Obama explains

I’ve just had the chance to listen to Obama’s race speech. It is, as always, eloquently written and delivered and I agree with what he says about America, race, unity, and our work to do. Who could not?

But I believe he is trying too hard to dodge making a decision about Jeremiah Wright and his divisive and racist speech. After having thrown Wright to the wolves in prior videos, he now backs up. He tries to explain Wright. He explains him more as a product of racism than a racist himself. He says he cannot leave Wright and his flock behind or we will not come together to solve our problems.

No. A church is a choice. I left a church because it was bigoted toward gays. I left one congregation and the entire Presbyterian Church with it. Oh, one could try to explain their bigotry, to give it context and history, to caution that they should not be tossed aside because of this belief. But that, in my mind, would be every bit as bad as staying in a church or a country club that refused to allow black people in. That would be every bit as bad as refusing to condemn the hate speech of a Pat Robertson or a Jerry Falwell. It would be as bad as trying to explain away the racism of George Wallace or Lester Maddox with context and history. I did not want to endorse or support this church myself and I certainly did not want to raise my children in their atmosphere of discrimination. A church is a choice and I chose to leave.

Obama chooses not to leave. He chooses to try to explain Wright away. He wants to make it into a lesson in racial history. He wants to stay with Wright and company while only disagreeing with what he says. He wants to have it both ways, every way.

This is not the decisive decision of a leader, I think.

I also believe that Obama missed the opportunity to recast the campaign, the nation, and even himself. As he so beautifully puts it, he has bits of every bit of America in him. He is not black. He is not white. He can be the melting pot we’ve dreamed of in this country — at least my generation did once — and have never and probably will never achieve. Indeed, we no longer want cultures to melt away. And that is good. But I’ve heard Vin Diesel and Soledad O’Brien — hey, I’ll take cultural spokesmen where I can find them — refusing to let people put them into racial pens and to insist that they are simply American.

Barack Obama is simply American. Yes, he’s right that we cannot work together to solve racial problems and all our other problems by glossing over race, acting as if the history and wounds are not there. We agree. But we also cannot move past mistrust by justifying words and actions that divide and demand condemnation and separation.

I liked my minister. But I told him that he was supporting an atmosphere of bigotry. I told his board that was why we were leaving their church. I refused to try to get along with that. It was a choice, a sad but clear and necessary decision. If we are going to change, we sometimes must break from the past, not explain it.

  • Does it make any difference that Wright is retired and no longer at the pulpit?

  • The problem with this is that a church is a church. It’s not a place for politics, nor should it be.

    I’m not a religious person myself, but I respect that religiosity is part of Senator Obama’s makeup. What’s more, I think we can see that this is a deeply principled person who — like all of us — has some inherent contradictions and has made his own legitimate choices.

    A good many people choose to remain involved with religious institutions whose specific bigotries they disagree with. Look at Andrew Sullivan and his commitment to Catholicism. Just because you made the choice — a principled one, I might add — to leave your church because you disagreed with your pastor doesn’t make people who stay involved with religious organizations they disagree with any less legitimate or principled.

    There is more than one way of being in the world.

  • Jeff, It is sad how cynical our political system has made us that we are disappointed in candidates for not saying what they ought to say for political gain. There is underlying truth in the fact that Obama chose this church and this minister. I am grateful that his comments have not obscured the truth. I, for one, now know all that I need to know.

  • beachmom

    In contrast, Jeff, Obama standing by Wright showed a virtue not displayed enough by politicians: loyalty to friends. Obama made it clear that he did not agree, but rather condemned, Wright’s words. But Wright was the minister who taught Obama about Jesus. His story is different than ours, Jeff. I, too, left my Church because I didn’t agree with the priests. But Obama’s overarching goal for attending that church was to help the poor in the same rough neighborhood where he was a community organizer. Wright’s over the top rhetoric did not change that. It would have been easier to throw Wright under the bus, but not necessarily the right thing. This is an important nugget of info we have now learned about Obama: if the going gets rough, he’s not going to drop you. He is a good friend, and has a sense of decency and integrity not seen that often.

  • P. Lee

    What about willing to stand and make a change? So typically an American attitude that if there is a problem, just leave it. It is time to take a stand and make a change. Confront what is bad and accept only the good. It is a far better thing what Barak Obama did than what HRC has ever done: Take a Stand…For Change!

  • Eric Jaffa

    Obama’s point is that there is more good than bad about Rev. Wright:

    Obama describes him as “a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless…”

  • Jeff, I have a great deal of respect for the work you have done and I sense from the voice you use in this post that you are writing from the heart. So thanks.

    Let me start where you end:

    If we are going to change, we sometimes must break from the past, not explain it.

    That is not my experience with change, personally or professionally. Organizations or people who are not telling their stories in the context of history are doomed to repeat it. The times that I have worked with something that views itself as “breaking from the past”, my own experience has been that the past still lurks around, waiting to break things.

    As Obama gave that speech, in that location, in the world we live in today, he embodied truth-telling, for me most powerfully in this passage:

    In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

    The anger he speaks of has fueled American politics almost since the bell first rang. It has consumed us, separated families and faiths, robbed us of some of our greatness and some of our greatest leaders.

