Obama Denounces Statements of His Pastor as ”˜Inflammatory’

In the handful of years Senator Barack Obama has spent in the national spotlight, his stance toward his pastor has gone from glowing praise to growing distance to ”” as of Friday ”” strong criticism.

On Friday, Mr. Obama called a grab bag of statements by his longtime minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., “inflammatory and appalling.”

“I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue,” he wrote in a campaign statement that was his strongest in a series of public disavowals of his pastor’s views over the past year.

Earlier in the week, several television stations played clips in which Mr. Wright, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, referred to the United States as the “U.S. of K.K.K. A.” and said the Sept. 11 attacks were a result of corrupt American foreign policy.

On Friday, Senator John McCain’s campaign forwarded to reporters an article in The Wall Street Journal in which Mr. Wright was quoted as saying, “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run,” and accusing the United States of importing drugs, exporting guns and training murderers.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

42 comments on “Obama Denounces Statements of His Pastor as ”˜Inflammatory’

  1. Chris Hathaway says:

    His wife says his candidacy is the first time she’s been proud of America. The pastor who married them, who he claims taught him the Gospel, who pastors the church where their children are baptised, and where he has been attending for twenty years, preaches “God damn America”.

    I don’t see how he can put enough distance between him and this pastor and his virulent hatred of America.

    I think he’s finished. If the Democrats nominate this guy they will lose big and hard and may rupture the party. If they nominate Hilary they’ll just lose. It’s a Hobson’s choice, unless the Republicans pull out all the stops to be the “Stupid Party” again.

  2. APB says:

    Funny, but if the rector of my old church had given so much as a single sermon in the last 20 years which could even be stretched to be considered antisemitic or white supremacist, even while I was traveling and gone 3-4 Sundays a month, I would have known about it. If after learning the facts and finding them true, within a month either he would have been gone, or I would. I guess BHO didn’t pay much attention all those years.

  3. libraryjim says:

    He denounces him, but keeps him on as an advisor? Curious.

  4. azusa says:

    Jeremiah Wright is ‘black’?

  5. Br_er Rabbit says:

    Of course the statements are ‘inflammatory”; they were intended to be inflammatory. But behind the hyperbole and the inflammatory rhetoric lie real positions regarding public life in the United States. I do not expect Obama to denounce these underlying positions.
    [size=2][color=red][url=http://resurrectioncommunitypersonal.blogspot.com/]The Rabbit[/url][/color][color=gray].[/color][/size]

  6. Words Matter says:

    I was interested to read this post and, more particularly, these comments after checking out the same subject on GetReligion.

    I was thinking that somehow Obama’s personal charisma would divert the campaign away from the race issue. Silly me! What worries me is that this will devolve into a think like the OJ trial: white people thought him guilty, black people thought him innocent and victimized by the LAPD. There will be no rational discussion. From either side, I fear.

  7. Harvey says:

    I repeat what I have said on other blogs about religion being a qualification for any presidential candidacy ( and many public offices as well). A person’s faith is not important to me as much as their previous and current political, moral and oral conduct. You will not find anything in the US Constitution that bases a persons adequacy for office, based on their religion or lack thereof.

  8. RickW says:

    Let’s not impose a religious test on the office of president. It is a slippery slope when someone is required to repudiate things in a religion.

    Next thing we know, they will be asking candidates to declare whether we believe in the virgin birth or resurrection as a feel good test for office.

    Christianity done right will make us all feel a bit uneasy about things. Was this preacher on the mark with his comments? I won’t get into that. The issue is whether belief is a valid challenge to a candidate and I say no. It needs to remain off limits.

  9. Chris says:

    [i] One liner deleted by elf. [/i]

  10. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote] You will not find anything in the US Constitution that bases a persons adequacy for office, based on their religion or lack thereof. [/blockquote]

    So we have to let anyone who is native-born and at least 35 years old be President? I’m not sure the Constitution is exhaustive in its delineation of what the criteria are that may be used by the American people to decide whom may occupy the office.

    This isn’t a matter of theology, but of overtly political, racist and hateful messages dispensed over a period of nearly 20 years from the pulpit to, among many others, a potential candidate for the office of President. A series of messages, it seems, said candidate had no objection to until the political fallout from them threatened his viability.

    And, let’s face it, Obama is no stranger to these remarks, his denial notwithstanding.

