The Pastor as Prophet

When Barack Obama addressed the nation in his Philadelphia speech there was, as with a good sermon, enough in it … Continued

When Barack Obama addressed the nation in his Philadelphia speech there was, as with a good sermon, enough in it to offend everyone. He reminded us of the flaw in our constitutional character, and hence of the fundamental flaw in our national identity. Politicians are meant to speak only of the flaws in their opponents, and when they venture away from that tried and true rhetoric they are likely to entertain trouble. In speaking to the twin toxic topics of race and religion in America, Mr. Obama was bound to cause offense; Emily Post was right when she banned those topics from polite conversation at the dinner table, and most politicians, unless otherwise compelled, tend to follow her advice in their campaigns. Presidential candidates run for office in order to run ‘America the Beautiful,’ forgetting that Katharine Lee Bates in her fourth verse asks God to “mend thine ev’ry flaw/Confirm thy soul in self-control/Thy liberty in law.” She was a brave woman to suggest that in the American ideal, to which her poem was in elegant dedication, there were flaws to be mended; and although ‘America the Beautiful’ did not make the cut as our country’s National Anthem, it should have.

It was in the spirit of ‘America the Beautiful’ that Mr. Obama spoke in Philadelphia, and his view of America was no less patriotic than was that of Katharine Lee Bates. Honesty is rare in public political discourse, not because it is in the nature of politicians to be untruthful but because they do not sufficiently trust the American people to believe in their capacity to handle the truth, especially when it is ambiguous and difficult. It is in this way that Obama and his Philadelphia speech stand apart from so much of our public talk. He took the considerable risk of trusting the American people to take his words seriously, to gaze into the tortured history of race in this country, and to move beyond the dividing bitterness of our time with a candor both hopeful and refreshing.

How easy and cowardly it would have been to disown the preaching of his former pastor. Those of us who preach are flattered to think that someone might believe we would have some influence on the thinking of anybody, let alone on a candidate for the highest office in the land, for most of us are tolerated, patronized, and ignored. Can anyone name the last presidential pastor whose sermonic influence affected policy in the White House? It may surprise many in white America, for whom Martin Luther King, Jr. is the only black preacher of whom they have ever heard, to learn that there are a lot of Jeremiah Wrights out there who week after week give expression to that classic definition of prophetic preaching that is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” What would one expect of a black preacher whose Christian name is Jeremiah? The surprise is that there are not more Jeremiah Wrights who, from the view of their own pulpits, indict America for the failure to live into its own heroic vision of all people.

While I could not possibly agree with everything that Jeremiah Wright says, I do know that when a preacher, especially a black urban preacher, fails to speak truth to power and refuses to speak of what is wrong in the ardent hope of making it right, that preacher is, in Milton’s words, a “blind mouth,” and a repudiation of God’s solemn call to him. Preachers, despite much evidence to the contrary, are not called to celebrate the status quo, even an American status quo, and when they do their job properly they call us all to a higher standard. Preachers are not perfect, nor are they the only people allowed to be credible critics of our time and place, but they are among the very few whose vocation it is to make us aspire to something other than the status quo. For too long we have made God an ally in the American way; the highest standards of preaching in America require that we should seek to be God’s ally, helping God and one another to create a world in which we seek to live as God would have us live. To criticize America is not a sin, but it is a sin to mistake America for God, and it is both sin and dereliction of duty to fail to note the difference.

Perhaps few of us would be comfortable sitting weekly under the preaching of Jeremiah Wright, and certainly few enjoyed the exhortations of his namesake. Perhaps, if there is good to be found in this current tempest, it is that we can listen with edification to his young parishioner who has articulated a vision that goes beyond the politics of bitterness and revenge.

An honest and ongoing conversation about religion and race in America is long overdue, and too important to be left to the talk-show hosts and political spin-doctors. While it would be nice to put behind us the rancor and anxiety that surrounds Obama’s so-called ‘pastor problem,’ I hope we can allow that genuine conversation to begin. Few other people in our public life are better poised to help us in this delicate but necessary discourse than Obama, and we all have much to learn from him and from each other. If out of all of this we become a people of thinking hearts and loving minds, seeking to appeal to the better angels of our nature, then this could be the best election season we have so far endured. If so, we will have Obama to thank for it.

Peter J. Gomes is Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church, Harvard University, and a best-selling author.