    Obama (and Hillary) have both been labeled identity politicians. This is, from my POV, a frame that white men in power use to minimize their respective candidacies. At their best, both candidates have been enegaged is a conversation around our identity, as Americans and global citizens.

    Your post also included this:

    A church is a choice and I chose to leave.

    I am so sorry for you & your family. My family & I have left 2 churches for just the type of bigotry that you have felt. Our choice was to leave that church & denomination, but for us, the reality is that we did not leave the faith of those we know, love & even disagree with. It is no wonder that more than two-thirds of young adults who attend a Protestant church for at least a year in high school will stop attending that church as they become adults.

    I respect your choice and your view of this speech. I regret the profound cynicism that you have consistently displayed in posting about Obama. I hope that there may be a way to move past the condemnation and separation, but my sense is that the only way through it is through it, not around it or to break from our shared effort.

  • In most of the mainline christian churches – the UCC is one of the seven sisters – the church is considered to be the congregation, and the minister is an employee.

    What’s more, the minister only preaches one day a week. It may be the most visible part of his job, but it’s neither the biggest part, nor the most important part of his job.

    I’ve been in churches where I significantly disliked the minister, yet I remained because ministers come and go, and the congregation remains. I’ve also been in a church where I very much disliked the preaching, but when my daughter was stillborn in a hospital 150 miles away, the minister drove down to give solace to my wife and myself. You can’t imagine how much that meant to me.

    If God told you to leave the church, then you were right to leave the church. The other alternative, of course, is to work from within to change the church. Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

    A jewish guy in his 30s? I find the answers interesting when I ask clergymen whether Mary Magdelene was Jesus’s wife, or if Jesus was gay. It’s not critical to my faith, whatever the reality is, but the clergyman’s answer says a lot about the clergyman.

  • BA Benedict

    “He says he cannot leave Wright and his flock behind or we will not come together to solve our problems.”

    I think what he is saying is that if we become engulfed in self-righteous gauntlet-throwing acts of castigation, we will never be able to work together to work on our shared problems.

    “Obama…. chooses to try to explain Wright away. He wants to make it into a lesson in racial history. He wants to stay with Wright and company while only disagreeing with what he says.”

    Voters (rightly) wonder what the candidate himself thinks of this man who has played an important role in his life. In his speech, yes, the Senator sought to address this. I’m not sure I understand what “explain Wright away” means, but I did hear him repudiate (again) the pastor’s irresponsible and divisive ideas yet embrace larger (Christian) concepts of empathy, understanding, and forgiveness.

    And, yes, he also took the opportunity to speak of America’s racial history, presumably because it is relevant to discussing both his relationship to the church and its pastor and also to the attention this matter is receiving.

    As to “only disagreeing with what [Wright] says,” no, that’s not all he does. Rather, he also has embarked on a long and recorded career of serving his community and his constituents, and–importantly–has adopted a completely different take than his pastor on the way he talks about, deals with, and promotes racial (and political) reconciliation.

    I commend you for making a principled decision to leave your church based on your divergent beliefs. But I am not willing to state that Senator Obama’s decision was less principled. The world and the people in it are just way too complex to exercise such reductionism.

  • Jeff… I think the error that you make in your post is to intimate that your experience (a totally legit one) is the same as Obama’s (also a legit experience).

    Your issue was with a church that was bigoted. You chose to leave that church and to make sure that the leaders of the church knew that their view was bigoted.

    Obama’s story is different in that Wright was a man that helped lead him to one of the most important decisions of his life and he chooses, though he denounces (and rejects!) these statements, to stand by the man who has meant a great deal to him.

    Obama has his reasons, which I think the speech laid out very well, but the chief unspoken reason could easily be presumed as this: People aren’t monoliths. A person’s comments which are disagreeable on the one hand don’t make his other deeds or comments automatically disagreeable.

    I don’t think it is automatic that leaving the church is his ONLY choice in this matter. He chooses not to completely disown a man who has meant a lot to him, while disagreeing with him. In an era where loyalty over consequence has led us down some horrible paths, it’s refreshing to see someone who is willing to publically disagree with someone while still remaining loyal (and helping to restore the very noble part of loyalty versus the stupid parts).

  • Q

    The bottom line is that Obama is a politician running for the nation’s highest office. Everyone please remember that. If there wasn’t some professional or personal gain to be had in today’s speech, he wouldn’t have made it. Make your own conclusions as to what those might be.

  • aucontraire

    Shouldn’t the refusal to disavow a vote for a wrongheaded war be a more pressing matter for the press to examine than explosive remarks by a retired minister?

  • chico haas

    Good speech. Well-written, powerfully-delivered.

    What I find fascinating about the progessive wing of the Democrats is how, suddenly, all the “Jesus” talk out of Mr. Obama’s mouth is nothing more than further proof of his upstanding morality. Almost any other office-seeker who “found Jesus” would be marginalized as a nutjob Christianist.

    Admittedly, he was forced to talk about Jesus, since to attribute his longstanding relationship with Rev. Wright to anything else would reveal he and his wife’s commitment to serious black activism.

    Two things answered for sure today: Obama is black enough. And he’s no Muslim.

