Preaching and Politics: Hod in Gevurah


4 comments posted
You are too kind to Rev.

You are too kind to Rev. Wright. After I observed "sound bites" on TV all day Monday of his speech at the Press Conference, and his response to questions, I decided to print out the entire transcript of that event. And he revealed himself to be an angry demagogue, with what seemed to me an attitude of such self-involvement that he seemed oblivious of what damage he was doing to what was certainly the first viable black candidate for President.

Maybe Oboma will be nominated, and then perhaps he won't. If he is I won't hold out much hope for his being elected President.

In case you missed some of Wright's more outrageous remarks—Farakhan is a great man, 9/11 is our fault, the US government brought AIDS to the black community, blacks have a different rhythm than whites (and gave a physical demonstration of that)—can you imagine a white person saying that on national television? And his excusing Obama's first response to him as politics, he really implies that Obama is not sincere—that Obama is doing what he has to do.

My last thoughts are why did he Wright have to push himself into this arena in the first place. I think it is very unfortunate.

Posted by Anonymous on May 2, 2008 9:13 AM
It was a terrible thing for

It was a terrible thing for Wright to "push himself into this arena in the first place." Given how horribly out-of-context his sermons have been presented, it's hard to imagine many people staying quiet. He says that his mother encouraged him to stay quiet. Mother's advice is indeed a good thing!

When I wrote, "Reverend Wright transgressed..." I didn't mean to suggest that was his only transgression. However, it's not my intent to catalog other people's transgression.

I just read the transcript for the National Press Club speech and the questions that followed.

Right from the beginning of the questions you could see that Wright was totally unprepared for what would come. And he was certainly naive about that.

Regarding Farrakhan, this is from the transcript:

MS. LEINWAND: What is your relationship with Louis Farrakhan? Do you agree with and respect his views, including his most racially divisive views?

x x views?

REV. WRIGHT: As I said on the Bill Moyers show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago, when Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion. He was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter's being vilified for and Bishop Tutu's being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I'm anti- Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.

I believe that people of all faiths have to work together in this country if we're going to be build a future for our children, whether those people are -- just as Michelle and Barack don't agree on everything, Ramah and I don't agree on everything, Louis and I don't agree on everything. Most of you-all don't agree -- you got two people in the same room, you got three opinions. (Laughter.)

What I think about him, as I said on Bill Moyers and it got edited out -- how many other African-Americans or European-Americans do you know that can get 1 million people together on the mall? He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century; that's what I think about him. I said, as I said on Bill Moyers, when Louis Farrakhan speaks it's like E.F. Hutton speaks. All black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen.

Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan any more than Mandela will put down Fidel Castro. You remember that Ted Koppel show where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro is our enemy, and he said, "You don't tell me who my enemies are; you don't tell me who my friends are."

I think to summarize, "he said Farrakhan was a great man" is too simplistic. He called Farrakhan "great" in the sense that he gathered a million people to the Mall. Wright is clearly feeling cornered in this exchange, and indeed the press are trying to corner him. In this case it isn't the media's fault; it's his poor judgement to show up to such an event.

Re: Aids and the U.S. government. What he said was that the U.S. government was capable of it, not that they did it. There is no question that he is an angry man who who dwells often in the injustices done to blacks in this country. He certainly has not "moved on." I think Barak Obama's explanation of who J Wright is in his Philadelphia speech about Wright is well done. One thing that is so encouraging about Obama's approach is his desire to move on.

Regarding the dance moves, this is what he said:

Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks or Hispanics become Asian or that Asians become Europeans. Reconciliation means we embrace our individual rich histories, all of them. We retain who we are, as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us; they are just different from us.

We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred or prejudice. And we recognize for the first time in modern history, in the West, that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles and different dance moves; that other is one of God's children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness just as we are.

A simple teaching about diversity. I don't have a problem with it. I didn't see his physical move. Again, he was unprepared for the stage he was on. But with what he was trying to say on that point, it's really a stretch to see something nefarious in it.

About Wright's response to the question about Obama's dismissal of him: First, the question was absolutely a taunt. (It doesn't say a lot about Wright's ability to play on the national stage if he was under the delusion that we wouldn't get taunted.) What Wright has to say about that question is meaningless. He's coming from a totally wounded place, wounded by a long history of oppression against blacks and more personally wounded by his sermons having been taken out of context and him being "misunderstood."

