The firestorm of controversy touched off by the sermon of Reverend Jeremiah Wright at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has created quite a problem for Barack Obama, since this is his church and his pastor.
In case you missed it, ABC News yesterday ran a story of some of Rev. Wright's comments which included:
"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."
The pastor also made statements that sounded prejudiced against white people.
A video of some of Rev. Wright's comments was also posted to YouTube (see below).
Many people, myself included, wondered why Obama had not strongly repudiated these comments and distanced himself from Wright, who is one of his advisers. Many, myself included, also wondered why Obama still attended this church, if he disagreed with the pastor's statements.
Today, from the Brody File at CBN News, Obama says he didn't personally hear the controversial statements made by his pastor which came to light recently, and explains why he hasn't left that church:
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.
I would encourage everyone to read Obama's statement in it's entirety.
I'm glad Obama has clarified, at least to some degree, both his disagreement with the statements of Rev. Wright, and why he remained in this church.
However, even though Rev. Wright is retiring, as I pointed out yesterday, the church itself holds some pretty radical opinions.
For instance, the church's "About Us" page sounds very Afrocentric and centered around black ethnicity, rather than around Christ:
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.
Since the Bible makes it clear that no status, including race, matters to God, the emphasis on ethnicity seems out of place.
If one inserted "white" instead of "black," a firestorm of controversy would justifiably erupt over such a statement:
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly White and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the White religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are a European people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage ... 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 White worship service and ministries which address the White Community.
The church has also stated that it is committed to what is called "The Black Value System;" it, too, sounds inordinately centered around ethnicity rather than around Christ.
Questions remain about Obama's relationship with his pastor and Obama's embrace of these attitudes.
Obama says he joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly 20 years ago; are we to believe that the one time Rev. Wright used this inflammatory, America-hating language, Obama happened to be out of town...and didn't even hear about it when he went to church the next time? If this was indeed a rare occurrence, certainly it would have made enough of a splash in the congregation that he would have heard about it from other church members. Logically, I would have to conclude that this type of paranoid, bitter rhetoric is common in the church.
Even if Rev. Wright seldom preached about this, this is obviously something he believes very passionately. Surely those opinions would have been broached in personal conversation between Wright and Obama, if they are close enough that Obama considers him his spiritual advisor.
Also, if Obama knew about this kind of opinion held by Wright, why does he consider Wright an advisor in his campaign?
And does Obama agree or disagree with the ethnically-centered focus of his church, where it seems Jesus Christ takes a back seat to the concerns of skin color?
The degree to which Obama may or may not agree with or acquiesce to these sentiments bears strongly on his suitability as President of the United States.
Can someone who shares the views of Rev. Wright in his vehement bitterness toward different skin colors be trusted to lead ALL Americans, regardless of ethnicity?
Can someone who shares the views of Rev. Wright in his vociferous disdain for the United States be trusted to lead the United States?