  • As a Southerner myself, I loved hearing Obama use a Faulkner quote in his speech today. Reflecting on his speech, I was reminded of another quote from this Southern genius of writing:

    We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it

    From my POV, Obama was practicing freedom today.

  • Simon

    For me, I am increasingly convinced that Obama’s temperament and intellect are more suitable to the near-term challenges we face as Americans.

    These, for me, are:
    1. A rapid, non-demoralizing and carefully regionally coordinated withdrawal from Iraq.
    2. An unprecedented and well-organized campaign to develop alternative energy technologies and economics.
    3. A re-engagement and re-development of global institutions that can focus on poverty, nuclear/WMD proliferation, epedemic diseases, and climate change.
    4. A careful re-regulation of the financial services architecture that balances the risk-taking motive of Wall Street with the need for global financial stability.

    As I watched the speech, and considered the three remaining candidates, I was certain my choice — Obama — would be by far the best.

    I’m not trying to persuade you, and I’m respectful of your loyalty to Hillary. But I remain astonished that you would feel otherwise, Jeff. I suspect you share my concern about these near-term challenges — and a pretty good feel for the organizational requirements needed to meet them.

  • Obama promotes a racist double standard.

    He demanded that Don Imus be sacked over one racist comment. But he refuses to condemn his pastor for 20 years of naked bigotry.

    Obama is a hypocrite. He is not a uniter, but a slicker, smoother divider.

  • MD

    “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

    These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.”

    He’s not running from it. I don’t know what leadership is if not that. This is the most considered, well-crafted discussion starter on race that I’ve heard from any national political figure in my lifetime (i’m 32). I’d hope we take the chance to view the discussion outside the terms of one election.

    “We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

    We can do that.

    But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. “

  • kat

    I guess that’s why so many in the muslim community can’t disown Osama bin laden. Is it not the same thing?

  • Bob Roberts

    I’ve often wondered why the “Hate is Not a Family Value” bumper stickers have fallen off Volvos in recent years. I guess it is because Hate is still alive and well in the Democratic party. As long as you are ‘angry’ it’s ok seemed to be the message I got today.

    Forget this guy, his whacko friends, and his smugness. I’m looking for someone else.

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  • MD

    @ kat Says

    Yes kat, it is exactly the same thing. Hope we never meet.

  • Keith1965

    Decisions about churches, and faith, and religion are very complicated and very personal… perhaps this is why they should be left out of political campaigns.

    I respect your decision to leave your church. But I would also respect you if you said, “this church is as much mine as any other member’s, therefore I am going to stay and work for change.”

    You left over over the policy of an entire denomination (and I know that would be really be hard to fight against). But that is not a good comparison to Obama’s experience in the UCC. Is there a UCC policy you think Obama should quite the denomination over?

    One old retired pastor said some things which Obama today renounced. That seems good enough for me.. in fact, it seems like more than I should really know or have any opinion about.

  • Q

    If you’re playing poker and you look around the table and can’t tell who the sucker is, stand up and walk out. It’s you.

  • BA Benedict

    Calls for level-headedness and foot-groundedness such as those from Q are always welcome. And I freely grant his earlier point that as a politician (and as a human being), he “wouldn’t have made [the speech]” if there wasn’t “some professional or personal gain to be had,” but I’m not sure how that’s relevant…or not to be expected.

    I am curious if Q found anything in the speech insincere.

    And I would also caution that even if you think you know who the sucker is, sometimes it’s still you.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Obama made it clear that he did not agree, but rather condemned, Wright’s words.

    No – Obama made it clear that those words are causing him political problems today. A month ago, those words weren’t a problem, they were part of his base.

    Character is what one does when no one is looking. When no one was looking, Obama picked and supported this church for 20 years. When no one was looking, he approvingly cited and quoted Rev. Wright. When no one was looking, he claimed Rev. Wright as an advisor.

    Obama’s defenders are the same folks who jumped to condemn anyone who spoke once at Liberty College.

  • Buffalo Dan

    I will vote for Sen. Obama in November. But I do think there is something to what Jeff said about yesterday’s speech. It reminds me of how former Jimmy Carter speechwriter James Fallows described some of that president’s speeches: When there was conflict between various factions over an issue that Carter was talking about he would sometimes try to include all sides in his speech in an effort to make everybody happy, rather than resolving the contradictions. Sen. Obama did do a bit of that yesterday, trying to have it both ways, or all ways.

  • Harl Delos makes a good point —

    Jarvis left the Presbyterian Church because its institutional theology was bigoted not because of the prejudices of an individual preacher.

    What is there in the theology of the United Church of Christ that is so offensive that Barack Obama has to leave it? The UCC is a church not a cult. Obama is a member of a congregation not a follower of an individual preacher. What sort of test is it to require congregants to leave an entire church because one of its ordained ministers happens to preach venom?

    Further, if Jarvis condemns Presbyterians for their irredeemable bigotry towards homosexuals, surely he has to apply the same standard to Roman Catholics. Does he make the same loyalty test of Catholic politicians — that they disavow their church?

    Jarvis lashes out at UCC! What’s next? Quakers?

    Enough of religious tests for political office! It is unConstitutional.

