I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That’s in my DNA. Trying to promote mutual understanding, to insist that we all share common hopes, and common dreams, as Americans and as human beings. That’s who I am, that’s what I believe, that’s what this campaign has been about.
Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I’ve known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. 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.
Now, I’ve already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. He has built a wonderful congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministries reach beyond the church walls.
But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st centuries, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses.
They offend me. The rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.
Many people have opined that Obama is a hypocrite and a political opportunist for waiting until now to formally sever ties with Wright. Actually I think Obama did the right thing by giving Rev. Wright the benefit of the doubt earlier. Targeting someone for a harsh rebuke is never an easy thing to do, and I'm sure that Obama was very uncomfortable doing it even today.
The National Press Club invited Rev. Wright to speak on Monday, and address the issues of black liberation theology and his controversial remarks that made headlines several weeks ago. The complete transcript is here. The first five pages consist of Rev. Wright's remarks on liberation theology and its application to the black experience in America. This portion of the talk actually is pretty good. Wright discusses liberation theology sensibly, and he ends his talk thusly:
Now, the implications from the outside are obvious. If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means "God with us," if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens.
My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens. And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior.
And I order my society where I can worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and kill others on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe. I can have laws which favor whites over blacks in America or South Africa. I can construct a theology of apartheid in the Africana church (ph) and a theology of white supremacy in the North American or Germanic church.
The implications from the outset are obvious, but then the complicated work is left to be done, as you dig deeper into the constructs, which tradition, habit, and hermeneutics put on your plate.
To say "I am a Christian" is not enough. Why? Because the Christianity of the slaveholder is not the Christianity of the slave. The God to whom the slaveholders pray as they ride on the decks of the slave ship is not the God to whom the enslaved are praying as they ride beneath the decks on that slave ship.
How we are seeing God, our theology, is not the same. And what we both mean when we say "I am a Christian" is not the same thing. The prophetic theology of the black church has always seen and still sees all of God's children as sisters and brothers, equals who need reconciliation, who need to be reconciled as equals in order for us to walk together into the future which God has prepared for us.
Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks and 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.
Only then will liberation, transformation, and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals.
Wright makes some good points here and comes to the right conclusion. But already there are some problems, for we -- especially whites -- are roundly criticized by the gatekeepers of political correctness when we dare to point out "differences." The Anchoress scarcastically explained it like this:
We are supposed to - apparently - somehow split our brains, into never even noticing that there are racial differences between us, unless we’re working in praise of those differences. So, there are no differences between us…but we celebrate the differences…but their are none, and if you think there are, you’re a racist. Now celebrate!
Rev. Wright also has trouble talking about anything without invoking the imagery of slavery. When he really cut loose during the Q&A part of the program, theology gave way to entertainment, and Wright titillated the crowd with a continual series of embarrassing one-liners:
Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn't make me this color.
I am not running for office. I am hoping to be vice president.
[Obama] goes to church about as much as you do. What did your pastor preach on last week? You don't know? OK.
(In response to a question about the US government inventing HIV as a means of genocide against people of color): As I said to my members, if you haven't read things, then you can't -- based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.
In fact, in fact, in fact, one of the -- one of the responses to what Saddam Hussein had in terms of biological warfare was a non- question, because all we had to do was check the sales records. We sold him those biological weapons that he was using against his own people.
So any time a government can put together biological warfare to kill people, and then get angry when those people use what we sold them, yes, I believe we are capable.
(In response to a question about Wright's comparison of the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus Christ to the US Marines): That, yes, I can compare that. We have troops stationed all over the world, just like Rome had troops stationed all over the world, because we run the world. That notion of imperialism is not the message of the gospel of the prince of peace, nor of God, who loves the world.
The media was making a fool out of itself, because it knew nothing about our tradition. And so I decided to let them make a fool as long as they wanted to and then take the advice of Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Lies, lies, bless the lord. Don't you know the days are broad?"
... Once again, let me say it again. This is an attack on the black church. And I cannot as a minister of the gospel allow the significant part of our history -- most African-Americans and most European-Americans, most Hispanic-Americans, half the names I called in my presentation they've never heard of, because they don't know anything at all about our tradition.
... This is about Barbara Jordan. This is about Fanny Lou Hamer. This is about my grandmamma.
My mother's advice was being seen all over the corporate media channels, and it's a paraphrase of the Book of Proverbs, where it is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
This came on the heels of Wright's performance before the NAACP in Detroit this weekend, where he imitated white and black marching bands and white and black accents, all to demonstrate that whites are left-brained (analytical) and blacks are right-brained (creative). Remember the The Bell Curve? Remember Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder? That's what happens when white people dare to point out such "differences." But Rev. Wright received loud, thunderous applause from both the National Press Club and the NAACP.
Many people, including Newt Gingrich, are speculating that Rev. Wright has taken to the offensive on his own, because he realizes that if Barack Obama wins the Presidency, or even the Democratic party nomination, the fundamental narratives about white power and white oppression that he has espoused form his pulpit for the last thirty years, his "anthropological lens," will be dealt a fatal blow. Thus Obama is now his enemy. Others have suggested that Hillary Clinton's operatives have seized upon this, and have bought Rev. Wright's services as a juggernaut to be used against the Obama campaign.
Regardless of his motivation, Rev. Wright is practicing a politics of divisiveness, distrust, and "keeping whitey on the hook," not a politics or theology of reconciliation and restoration. As such, he has no business being an influential player in American politics.