Written by

  • Wayne Sorge

    For a pastor to be defended as “speaking truth to power” he must start with TRUTH. I believe Jeremiah Wright did that for much of his ministry before the wheels came off and he forget what his purpose had been. He abandoned TRUTH by fabricating the idea that the government created HIV to attack the black community. And he forget that we are all fallen creatures in need of God’s mercy instead of a call from the pulpit for God to “Damn America”. God can choose to Damn America if God so chooses, but all of us in America or any other falled group of sinners should plead for mercy.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    The things that Reverend Wright said would not be out of place in a Wahabi madrassa: the damning of America, the pronouncement that the murder of 3000 innocent people on 9/11/2001 was justice, the condemnation of America for bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki to successfully end a deadly war with a fanatical regime that used suicide bombers against warships. They are words that could have come straight out of an Osama bin Laden video. Only the masochistic among Americans–i.e. left wing Democrats–could find anything “prophetic” in those denunciations. I am a Japanese-American whose mother experienced the incendiary bombings of Nagoya. I don’t see where Reverend Wright has standing to make declarations about an alleged offense against the Japanese people, an offense whose ultimate cause was the racist imperialism of their government.I am glad that you have acknowledged that Senator Obama did NOT in fact repudiate Reverend Wright or his message. By taking his daughters to hear this man’s words, Obama has endorsed them in the most significant way possible, to his own children. Mrs. Obama agress with Wright’s condemnation of America, never proud of it until her husband was within grasp of the White House. And Senator Obama promises in his speech to “perfect” America, to make it the kind of place that Reverend Wright will finally accept. Obviously he does not find acceptable an America that has done more to bring freedom to people around the world than any other nation. He does not find acceptable an America that rewards education and work with prosperity. He does not find acceptable an America that puts tremendous resources into its systems of law and justice. If Reverend Wright’s vision for America is realized, we truly will be damned.

  • VICTORIA

    what a welcome viewpoint! thank you professor plummer- mr sorge- since you’ve expressed such a sincere desire for truth- i do hope you watch these videos of the full speech by the pastor wright- in full context- they certainly are a superior example than the 10 second blurb we are all confused and oversaturated with- athena linked these videos to the obama question on the main page- thanks again athena for the links

  • Mr Mark

    “God’s solemn call”???I look forward to the day (century?) when mankind has fully abandoned such self-serving and open-to-interpretation BS.

  • Michelle

    Obama dedicated his book…20 years of his church going life…and about 2,000$ a week to a hate spewing bigot…he calls “like a uncle to me”…And I am supposed to be worried about Clinton’s judgement?NOBAMA 2008 Hypocrisy Tour.Blah Blah … Hope (hate)…Blah Blah …Change ( same old thing)…Blah Blah ..Hope and Change ( just another politician)…Blah.

  • utwo

    Obama is “audacity of DOPE not HOPE”. Obama is like a CAMELON, changing colors whenever it suits him. His deceitfulness has been exposed. He wants to change Washington but coddles corruptness in Illinois. He runs on CHANGE but EMBRACES divisive and vile characters like pastor WRIGHT. His judgement is flawed when he embraces EXTREMISTS that BOMBED the Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. He is the MOST LIBERAL in the Senate. He voted for the early release of SEX OFFENDERS and voted for legislation to have porn sites close to CHURCHES and SCHOOLS. Obama is trying to hide behind the RACE to promote his candidacy.

  • mary CA

    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.” Thomas Jefferson wrote those words about our great national sin of slavery, in his “Notes on the State of Virginia,” and they are carved on panel three of the Jefferson Memorial.Rev. Wright quoting Ambassador Peck on 9/16/2001:“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.”Wright was not the only minister that blamed everything from Bill Clinton (air strikes in no fly zones, or getting caught with his pants unzipped) to homosexuals for the “9/11” attack. But it is Wright that gets crucified for it. I am not Christian (Christians tend to be too hateful for my tastes) but everyone who is should know that Jesus preached about the sins of his government at the time and also “overturned the money changers tables” in a Temple. Is Wright all that different? Would not it be funny, if that Bible prophecy in the Revelations was true and God was using Wright in his judging and separating the sheep? All that were quick to judge and condemn him based on a few snippets of cleverly spliced sermons could expect the same type of judgment passed upon them.

  • Mario Faz

    The laws and the constitution of the US are documents that set the rules of our society. The interpretation of them are in the will of the judges and the Supreme Court. If there is a discrimination policy of any public or private institutions. The offended citizen, either black, gay, native american, hispanic, women or wathever their race, gender, national origin are protected not by the laws itselves but by the courts and the Law of the Land. From this point there is no excuse of reverend Wright to instigate hate against white people or the institutions his country has. The same kind of speeches are made by persons all over the world like Castro, Chavez, Osama and etc. Is he going to align himself with those guys. There is no excuse for that.