  • Andy Freeman

    Wright wasn’t just “a mininster” in the UCC – he was the minister of the congregation that Obama was a member of.

    It took Obama 20 years to “condemn”. Maybe he was busy. So busy that he couldn’t even find another church. (There are many in Chicago.)

    Then again, Obama wasn’t too busy to condemn Imus within days of the “nappy” comment.

  • Andy Freeman — but Jeff Jarvis’ tale of leaving the Presbyterian Church was the opposite of the case you describe in Chicago. Jarvis left a minister he liked because he opposed the bigotry of the institution’s theology. He applies the same principle to Obama. You and I both disagree with Jarvis. My disagreement is that he should apply the same rule to Obama as he does to himself–and judge the church not the preacher. You argue that Jarvis’ principle is wrong — judge the minister not the church. In the end why not apply neither rule and impose no religious loyalty test one way or another on candidates for political office? Regards — Andrew Tyndall

  • chico haas


    Mr. Obama should worship where he wants, no question. But let’s be accurate. There’s no issue with the UCC’s theology – it’s a Christian church. The issue is the Rev. Wright’s role in Mr. Obama’s social and political philosophy. It appears he has been Barack and Michelle’s mentor, advisor and, likely, confidante. And among Rev. Wright’s theological niceties are some pretty nasty “white devil” societal attitudes. People wonder how much of this Barack buys into. He say’s none. Well, maybe/maybe not.

    It’s quite likely these two men simply formed a practical relationship. Rev. Wright saw Mr. Obama as a chance to sculpt the Great Black Hope and Barack saw the Rev as a necessary entree into Illinois black politics. I get that.

    Whatever the truth, the Rev is a destructive force in Barack’s campaign. But Barack can’t cut loose without, if you will, “forgetting where he comes from.” A cardinal sin in many black communities.

  • I think the question here is what Senator Obama’s admittedly contradictory and very human relationship with Rev. Wright really says about what kind of a president he would be. I think the fact that he can coexist peacefully and in brotherhood with someone who holds views he repudiates speaks very well to his ability to build coalitions with conservative Republicans who may not always share his views.

  • Chico — fair enough to concentrate on Wright not the UCC. But doesn’t your argument make Jarvis’ anecdote about opposing the official bigotry of the Presbyterian Church a confusing red herring?

    Your point about “pretty nasty white devil social attitudes” is well taken.

    In order to be fair, it would be productive if more Christians — including, perhaps, Jarvis himself — helped us non-believers understand this theology of Hope. We non-Christians know the phrase from St Paul about “Faith, Hope and Charity” but have no clear understanding of how that theological term of art differs from everyday vernacular “hope” as in “I hope I win the lottery this weekend.”

    It is my understanding that “Hope” — and its audacity — plays a much larger role in the Rev Wright’s preaching than portrayals of this country as the US of KKK-A and other White Devil tropes.

    If we are to follow your advice, Chico, and take Wright’s theology seriously in order to obtain an insight into Obama’s worldview, we have to understand whether Wright’s much-quoted inflammatory comments are integral or incidental to his theology of Hope.

    Or we could not follow your advice and treat the entire area of investigation as a thinly-disguised religious test for political office.

    Regards — Andrew

  • chico haas

    Thanks, Andrew.

    1. Mr. Jarvis will have to speak to the Presbyterian issue. My sense of certain religious institutions is that what Mr. Jarvis calls gay bigotry, some churches call sins – and that carries a religious context.

    2. I guess Hope, theologically, is believing God will provide something positive to happen. Heal the sick. Right wrongs. Logically, the Rev Wright could tie Hope to fixing “social injustice.” Still, I can’t believe the Rev thought God answered his prayers by letting the “chickens come home to roost.” To me, he was indulging in social and political commentary, not anything theological.

    3. Is Mr. Obama’s situation a religious test for office? Not in the sense that Romney had to defend/explain his Mormon faith. Mr. Obama’s problem is one of association. Like Sinatra being linked to the Mob.

    4. When in doubt, you’re right not to follow my advice. I often don’t.

  • Chico — thanks for the clarification.

    You seem to be arguing that Obama’s secular associations with Wright — any advancements, benefits, endorsements he may have received through networking, quid pro quos, favors — are fair game for scrutiny while Wright’s theology is off limits.

    That sounds completely reasonable.

    Of course, that leaves a third category as the murky one: any of Wright’s “social and political commentary,” as you put it, that happens to have no theological basis.

    It seems that almost all of the criticism of Wright by Obama’s opponents falls into that third category.

    It was my impression of Obama’s speech yesterday that he was trying to explain to white Christians that this third category — for cultural, historical, race-specific reasons — is more blurred in African-American pulpits, especially when the preacher is of a certain generation, than in most of their churches.

    Personally, I find myself convinced that Obama’s culturally specific, historically grounded, argument about blurring rings true.

    Obama’s criticism of Wright’s preaching for its inability to perceive any hope for racial change in this country seems to be a case of student correcting mentor for a failure to believe “God will provide something positive to happen, heal the sick, right wrongs.”

    As such Obama seemed to criticize Wright constructively, using the minister’s own insights to correct him.