I think what is more important on that score is Barack Obama's Barack Obama's response to Wright's press club performance. Obama is unambiguous in his renunciation of Wright. Why now and not before. As Obama said, "he gave Wright the benefit of the doubt." Given Wright's recent speaking out, he could no longer. But it's much better to actually watch Barack Obama's response.

Posted by Shai Gluskin on May 2, 2008 9:57 AM
thank you shai for the

thank you shai for the incredibly well documented discussion here. i haven't been following the whole wright 'controversy'. your links to all the significant sources made it very easy for me to actually hear who said what.

after viewing his full sermons, his press conference speech and q&a ( - 1st of 5 parts) i find wright to be an unwavering, principled man of great depth and knowledge, open to all points of view and first and foremost a man who's intention is to help bring people together (his dominant reconciliation theme). the fact that he does not turn his back on ugly truths of our past may hurt obama, but it is the ethical thing to do. to denounce such a man makes me quesiton obama's ethics, and those of our political system in general.

from what i heard, the 'inflammatory' statements that are attributed to wright are all statements/conclusions from other sources who misinterpreted or never even heard his actual words in context. the more i hear him, the more i appreciate his candor, truthfulness and humor.

i don't see how he 'pushed himself into the arena' at the press conference - it appears he was a keynote speaker at the beginning of a 3 day seminar on the african church. if i am wrong about this, i apologize. whatever the circumstances, isn't it a very basic american right to defend oneself (which i think he did very well and very succinctly)? to say that he shouldn't defend himself if it is damaging to obama is not holding obama to task for changing ships when the going gets tough, and makes me wonder if he would stand up for real change if he were to get into office.

it is obvious that obama did not hear the whole sermon when he says that wright is stuck in the past w/ his obsession about the wounds the black people have suffered in this country. wright talks specifically about how the government has changed (for the better) since the framing of the constitution, but that that change is not complete. obama could be a step towards completing that change (best summed up by wright's eloquent explanation about reconciliation and equality on all fronts, religious, political and social), but not if he distances himself from the issue.

thank you again, shai for your dedication to and thoroughness in this discussion.

Posted by cousin jeff on May 2, 2008 8:35 PM
In defense of soundbites Hey

In defense of soundbites

Hey cousin Jeff,

Obama is running as a candidate to represent all Americans. That's why is candidacy is viable at all. His ability to see past his own skin to the needs of all Americans is powerful.

Wright is coming from an Afro-centric point of view. His "chickens coming to roost" line in his post 9/11 sermon was not central to the point of the speech. He even called it a "spiritual footnote." And yet emotionally it was the peek of the speech. And it says a lot that in the wake of an event that united Americans in being victims together, Wright chose, for the most passionate point of the speech, to communicate his raging anger at oppression perpetrated by the US government against its people, saying, "It's about time that white Americans understand what it feels like to be a victim." I don't believe that message resonates either with many, many African Americans who felt that 9/11 was one of the first time that we were all in this together.

I think for Obama to make the distinctions he made at his Constitution Center in Philadelphia speech in March were courageous and showed profound leadership on Obama's part and great moral character.

His more fuller breaking with Wright this week is totally legitimate in my opinion. The sound bites lie in regards to the rational lessons he is teaching in those sermons. But they don't lie about the extent of his anger at the United States.

Obama has explained that those positions are understandable and certainly not evil given Wright's position and personal history. But they are not Obama's and they can't be. He is running to represent everyone in this country. To the extent that he is angry, he must be angry on behalf of everyone, not on behalf of a particular group.

Wright's speech in Washington was to the National Press Club, not the conference that he was also attending. He was in a lion's den of people who were trying to pin him down on positions far out of the mainstream which would then be glued to Obama by their history. It was a no win situation. After so many of his sermons were taken out of context and blasted all over, I can understand him wanting to be understood. But that puts himself in the middle of this drama which is a huge distraction. It would have been the bigger thing to do to not speak out, in my opinion.


Posted by Shai Gluskin on May 3, 2008 10:26 PM