  11. Katherine says:

    I think “religion” defined as theological dogma and devotional practice is off-limits as qualification for political office. These sentiments from Obama’s pastor and church are more than that, though; they are a political philosophy and a view of American society which are relevant to what Obama might propose and support for the nation. Does he indeed believe that white people conspire and desire to oppress black people, and that American blacks should refrain from joining in the American mainstream because they’re only being exploited and used? Is this the vision we want in our leadership? Or has Obama simply gone along with the flow in his community in south Chicago, not thinking long or clearly about the implications of what he was hearing?

  12. In Texas says:

    What about when a certain Republican candidate stopped by Bob Jones University 8 years ago and the media frenzy around that, given some of the racial stands and codes that Bob Jones had at the time (no mixed race dating)? It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask of Obama, since this is church he chose to attend. I cannot believe that Obama never heard these things when he was in church there. This flies in the face of him going beyond racial politics and appealing to mainstream America of any color.

  13. John Wilkins says:

    Not Much Obama could do to placate the naysayers. He could deny and deny and they wouldn’t believe him.

    Falwell and Robertson have said equally ridiculous things. I would also note that few people, as usual, are able to repeat what Wright’s arguments are and offer a successful counter. Plainly, Wright was formed by civil rights and racism. It is a different age, surely, but to ignore that simple context is probably to idealize our past.

    Wrights no worse than others. And the guilt by association, of course, is pathetic. Obama never said these things. He’s rejected them himself. And Wright’s not the one running for president.

    And as Christians, we’d better look at our own motives if we want much more than that.

  14. Br_er Rabbit says:

    Well said, John.

    If our reaction to the pointed finger is to point a finger back, then we’ve missed the ‘point’.

    A better line of preaching is found in those [url=http://resurrectiongulfcoast.blogspot.com/2007/12/ceec-consecration-of-robert-henry.html]black preachers[/url] who point to themselves as the ones responsible for their own fate.

    [size=2][color=red][url=http://resurrectioncommunitypersonal.blogspot.com/]The Rabbit[/url][/color][color=gray].[/color][/size]

  15. Katherine says:

    Wright is formed by racism, but also by black liberation theology, not the most constructive response to past wrongs.

    I would indeed have qualms, as would, I hope, #s 13 and 14, about a Presidential candidate who was a current and long-term member of a white supremacist religious organization. This is not a casual association or unsolicited endorsement by someone the candidate is not close to. There are, I believe, plenty of majority-black congregations in south Chicago available to the Obamas where hate is not preached as the main course. Perhaps they stayed at this one because it suited them socially, which is a lesser failing.

  16. azusa says:

    #13: “Wrights no worse than others.”
    – not what you said a few months back, when you heaped high praise on Wright’s work. I recall the post.
    “And the guilt by association, of course, is pathetic. Obama never said these things. He’s rejected them himself.”
    – agreed. But if you’re a serious politician, you have to disassociate yourself very clearly from them – and show that if you knew of them at the time, you rejected them. Obama sounds a bit lame about this. All the Clintons need is videotape of him at one of these ‘services’. Can we really believe that he knew nothing of these things over 20 years?
    “And Wright’s not the one running for president.”
    – but Obama cites him as a very important influence on his life, even naming his book after one of his sermons.

  17. Br_er Rabbit says:

    [blockquote] long-term member of a white supremacist religious organization. [/blockquote] Freudian slip?
    [size=2][color=red][url=http://resurrectioncommunitypersonal.blogspot.com/]The Rabbit[/url][/color][color=gray].[/color][/size]

  18. libraryjim says:

    It should also be noted that there is a huge difference between distancing yourself from the endorsement of a controversial religious figure such as, say, John Hagee or Pat Robertson, under whose authority one has never sat and probably never met, and [i]trying[/i] to distance yourself from the controversial religious leader you called ‘mentor’, ‘pastor’ and ‘friend’ for 23 years, under whose authority you willing placed yourself as a CHOICE.

  19. Katherine says:

    #17, no slip at all. Wright’s church is a black separatist/black supremacist organization. The concept permeates its mission statements and Wright’s preaching. I am suggesting that there is no double standard here, since I would have genuine and similar misgivings about a candidate with close associations with a white supremacist organization. I think you would too.

  20. Words Matter says:

    Of course there’s a double standard – think about the fate of Trent Lott – and there is also a difference between white supremacist ideology and the sort of black rage-based ideology Wright espouses.

    There are good reasons for black rage, given the history, but that doesn’t make it a functional way to live your life. As the psalm says, nothing good comes from anger; we must put it way. And, [i]of course [/i], Barak Obama has imbibed this for 20 years. His own wife has never known pride in her country until her husband’s political advancement (talk about narcissism!); Obama has genuflected at the altar of black political power for awhile now and that is all going to come out in the next few months, if not through the Clintons, then through McCain.