  • chico haas


    What you say makes sense, since Rev Wright is a proponent of Black Liberation Theology, to wit:

    “Black liberation theology is theology from the perspective of oppressed people. It seeks to interpret the gospel of Jesus against the backdrop of historical and contemporary racism. ”

    I, dumbly, don’t think of theology in that way, as a term which encompasses racial issues, but the church under discussion does, so there you are. “Blurring” is good way to describe it. Much appreciated.

  • Jeff,
    I commend you for leaving your church and I wish more people would do the same for the same reason. However, you leaving the church cannot be equated with Obama’s decision to stand by his pastor. As Obama very clearly states in the speech, he can condemn the words though he loves the man. Much as we all do with the words of family members whom we love but can’t universally agree with. But, as he very clearly states, to repudiate his church, and all the people in it, including his pastor, would be to repudiate Black people. And no elected office is worth that to him, I guess.
    It’s a complex issue, and more nuanced that the condemnation of homosexuality. There are similarities but it is not the same.

  • kat

    Bologna–he should have left that church 20 years ago when he first found out it was a Black Supremist church which preached racism. If Hillary belonged to some white supremist church that spouted the same views as Obama’s does, but in reverse, you’d lynch her on the spot. There should never have been a 20 year relationship if Obama truly feels as he says, but not does. Read Michelle Obama’s thesis. I’m not one bit surprised about Obama’s preacher–I’m just surprised it took so long to surface. The excuse that we must understand the roots of a hateful man who claims we deserved 911, purposefully infected Blacks with AIDS, that our foreign policy is the reason for all the world’s ills, that God should damn America, his anti-Jewish spewing–he sounds like a Black Ahmadinejad. And if I don’t buy Obama’s excuse then I’m the racist. Bullshit–I’m, not buying his BS.

  • Andy Freeman

    I didn’t write anything about Jarvis’ actions so it’s rather silly to suggest that I support or approve of them.

    I could have been more clear in what I meant by “church”. I didn’t mean the UCC. I meant the specific local organization that Obama attended and that Wright preached to.

    IIRC, UCC is not a top-down institution in the same sense as the Catholic Church or Presbyterians. Instead, individual ministers preach to their congregation pretty much what they please, subject only to whether the congregation will support them.

    Obama could have chosen another UCC congregation. He didn’t. He chose Wright’s congregation. He supported Wright.

    > In the end why not apply neither rule and impose no religious loyalty test one way or another on candidates for political office?

    It’s not a “religious loyalty test”. It’s whether someone who supports and believes in someone like Wright should be president. That question doesn’t turn on his views about the divinity of Christ, the truth (or lack thereof) of the resurrection, etc. It turns on Wright’s conspiracy mongering, hate, and bigotry.

    Of course, if you want to argue that they’re essential religious views and thus beyond question, I’m sure that you extend the same deference to the Christian Identity movement. (The sermons are pretty much the same, the only difference being that the oppressors are blacks and jews, not whites and jews.)

  • Both Kat and Andy Freeman appear to want to conflate the United Church of Christ with the congregation at Trinity on the South Side of Chicago with its preacher, the Rev Jeremiah Wright. The three do not amount to the same thing, which is precisely the point that Jeff Jarvis made in his original post when he advocated leaving a denomination because of its theology whether or not one liked an individual minister.

    Harl Delos and Keith 1965 make the point clearly earlier in this thread that it is entirely appropriate for Barack Obama to stay loyal to his church, even to a particular congregation of his church, despite the objectionable content of some of the sermons of one of its ministers, even its leading minister. This seems to me to be an especially important observation when considering a church that is as large and as active in the community as Trinity, where so much of its ministry’s social outreach extends beyond its preacher’s words.

    So Kat, stipulating that some of Wright’s words were, as Chico Haas called them earlier, “pretty nasty white devil social attitudes” that does not make the United Church of Christ in general or even the Trinity congregation in particular a “Black Supremacist church.”

    My reading of Obama’s criticism of Wright’s preaching yesterday was, nevertheless, to decry his anachronistic, embattled, polarizing worldview as negatively stereotyping today’s race relations and being unduly unhopeful about future ones. Obama categorically condemned Wright’s damnation of America.

    No one that I know of ever said that someone who does not “buy Obama’s excuse” is a “racist” and no one should. Being failed to be convinced by his speech is not racism, Kat, it is simple disagreement

    As for your thought experiment about a Presidential candidate belonging to a “white supremacist church” instead — and Andy’s about a Christian Identity candidate — there were indeed some who called for Mitt Romney’s disqualification because of the Church of Latter Day Saints’ tardy decision to racially integrate. I, personally, rejected such calls as an unConstitutional religious test and I believe almost everybody else did too. No one wanted to “lynch him on the spot.”

    Andy, I did not suggest, as you imply, that you supported Jarvis’ actions. I was referring to his principle, namely that one should leave a church whose theology was bigoted even if one liked one’s own pastor. I was pointing out that in Obama’s case you disagreed with Jarvis’ principle. Instead you argued that one should judge a church by its individual minister not by its theology.

