How much of Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s race-based “theology” does Barack Obama really share?
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Wright was Obama’s missionary in a sense, so it is worth looking at how he educated his parishioners. “I had as my goal in starting a weekly Bible class the idea of connecting the study of God’s Word to where it is we lived as Black people in Chicago in 1972,” he recalled. It would be the Gospel according to Wright. Trinity’s slogan would be “Unapologetically Black and Unapologetically Christian.” It was to be black first and Christian second. Preaching black theology, Wright made his dashiki-wearing flock the largest—and blackest—church in the largely white UCC.
In his church-associated Kwame Nkrumah Academy, the congregation’s children learned such canards as the claim that “[h]istorically, Europeans tried to build themselves up by tearing down all that Africans had done.” Obama biographer David Remnick notes that Obama approved of this “African-centered” grade school, where Wright’s God loves all people, but black people especially. And why shouldn’t he? Jesus, Wright taught, was “an African Jew,” as were most of the figures of the Bible. As Wright said in Africans Who Shaped Our Faith (1995), “evidence exists within and outside of the Bible to support the notion that the people of Israel…were of African descent!”
It is in this context that Wright’s comments on Zionism should be seen. Attacking Israel’s right to exist, Wright held that “[t]he Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for more than 40 years now.” America, by defending Zionism and its apartheid-like regime, had too long practiced “unquestioning” support of Zionism. Given his hostility to Zionism and non-“African” Jews, it wasn’t surprising that Wright’s anti-Semitism reared its ugly head in June 2009. “Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me,” he told the Daily Press of Hampton Roads, Virginia. They were “controlling” Obama and therefore preventing the United States from sending a delegation to an anti-racism United Nations conference. (America boycotted it on the grounds that it would descend into an anti-Jew hate fest as it had in previous years.)
Wright remained loyal to Malcolm X (Trinity United Church celebrates his birthday) and to Louis Farrakhan.
Wright even joined Farrakhan on a trip to meet with the latter’s benefactor, Muammar Gaddafi, in 1984. (Wright has also routinely bragged about his trips to Castro’s Cuba and Ortega’s Nicaragua. He predicted that his trip to Libya would cause trouble for Obama in 2008: “When [Obama’s] enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli to visit [Gaddafi] with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell,” he said.)
To further his claim that the white man was an active enemy of the black man, Wright has often recommended a favorite book of the Nation of Islam, Emerging Viruses: AIDS and Ebola: Nature, Accident, or Intentional? (1996), a self-published screed by Leonard G. Horowitz, a conspiracy theorist and former dentist, who argues that HIV began as a biological weapons project. “Based on this Tuskegee syphilis experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.” As white people were responsible for the makeup of its government, white America bore a collective guilt, Wright said. It could not accept a black man as president of “this racist United States of America,” “the United States of White America,” and “the U.S. of KKK-A.”
WRIGHT GOT ON OBAMA’S BUS early, in the mid-1980s, when he supported Obama’s efforts to organize blacks for “social change” (i.e., to increase government welfare), and only left in 2008 when there was an increasingly serious chance of his winning the Democratic nomination and becoming president. It was, after all, Hillary Clinton—not John McCain—who used Wright as a campaign issue against Obama.
Wright had remained on the bus for so long because his friendship gave Obama an authenticity on the South Side that he otherwise lacked as a highly educated black man who grew up in white and multiracial environments. Had Obama not successfully defined himself as an ordinary African American, had he not worked the streets on poverty wages, his political career probably would have gone nowhere.
Obama came to join Wright’s church in a roundabout way, as Stanley Kurtz argues in his well-researched Radical-in-Chief (2010). We don’t know if he encountered Wright before he moved to Chicago, but it seems safe to assume he had. David Remnick recounts a significant meeting between the young Obama and Pastor Alvin Love of Lilydale First Baptist Church in Chicago. Obama and Love had organized blacks through the churches starting in 1985, so “[Obama] knew it was inconsistent to be a church-based organizer without being a member of any church, and he was feeling that pressure,” according to Love. “He said, ‘I believe, but…I want to be serious and be comfortable wherever I join.’” A pastor whom Love recommended—Pastor L. K. Curry—suggested that Obama meet Jeremiah Wright. Obama apparently liked what he saw at their meeting and he began to attend Trinity in 1988.
Obama’s decision to join Trinity was very much one of convenience. Even though he plotted his every move, we’re supposed to believe that he just happened to join the largest black church in America, whose pastor had a record for getting blacks elected to higher office. (In 1983, Wright led a coalition of black churches to help elect Harold Washington as the first black mayor of Chicago.) Obama liked to try out his ideas on Wright. “What I value most about Pastor Wright is not his day-to-day political advice,” he told the Chicago Tribune in January 2007. “He’s much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I am speaking as truthfully about what I believe as possible and that I’m not losing myself in some of the hype and hoopla and stress that’s involved in national politics.” Wright was a means to an end.
Steeped in Marxist thought and the community organizing tactics of the radical Saul Alinsky, Obama was probably comfortable with the view that religion was the opiate of the masses and black liberation theology the opiate of blacks. Trinity Church is a place where black movers and shakers congregate. “My commitment is to the church, not to a pastor,” Obama said in May 2008. But left unsaid was just what the members of that church believed.
According to Wright, leading members have included Jawanza Kunjufu (author of Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys, which blames, among other things, interracial marriage), Iva Carruthers (who coined the term “Afrocentric” and whose work at the Jew-hating Durban Conference on Racism Wright enthusiastically endorses), and Bobby Wright, psychologist and author of The Psychopathic Racial Personality, which argues that white attitudes toward blacks are psychopathic. Other influential members include the black entertainment elite, like the rapper Common and Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey, who joined the church in the mid-'80s, eventually left in the early '90s. An article entitled “Something Wasn’t Wright” in the May 12, 2008, issue of Newsweek explains that she knew Wright’s rants were too radical for her fans. Interestingly, though Oprah endorsed Obama and helped catapult his books to the top of the bestseller lists, she has declined to endorse him for 2012.
Common frequented Wright’s pews, occasionally rapping for its congregants. With Wright’s approval, Common even “free-styled sermons” against interracial marriage in 2005 when the Obamas were attending Trinity nearly every Sunday. (Perhaps that’s why Michelle Obama invited Common to perform at the White House in May 2011.)
Growing up in a heavily “segregated” Chicago, Common noted, you had to “enforce” black culture.
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H/T to National Review Online