    A lot as been said about whether this country is ready for a black man to be president. The question, I think, is whether the country is ready for a black president.

  21. Katherine says:

    It seems to me to be, rather, whether this black candidate is ready for the country. I personally will have not the slightest hesitation voting for a black presidential candidate just as soon as there is one who seems to me to be the best choice for policy and character reasons. (In this case, in spite of this controversy, I don’t have serious qualms about Obama’s character, but rather about his policy ideas. He’s a politician, like others.) I am towards the older end of the baby boomers, and I believe that the vast majority of people my age and younger feel the same.

  22. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote] Not Much Obama could do to placate the naysayers. He could deny and deny and they wouldn’t believe him. [/blockquote]

    Ain’t it the truth, John? When David Duke ran for office, distancing himself from the Klan, people were so uncharitable in their refusal to trust in his rather expedient conversion. Can you believe it? I mean, the guy said it and said it and said it. How pathetic people attributed racist sentiments to a guy who was a Klansman, but who had walked away.

    Doesn ‘t your priest work himself up to a lather every Christmas, climaxing with a “so-and-so ain’t never been called a ni**er!!”? A real yuletide tradition, that.

  23. D Hamilton says:

    In closer look to Rev. Wright’s political theology, it does not appear to be far off from the political theology of the TEC. Their world views seem to be separated only by concentrations and not by hues.

    Now how many times have you written in disagreement with the political directions of the TEC and its leadership? More importantly, how many times has Sen. Obama protested his church and its leadership on any issue?

    Yep, his disavowal is disingenuous.

  24. libraryjim says:

    d. H,
    The difference is that we are not running for President. Has Obama protested his church and leadership? I don’t know of any, please post a link if you have them (not just a political “I disavow” — we are taking of over 20 years of sitting and absorbing the inaccurate message of “Jesus was raised a poor black man in a country ruled by rich white men”.*)

    And if you look over this blog, the answer to your sarcastic/rhetorical question on have we written in disagreement with TEc is MANY MANY times. In fact, my public disagreement started when I became aware of J. Spong’s heretical writings, and the emergence of “First Promise”. That’s when I joined other laity in speaking up.

    *I guess this is how Wright can be anti-semite and a Christian as well — denial that Jesus was Jewish but rather black?

  25. Dave B says:

    The Audacity of Hoping that no one notices your mentor, friend, and pastor of 23 years is given to anti-Semitic, anti-American, racists diatribes (I won’t elevate them to the level of sermon) from his pulpit. There are racist flame throws of all colors, I wouldn’t sit in one of their pews for one month let alone twenty years!!

  26. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote]I guess this is how Wright can be anti-semite and a Christian as well—denial that Jesus was Jewish but rather black? [/blockquote]

    Well, he could have been both, like Sammy Davis.

    Is there anyone out there who buys Obama’s explanation that he was totally unaware of these tirades until recently? Anyone?

  27. D Hamilton says:

    L J – exactly, you can point over and over again to where you have spoken up (written) in protest of some off-the-wall TEC stance. Sen. Obama ought to as well, but I don’t think he can, and thus makes his protestations questionable.

    [i] I think we are on the same sheet of music [/i] ; )

  28. libraryjim says:

    D. H,.
    Ah, now I see. We are indeed on the same page, even, perhaps on key? 🙂

  29. John Wilkins says:

    I went to Jeremiah Wright’s church several times. I missed the inflammatory ones. And as far as being a black liberation church, that’s a lot different than white supremacy. Here’s a little lesson:

    Black liberation theology believes that Christ cares for the oppressed; and that there is an analog between the exodus story and liberation from slavery. It sees that the cross of Jesus Christ has a direct bearing on the suffering of black people. And yes, slavery was a bit different than, say, desperate housewives.

    It does NOT assert that blacks are better than whites. It does, however, say that whites are responsible for, say, slavery and racism and are guilty of sin in their lack of brotherly love toward black people. Now, I wonder what would happen if an African American went to a white supremacist church – what would happen?

    I realize I might be talking to people here who think that blacks, somehow, are responsible for segregation, lynching, or the violence that was a part of white racism. I do think that blacks can be racist (I’ve experienced it myself). But I’m pretty aware that blacks and whites have different experiences of the system. Plenty of whites seem to think that slavery, jim crow, and segregation just aren’t big deals.

    Wright – like any pastor – should be challenged on his own ground. Personally, I don’t know why “the audacity of hope” would seem offensive to Christians. One on one he is a very impressive person.