    I stand corrected about the contrasting organizational structures of the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church. Your point is correct: the more decentralized a church is, the more one’s adherence belongs to a congregation and its minister, less to the denomination as a whole. I still quibble when you say: “He chose Wright’s congregation. He supported Wright.” As I argued above, they are not automatically conflated and, anyway, it is not clear that the few inflammatory soundbites circulated from Wright’s sermons represent the central thrust of his ministry. Obama certainly argues that they are not. He deserved the hearing we all gave him yesterday to make that case. Kat and you and Jarvis appear unconvinced. To me he sounded plausible. Fair enough.

    As for the “religious loyalty test,” Chico Haas and I tried to thrash that out earlier, trying to find the line where the theology of Hope crosses over to a social justice gospel and from there to race-based liberation theology. As I said earlier, Obama’s speech attempted to explain why the “essential religious views” of this African-American strand of theology may seem blurred to white Christians.

    You say Obama’s support for Wright does not turn on Wright’s theology but on his “conspiracy mongering, hate, and bigotry.” But what if Obama was being sincere and it really was the theology of Hope that attracted him to the congregation not that other obnoxious stuff. Would your test still apply?

    Regards to all — Andrew

  • kat

    Well, then Obama has piss poor judgement. He is not a leader but a meek follower of a sick, demented, twisted preacher. When I listen to and see that guy waving his arms, he sounds like a jihadist. If Obama was truly a leader, he would have spoken his mind to this preacher–and claiming he never knew just doesn’t cut it–except to convince me the chosen one may also be a liar. Of course, he shouldn’t have left the church or its congregation–he and the congregation should have sacked its mullah. I have belonged to the same Catholic Church for 30 years–we welcome people of all colors. I would never condone a priest who preached Wright’s kind of hatred–what the hell is he teaching to Obama’s and others’ kids? For the sake of the kids , I’d leave.

    Here is the policy statement of Obama’s church–I think it has recently been removed.
    We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian… Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain “true to our native land,” the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.

    Trinity United Church of Christ adopted the Black Value System written by the Manford Byrd Recognition Committee chaired by Vallmer Jordan in 1981. We believe in the following 12 precepts and covenantal statements. These Black Ethics must be taught and exemplified in homes, churches, nurseries and schools, wherever Blacks are gathered. They must reflect on the following concepts:

    Commitment to God
    Commitment to the Black Community
    Commitment to the Black Family
    Dedication to the Pursuit of Education
    Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence
    Adherence to the Black Work Ethic
    Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect
    Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”
    Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired skills available to the Black Community
    Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting Black Institutions
    Pledge allegiance to all Black leadership who espouse and embrace the Black Value System
    Personal commitment to embracement of the Black Value System.

  • Simply leaving a situation, a church or a conflict does not make a great leader. Instead, what we hear from Sen. Obama is thoughtful reflection on the complexity of all that is race relations in this country. Make no mistake, he codemned the harsh words of Rev. Wright– so there should be no misunderstanding which position Obama takes. But to suggest, as some pundits have, that he should have simply abandoned the church and its community is simplistic. No, what I heard from Obama yesterday is a man who is willing to understand a situation thoroughly and not just draw a knee jerk reaction. Thoughtfulnmess, contemplation and understanding the viewpoints of others is something that makes a great leader. Very impressive, I say.

  • Kat — in what ways, if at all, do you understand the Roman Catholic Church’s theology of Hope to differ from that of the United Church of Christ? (by the way that “disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness” seems a little peculiar, doesn’t it?). Cheers — Andrew

  • kat

    Well, my priest doesn’t say God damn anyone, he didn’t blame 911 on America, he didn’t say we gave AIDS to Blacks, he says love thy neighbor as thyself, do not hate people because they look different or worship differently, we are all God’s children, my priest teaches love not hatred.
    I would not want my children to be taught the things Obama’s children are taught by this guy. If Obama preaches to be a uniter, he sure as hell doesn’t live it by his church–that church is as divisive as anything I have heard in my life. His pretending to be a uniter just doesn’t make sense after I have heard that preacher wail and throw his hands. I’ve never seen anyone move his hands so fast. He seems completely out of control. If my priest acted like that, I’d likely run in fear, thinking the guy was off his rocker. My church does not preach hate in its message of hope. We don’t help only white people–we help all people. I don’t see how that guy can call lhimself a Christian and be so filled with hatred.

    (by the way that “disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness” seems a little peculiar, doesn’t it?). Cheers — Andrew)–I didn’t make it up, check for yourself. I’m not really sure what he means–so yes, I did think it was peculiar.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Both Kat and Andy Freeman appear to want to conflate the United Church of Christ with the congregation at Trinity on the South Side of Chicago with its preacher, the Rev Jeremiah Wright.

    Tyndall seems to have “missed” where I explictly wrote otherwise. As I wrote before:

    >> I could have been more clear in what I meant by “church”. I didn’t mean the UCC. I meant the specific local organization that Obama attended and that Wright preached to.

    I also pointed out that Obama could have joined another UCC congregation and avoided Wright entirely. He didn’t.

    And Tyndall is still trying to excuse Obama, to make his intentional and long-term association and support of Wright somehow acceptable.

  • Andy Freeman

    > You argue that Jarvis’ principle is wrong — judge the minister not the church.

