washington that these beliefs will not hinder his ability to govern a republic whose primary concern is perpetual expansion of markets for private enterprise and capital.

    Reply

  50. jim miller says:

    Scott,
    Clearly you choose not to listen…racial divide exists in all churches..either from the pulpit or the pew, leaving will not improve it…your post is disingenious and misleading if you believe that those 30 second snips are an accurate snapshot of obama’s judgement or wright’s life work…..
    Before you tell someone their shoes stink please walk a mile in them first…..
    What do you know about Pastor Wright’s life work to dismiss it in such fashion?
    Should we dismiss you as small and narrow for reinforcing klan still politics and limbaugh talking points?

    Reply

  51. jackifus says:

    This was the first time a politician spoke to me as though I were an adult and not a child.
    Obama challenged the listener to engage the nuance of the situation… and in so doing he elevated our political discourse.
    I don’t agree with everything he said. But I will say there’s a stark contrast between him and the other candidates. He brings a rich and informed perspective with a long view.
    That was a brave speech to make.

    Reply

  52. Mr.Murder says:

    This is his “city on a Hill” moment, to hear the chattering class of media stenographers.
    It can be said,
    he’s got “The Wright Stuff”
    …but perhaps his judgement in making the boilerplate preacher a member of his campaign committee is perhaps a mistake of several degrees magnitude.
    The man’s bluster provded plausible cover for his dealings with people like Rezko, who got a lot of funds channeled for urban renewal and left those properties and tenants to rot.
    Don’t look too close at the urban health care providers, whose crumbling that his wife was part of, between board positions amd zoning.

    Reply

  53. Spunkmeyer says:

    Chris Brown, for the record, JFK had to go out of his way to make
    it known that he wasn’t going to be receiving instructions on
    having to govern by the Pope. Not to say it hasn’t happened, but
    I’d say the event of 1960 should seem pretty quaint 48 years
    later.
    This is a media-fueled firestorm, and an attempt to further a
    narrative that they believe should exist. I’d much rather talk
    about our federal debt and health care concerns.

    Reply

  54. diana witt says:

    Pretty elitist description of how religion works for much of the world. People don’t shop around for a religion that fits their views. It’s generally a part of their world view from day one. They may ultimately reject what they started with, but like ending a marriage, choosing a new church may be a painful and complex decision, particularly if family and children are involved. Paul’s post reinforces the position of many right-wing evangelical conservatives, that religion and politics are intertwined, when for many of us, they should be completely separate.
    Diana

    Reply

  55. Chris Brown says:

    Who was the last Caucasian candidate who was required to answer for the words of his pastor, or the lunacy of his clerical supporters, for that matter?
    Can’t remember? Perhaps because there have been none. Even though each campaign season their is a pilgrimage of republican candidates to bend their knee before the likes of Robertson and, until recently, Falwell.
    This whole episode has been sickening, and illuminates a racial double standard and the continued pervasive USA racism.

    Reply

  56. Mike says:

    I have a hard time with this issue because I don’t believe that it is an issue. When I compare Rev. Wright’s comments to Rev. Hagee’s comments I find it profoundly unsetteling that a firestorm surrounds Obama and not McCain.
    Evey you, Steve, have gotten sucked into a pseudo-event.

    Reply

  57. Robert Morrow says:

    I don’t care what Obama said today. At least he is not a sociopath, so he is qualified to be president, at compared to Hillary. Obama is untested innocence and Hillary is proven malevalence. Hillary belongs to the Church of what’s Good for the Clintons.

    Reply

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