    Jeffersonian – if Duke said it, I would offer the same charity to him, absolutely. I’d like to see some evidence, of course (plenty of racists have repented and been active in racial reconciliation).

    And personally, I respect Obama more for his stance. Having a long relationship with someone with whom he disagrees shows much more character than someone who get support of preachers and then discounts them immediately when they are discovered for what they say. I’m wary of the way media makes these cheap demands.

    But if there are 9000 people in the church, there is something interesting going on. The people who go there are smart people who think for themselves, but would defend their pastor from people who probably don’t have much of an interest in their community in the first place.

  30. Alli B says:

    #29 You say, “I realize I might be talking to people here who think that blacks, somehow, are responsible for segregation, lynching, or the violence that was a part of white racism.”
    That is completely disgusting. You are making baseless assumptions and casting aspersions on conservatives who post here. I think you owe those people an apology.
    BTW, you may admire Obama more for his stance, but the timing of his supposed stance, especially after being quiet for 20 years, puts that stance itself into great question.

  31. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote]Wright – like any pastor – should be challenged on his own ground. Personally, I don’t know why “the audacity of hope” would seem offensive to Christians. One on one he is a very impressive person. [/blockquote]

    I heard that same thing from a former SAS member about Yasser Arafat. It confirmed my skepticism about personal anecdotal experience. “The Audacity of Hope” is indeed an inspiring slogan and fits nicely on a bumper sticker. But why that snippet as opposed to “Hillary ain’t never been called a ni**eg!!”? Or maybe the crowd-pleasing, “White people invented AIDS to conduct genocide against people of color!” meme? I hear they love the “America had it comin’ on 9-11!!” trope in lower Manhattan.

    Of course, any Christian can dig “The white Romans (who are today’s Italians, BTW) killed a black man, Jesus!!” message. Demonizing the ofay is just dreamy.

    But of course, Obama didn’t know about any of this, no. Dang if he wasn’t gone on all the right days when Pastor Wright eschewed the decaf in favor of the hi-test. He must have disagreed with him on minutae, because as soon as he found out about this stuff, Wright got tossed under the bus. How do you respect that?

  32. Jeffersonian says:

    Oh, and John, if you’d have given David Duke the benefit of the doubt, he’d have made a fool of you. As his writings since then have shown, the leopard did not change its spots. Duke joined the Klan and stayed for years because that’s what he believed. I daresay BHO is in a similar spot.

  33. Words Matter says:

    I second Alli’s complaint, adding the note that Wilkins has been quick to complain about lack of charity when others make catty remarks. Elves, I know that reappraisers get some slack around here (and I agree with that policy), but is this sort of snide, hateful cut acceptable now?

  34. Jeffersonian says:

    Personally, #33, I think free speech is preferable. I think it lets all know just where everyone stands.

  35. The_Elves says:

    [i] Had I noticed it earlier, the paragraph in question in #29 would have been edited out. We’ll let it stand, but add a warning about tone.[/i].

    -Elf Lady

  36. Dave B says:

    # 29 It does, however, say that whites are responsible for, say, slavery and racism. Do you really believe this John? Do you Think Obama believes this?

  37. Katherine says:

    I don’t think white people living today bear direct responsibility for the sins of slavery and segregation committed by white people living in this country in previous generations, who may or may not be ancestors.

    No person aware of American history can deny that grave injustices have occurred. However, what troubles me about Trinity UCC and Pastor Wright and perhaps Sen. Obama is the inability to see the enormous changes which have come in my lifetime. I began kindergarten in 1954, the year of Brown V. Board of Education. The reality of race relations and equal opportunity in America is drastically, and thank God, positively, entirely different today. The systematic oppression of black people, which was reality in my infancy, is almost entirely gone. Racist sentiments expressed by white people now almost exclusively come from low-income low-education isolated sources. Black people are now seen routinely in all walks of life, all professions, all living areas. Go to a restaurant, a mall, or any busy airport and check out the numbers of black people going about their daily lives in ways that were not possible or imaginable fifty years ago. Simple freedom and individual achievement have done so much more than Marxist liberation theology ever could.

  38. John Wilkins says:

    Alli, My apology. When I submitted it, I regretted it. And my apologies, elves: it was a bit harsh.

    I don’t object ot the timing at all, however. Nobody has asked him before, and everyone knew that they are friends.

    Obama was wise in many ways when he moved to Chicago. He connected with the most important black preacher in the professional community; but also connected with the predominantly white machine. He connected with the University of Chicago (as a graduate, let me tell you that it is not exactly a bastion of liberalism or Marxism). To assume that Obama should merely be associated with Wright diminishes his connection with the Law School, the department of economics or many of the other people he associates with. Tarnishing him with the Wright brush might feel good and vindicate those who fear him, but it isn’t accurate.