    Once again, Tyndall is making things up. I didn’t argue ANYTHING about Jarvis’ position, principle, actions or haircut.

    Of course, Tyndall doubled down:

    > I was pointing out that in Obama’s case you disagreed with Jarvis’ principle.

    Not at all. I completely ignored Jarvis. (Jarvis isn’t an authority and his situation isn’t analogous.)

  • Andy Freeman

    > that does not make the United Church of Christ in general or even the Trinity congregation in particular a “Black Supremacist church.”

    Perhaps Tyndall will tell us what it would take to make Wright’s congregation a “Black Supremacist church” since he finds the teachings of its leading minister inadequate.

    > But what if Obama was being sincere and it really was the theology of Hope that attracted him to the congregation not that other obnoxious stuff.

    Does Tyndall really want to argue that Wright’s was the only church with a “theology of Hope”?

    > Would your test still apply?

    Yes. We don’t give other racists a pass for good works so why should Wright get one?

  • Andy Freeman

    I note that none of the Wright/Obama apologists have bothered to address the fact that Obama never uttered a peep of complaint until Wright’s comments started affecting Obama’s poll numbers.

    Wright didn’t recently start preaching Black Supremacy – he started long before Obama joined him. Obama had 20 years to figure out that Wright’s positions were wrong.

    Yes, it’s possible that Obama recently “got religion”. Heck, it’s even possible that his conversion had nothing to do with his campaigning. (I wonder if someone will argue that Obama was just waiting until he got into a position to make his “condemnation” especially effective.)

    However, if that’s true, the 20 years doesn’t speak well of Obama.

    As to the “he didn’t know”, that’s not much of an improvement.

  • A brilliant speech, this race issue needs to be tackled and Obama has done it well.

  • kat

    Obama is a hypocrite. Why did he demand Trent Lott’s resignation in 2002, but doesn’t apply the same rules when the segrationist is Black?
    He said his daughters would be harmed by Don Imus’ comments? Will his daughters not be harmed by their “great Uncle’s” Jeremiah’s comments? How gullible do you guys want to be to buy his spiel?

  • Freeman, thanks for you response. Five quick notes in reply:

    1.Tyndall seems to have “missed” where I explictly wrote otherwise. As I wrote before: “I could have been more clear in what I meant by ‘church’. I didn’t mean the UCC. I meant the specific local organization that Obama attended and that Wright preached to.” To which Tyndall replied: “I stand corrected about the contrasting organizational structures of the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church. Your point is correct: the more decentralized a church is, the more one’s adherence belongs to a congregation and its minister, less to the denomination as a whole.”

    2.”You argue that Jarvis’ principle is wrong — judge the minister not the church.” Once again, Tyndall is making things up. I didn’t argue ANYTHING about Jarvis’ position, principle, actions or haircut.” When a commenter makes a point in a thread that contradicts a point that was made in an original post, it is quite fair to construe that as an argument against the original post. Such a construction is hardly “making things up.”

    3.And Tyndall is still trying to excuse Obama, to make his intentional and long-term association and support of Wright somehow acceptable. You misconstrue my argument. It was not designed to excuse the association but to question the loyalty test that is implied by making such an association a disqualification of Obama’s candidacy. Since religious tests for political office are unConstitutional I find it disquieting that a political candidate is being judged, not by his own words, but by the words that were spoken at the pulpit of the church he attends. Especially after he has categorically condemned those sermons that were inflammatory and stated flat out about Wright in his speech: “Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely.” Surely it is Obama’s political views that are at stake in this election not his religious affiliation.

    4. Perhaps Tyndall will tell us what it would take to make Wright’s congregation a “Black Supremacist church” since he finds the teachings of its leading minister inadequate. Assuming Kat’s list of the 12 precepts and covenantal statements written in 1981 are accurate and have not been superseded, that looks like a good place to start. Not being a believer myself, the list estranged me at precept #1 — “Commitment to God” — so I hold no brief for the institution whatsoever. Plowing through the remainder of the list, the ideology seems to represent black self-reliance separatism — a la Clarence Thomas — rather them supremacism. This is no surprise as an historical document, coming from the South Side of Chicago in the early ‘80s, before Harold Washington became mayor, when blacks were still systematically excluded from the Democratic machine and the ideology of self-reliance was appealing as a response. Operation PUSH shared some of those aspects. Obama, in his campaign, never relies on separatism as a political strategy and he implied that it is an anachronism in Tuesday’s speech.

    5. I note that none of the Wright/Obama apologists have bothered to address the fact that Obama never uttered a peep of complaint until Wright’s comments started affecting Obama’s poll numbers. Again, my comments here are not to be an “apologist” for Wright — I am not — but to object to Obama’s church membership being a test of his candidacy. Having said that, your comment about no “peep of complaint” is not true. Before Obama announced his candidacy, he told Wright that because “you can get kind of rough in your sermons” that he was withdrawing his invitation to Wright to give the invocation at his announcement. Obama distanced himself from Wright’s rhetoric before he even got into the race.

