The videos of Barack Obama’s pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, surpass Saturday Night Live parodies. As his congregants are hopping up and down like hyperactive children and fellow pastors are clapping him on the back, a sashaying Wright allows himself a range of rancid and conspiratorial musings that might even give Cynthia McKinney pause. The feverish racism reaches its high point of buffoonishness when Wright accuses the so-called first black president, Bill Clinton, of “riding dirty,” exploiting the black community as he exploited Monica Lewinsky.
Under pressure, Obama is crying uncle, literally. He is casting Wright as the unhinged relative with which most American families are saddled. But how many Americans have their bonkers uncle preside at their wedding, baptize their children, and give them a title to a book? This is like finding out that, say, David Duke had served as best man at John McCain’s wedding.
Obama now says he would have walked out of the church had he heard Wright’s “God damn America” sermons. But look at the videos: none of Obama’s fellow congregants look appalled or ready to walk out; they are practically doing somersaults of joy down the aisles. Wright’s raise-the-roof racism was his customary style and an immense crowd-pleaser. Obama never saw this in his 20 years of attending his sermons? That’s not plausible.
Even as Obama claimed ignorance of the sermons in media interviews last Friday, he contradicted this denial by describing Wright as a man of “anger and frustration” whose time had passed. How did he know? Did he just learn that in the last few days?
A SYMPATHETIC MEDIA, eager to change the subject, quickly notes that Obama has a new pastor, Otis Moss. Well, that’s reassuring. Moss was rooting Wright on and shares many of his radical views, having apprenticed under him.
Notice also that the media (the oh-so-irenic-and-thoughtful David Gergen, for example, dusted this one off on CNN) is recycling a tired multiculturalist rationalization in Obama’s defense: that the “black church” experience deserves a generous interpretation from whites and that pastors who have suffered discrimination deserve a rhetorical mulligan or two.
Creeping into the news coverage was even a note of admiration for Obama’s loyalty to Wright — that he didn’t “repudiate” the man, but only his views. This from a media that egged McCain into calling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance.”
While the media worked hard to try and find a conservative Christian equivalent to Wright in McCain’s life, they couldn’t come up with one, and since McCain’s interest in religion is wan no one really cares anyways.
THE WRIGHT CONTROVERSY threatens to cement Obama’s reputation as a stealth radical, cooler in his temperament than overt radicals but equally committed to their goals. It is not surprising to hear Obama casually talk on the campaign trail about confiscating the profits of oil companies given that Wright’s “liberation theology,” which is Marxist in its premises, has shaped his worldview for over a generation.
And why would Americans want to turn their country over to a candidate who attends a straightforwardly separatist church that views America with suspicion if not contempt? Look at the church’s official literature: it is openly separatist, mirroring the white racism of “separate but equal” almost perfectly. A pressed Wright even used the separate but equal defense in an interview on Fox News, saying that separate does not mean superior. The church’s literature touts a “Black Value System” and states, “We are an African people, and remain ‘true to our native land.'”
Shoehorning racial separatism into Christianity destroys it, as St. Paul admonished when he wrote that in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek,” and a hyphenated Americanism that prizes the African while holding the American in contempt is also destructive. If this is the “audacity of hope,” which is Wright’s phrase, America is in trouble.
One reason to doubt Obama’s sudden displeasure with his pastor’s comments is that his wife makes similar ones and he doesn’t seem to care. “As a black man Barack can get shot going to the gas station,” she said, before more recently commenting that she is finally “proud” of her country. Perhaps before this is all over Obama will enlist that old explanation for male church attendance: my wife made me go.