    Obama is not Wright, and we don’t know what he gathered from him. He did however, identify with Christianity – a sort that is rooted in the black tradition. Not sure how this is different than Kennedy or any other politician where religion is interesting to us.

    Now if we want to talk about Wright’s Christianity, that’s a separate subject. He can think for himself. And surely, he’s given a glimpse of his Christianity already in his sermons.

    Jeffersonian: As far as Duke goes, well I might be duped. So what? I’d much rather be duped than not have a sense of charity. How many times are we called to forgive? Second, it matters what a person does. Did Obama himself ever blame the US for the attacks? What did HE say? And more important: what has Obama done to make it seem like he holds the views of Jeremiah Wright? Well, given that he had worked with plenty of white folk in Illinois, it doesn’t seem like he, in practice, holds particularly radical views.

    My question: how does his connection with Wright nfluence policy?

    A few side notes: I do think that things have changed: and one reason why this has changed is because of the work that local black preachers have done in their communities.

    Katherine, you mention “grave injustices.” That’s part of it. I don’t think it conveys the deep fear that most blacks have lived in for most of this country’s history. Only with the hard work of lots of black preachers and white sympathizers did this change, over the resistance of lots of white people.

    Does it say much about how Obama would run the country? Probably not. For the biggest factor in Obama’s political heritage is not Jeremiah Wright but, in fact, Harold Washington. If you want to understand how Obama might really try to run the country, it would be better to examine that history rather than the preaching of Pastor wright. To create guilt by association is just a scare tactic, to make whites feel that Obama is, in fact, just like Farrakhan.

    And that, my friends, would be racist.

  39. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote] Jeffersonian: As far as Duke goes, well I might be duped. So what? I’d much rather be duped than not have a sense of charity. How many times are we called to forgive? Second, it matters what a person does. Did Obama himself ever blame the US for the attacks? What did HE say? And more important: what has Obama done to make it seem like he holds the views of Jeremiah Wright? Well, given that he had worked with plenty of white folk in Illinois, it doesn’t seem like he, in practice, holds particularly radical views. [/blockquote]

    So what?? How about putting an unreconstructed Imperial Wizard into the statehouse in Baton Rouge? I’m trying to bridge the lacuna between “forgive” and “cast a ballot for.”

    Obama is smart enough to know the consequences for professing a belief in HIV being created to wage a war of genocide against blacks, averring that the US had it coming on 9/11 or that the government imports drugs to decimate the black community. That one of his closest personal and political confidants is a man who ascribes to all three (among others) speaks to a mind-boggling lack of judgement, not to mention a dishonesty characteristic of a cookie-cutter politician (“I was unaware of these views until recently”).

    I’m not sure what the impact is on policy, and I pray we will not find out. Obama’s association with Wright, along with those of Rezko and William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn tell me this fellow is not as moderate as he would have us believe.

  40. Dave B says:

    John Wilkins, people did ask about his association with Wright but too many in the “main stream press” had the “light of Obama” in thier eyes and the smoke up the skirt to look into these alligations (sort of like Dan Rather and Bush on 60 min in reverse). I’ve read about Obama’s association with shady people and the “problems” with Wright’s Church for about 7 months, this isn’t new.

  41. John Wilkins says:

    Jeffersonian, I might take Duke at face value, but I didn’t say I would vote for him. Plenty of racists have decided to work with blacks rather than against blacks. But you know much more about David duke than I do: you simply asked if I would trust him.

    I still find the guilt by association charge, alas, unconvincing. Since I do not put Wright and Duke in the same category (although its easy for people who haven’t experienced racism to do), and I don’t know what sort of conversations they have, I do admire people who don’t abandon others as soon as the cock crows. Especially when this seems pretty calibrated by Fox and Clinton to distract from Obama’s real talent by tarring him with the brush of someone he knows.

    Your accusations are simply guilt by association, Jefferson. If they had substance, perhaps they’d be worth taking seriously. Obama has rejected political violence and he’s rejected the extremism of the left.

    But you are right, you should be worried. Instead of a huge deficit, an unsuccessful war, a Bear Stearns Economy, and global warming, he might actually do something. And he’s not afraid of asking both conservatives or liberals their opinions about what to do. He does come from the community activist side of the spectrum. As I said, you might want to study Harold Washington first. That is clearly his strongest influence. Do you know who he is?

  42. John Wilkins says:

    Kendall links to a site about Harold Washington