    Freeman, you insist that Obama also distance himself from Wright’s church. I can argue that your demand is inappropriate without being shoehorned into the category of a Wright apologist — which I am not since I disagree with Wright’s religious beliefs, his inflammatory rhetoric and his politics of racial separatism. I see no evidence that Obama shares the latter, Wright’s objectionable rhetoric and his politics, and find it irrelevant whether he shares the first, his religion.

  • kat

    Andrew–I cut and pasted right from the Church’s website. Since I saved the document the website has been sanitized to hide the ugly truth. It is accurate–very accurate. In early March, this year, the site was redone. When I pasted the link, I got this:The requested URL /about.htm. was not found on this server.
    Apache/2.0.52 (CentOS) Server at http://www.tucc.org Port 80

    Now, though they explain that concept you found strange. Here it is–
    Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness.” Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must be able to identify the “talented tenth” of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor’s control.

    Those so identified are separated from the rest of the people by:

    Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.
    Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.
    Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which, while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us.”
    So, while it is permissible to chase “middleclassness” with all our might, we must avoid the third separation method – the psychological entrapment of Black “middleclassness.” If we avoid this snare, we will also diminish our “voluntary” contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright: the leadership, resourcefulness and example of their own talented persons.

  • kat

    JohnofScribbleSheet–just read this linked on Unsrtapundit and wanted to share it with you:
    “It is rather ironic how the definition of eloquence has devolved. It once meant a talent for powerfully, persuasively and elegantly communicating ideas. Now it is used to describe the use of pretty language to obscure meaning.

    There are other words for that.

  • kat

    Instapundit–I meant–don’t know who typed that! Sorry!

  • Geoff

    Racism in America is bigger than Jeremiah Wright or Barack Obama. It is in our history textbooks, in our political discourse, in the way every American sees him or herself. While race is biologically flimsy, as a social construct it is alive and well and, consciously or not, shapes the way every American sees him or herself and, as importantly, others. My point is that if Barack Obama threw Rev. Wright under the bus, he would be ignoring what many people in this country experience in everyday life, and he would perpetuate white America’s fear of the angry black man. Only when Americans begin to take an empathetic view of the people they share this country with, regardless of race, gender, or class, will we finally be able to achieve progress in creating a more just country. I commend Obama for not taking the lame way out and throwing Wright under the bus. Race is not just a political construction, created by the politicians who talk about it for self-interested reasons. It is a major part of the American experience, and white Americans ignore this at their own peril.

  • kat

    As long as Black churches keep preaching and teaching this crap and people like Obama condone it for 20 years, racism will thrive, taught to generation after generation by the Jeremiah Wrights of the world because we must respect their views and not throw them under a bus or out of the church. I am highly critical of a man who preaches unity while he attends a church which preaches the opposite.

  • harvo

    Christians are to be Christ followers. Humility, love, patience, gentleness- these are our traits. A man who wears the title of reverend or pastor is obligated to display these wonderful traits. Screaming insults is satanic. Congregants who remain in this assemblage are not receiving the spirit of love and truth. Nay, they demonstrate that they are infected with the spirit of deception, lies, contention, and meanness. Listen carefully to what Obama’s pastor says. His attacks on others demonstrates that he is NOT a child of God.

  • Roscoe

    It depends on what your meaning of “is” is.

    Same political BS, different individual.

    Though this case is so chock full of double-standard it’s pretty entertaining.

    Haven’t had this much fun watching liberals dance since they snuck out under cover of night to put their “Kerry” bumper sticker over their “Dean” sticker. Yeeeeeeeeaaaaawwww!

  • Enrico

    Can we choose a church? Can we leave a church? It all depend what ‘church’ means. If ‘church’ is just another term for ‘community of values’, yes, we choose and yes we leave it. However, ‘church’ can also mean something different. It can also mean ‘community of faith’. And faith is different than values.

    If church is an expression of faith, then we go to the church where our faith brings us. Better: we do not go to a church, we become church together with the others who shares our own faith. A church is more than just a community. It is a community of faith, and faith has to do with a call. We do not decide to become i.e., Christians, we are called to be Christians and we say ‘yes’ (or ‘not’). This is the reason why a church is far to be just a matter of our choice, a product among the other product on the shelves of a supermarket we can pick up based on our values, tastes, etc. A church is not just a matter of values (ethics, etc.). A chuch is a matter of faith. And we do not choose a faith based on the church we attend, but we attend the church of our faith. And we do not choose the faith, we are chosen. This is how it works, if we are men of faith, and not just opinionated men of good values.

    Said so, the human dimension of a church is as bad and good as any other community. It is a reflection of mankind. Of course we can agree or disagree, feel more or less comfortable, even feel at home there or feel estranged. But we do not leave a church as long as we do not leave our faith. No matter what. We can only lose our faith, but this another story.

  • John

    There is a problem with the comparison you make. In your situation the fundamental tenets of the church said you were the problem. It wasn’t just a pastor up there saying things you didn’t agree with. It was the church that didn’t agree with you for who you are. You made the right choice.

    In Obama’s case the church and community were just the opposite of the sound bites and video clips we’ve seen of Rev. Wright. You can’t assume Rev Wright is totally encapsulated in the 30s of video we see played endless on FoxNews.

  • Fully agree with your point.

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