Barack Obama's Response to the Wright Affair
His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.
The reality of the African American church, of course, is as diverse as the African American community. I grew up in the Methodist church with pastors -- often active on the front lines of the civil rights movement -- whose sermons were rarely exciting enough to elicit more than a muttered "Amen." They were excitement itself, however, compared with the dry lectures delivered by the priest at the Catholic church around the corner. And what I heard every Sunday was nothing at all like the Bible-thumping, hellfire-and-damnation perorations that filled my Baptist friends with the Holy Ghost -- and even less like the spellbinding, singsong, jump-and-shout sermonizing that raised the roofs of Pentecostal sanctuaries across town.
Wright claims to represent all these traditions and more, but he does not. He also claims universality for the political aspect of his ministry. It is true that the black church, writ large, has been an instrument of social and political change. But most black churches are far less political than Wright's -- and many concern themselves exclusively with salvation.
I point all this out not to say that one tradition is better than another; as Wright said, different doesn't mean deficient. But what Wright did was to try to frame the issue in such a way that to question him or anything he has ever said was to question the long, storied tradition of African American religion.
Historically and theologically, he was inflating his importance in a pride-goeth-before-the-fall kind of way. Politically, by surfacing now, he was throwing Barack Obama under the bus.
Sadly, it's time for Obama to return the favor.