  • Jim

    Mullah Wright has a lot of hatred in his heart, and as we all know christianity preaches forgiveness and love. What is wrong with you folks the pulpet cannot be used to preach hatred and continue to aspouse grudges and minimizing self criticism. Why don’t you look at Muktadar Al Sabr. Wright is keeping up with the rest of Mullahs around the World, preaching hatred and divisiveness.Black America wake up and free yourself from the Slavery that YOU have imposed on yourself. You have been freed generations ago by whites and have no blame to place upon the whites; rather, all the blame upon yourself. Look at the immigrants that do not have any favored status or quotas dictated by governments, they come to this Great Land of Opportunity, work hard, study hard, and live the American dream. It is all around you. You reap what you sew.Education, melting into the pot that is America. Diversity means divisiveness. There should be no diversity, but melting into this great people that is called America.We have many successful examples from around the globe that came here under slavery and have become leaders of this great land of ours.God Bless Bill Cosby.Thank

  • victor

    Thanks for the youtube links to Pastor Wright’s sermons. Where there is smoke- there is fire. I can’t believe someone thought that showing more of Wright’s ramblings- would somehow vindicate him. Forget that this man is racist. He is ultra anti-American.

  • Chris Travers

    I have spent some time watching Rev. Wright’s sermons to better understand the surrounding controversy. His points, while I don’t agree with all of them, tend to be well argued and most of them appear to be good:1) “America’s Chickens are coming home to roost” as an example of how violence begets violence and why we need to turn to scripture instead of revenge against all Arabs and Muslims. He does not condemn going after Al Qaeda, only that we must not move from beyond that to revenge against unarmed individuals.2) “God damn America” if we continue to assume that we should take the place of God in this world. This isn’t certain or a judgment on the past, but a warning for the future.3) The HIV/AIDS comment is one where blacks have a lot of justified skepticism in the intent of the government. The fact is that the science supports the theory that HIV came to this country far earlier (1950’s probably) than it was detected and was the result of a natural species jump in SIV (just like FIV jumped species from big cats to house cats). In short it isn’t a question of whether the government “would” (they would, given the history of the Tuskegee experiment) but rather the fact that the evidence is against the idea that they actually *did.*

  • Virginia

    It’s amazing, gracie. I have read this three times. That’s three as in #3, times and still am confused with what you’re trying to say. First of all, though, as a “white” person, I happen to know more than one black preacher besides MLK. There’s Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Secondly, Barack Obama is anything but a Christian. Raised by an athiest “white” mother and a muslim father/step-father, it’s a bit difficult to buy that one. He’s passing himself off as “black” and he is as far from black as me. His mother, remember, was WHITE. But, when you want the BLACK VOTE, you’ll do anything and he certainly is. And, racist comes to mind when I think of him. Especially when he talks of his “white” grandmother who is so typical of ALL whites. Don’t even bother trying to convince me he’s the man to be elected President. Michael Steele, former MD. Lt. Gov., Colin Powell or Condeleeza Rice, BUT NOT A HYPOCRIT LIKE OBAMA.

  • jordan vaughn

    I’m sorry is this Obama 08 or Newsweek, I can’t really seem to tell the difference except maybe you try harder than Obama. I’m pretty sure the Constitution is one of the most perfect documents ever written, the only problem our nation has is with the dirty liberals trying to shove their socialism on us.

  • victoria

    Finally, a thoughtful article that articulates the difference between a prophet and a politician. Thank you.

  • alyce

    The comments is just what was hoped for when McCain’s “over zealous young” campaign staff member hoped to provoke with the mash-up mix tape. I see the same comments all over; can not even come up with an original sentence. Sad.HI-virus originated in a lab that uses monkey cells in creating vaccines. Using animal cells or tissue is common practice. The USA could be said, lax, in not careful inspection of the plant. A infected monkey’s cells, it is believed, somehow got mixed with small pox vaccine. (careless cleansing practices with equipment) The vaccine was distributed by the Red Cross in third world countries. Wright may be paranoid to think it a government plot, but he not far from the truth.The first cases in the USA were among men using an experimental drug for Hepatics-C. The government refused to release the names of all that volunteered to test it, so a study could determine if that medication was also infected with the HI-virus. What I heard Wright say was the government has not helped with funds in the issue. I could be wrong, because I did not see the mash-up tape and not clear what bits and pieces of his sermons were aired.

  • lu

    Just another attempt to excuse the treason and hate spewing from Rev. Wright.

  • jac

    If this is the sermon they have in predomiantly african american churches in america today, that is not helping to heal the hatred for white people and the distrust whites have for african american people. Its no wonder we as americans no matter what color or age we are, we will never learn to love and trust one another.

  • Sam Lance

    You know I was raised in Church, “Cut my teeth on a pew”. And as a Christian, I have always heard our ministers say about a nation that is in moral trouble and turned away from it’s Biblical foundation it was began on. The Minister’s Say God have mercy on America, Or maybe Judment day will on day come for America. Because We Love America, We are american. We don’t wish bad things for The Country We Love. So….to Jerimiah Wright what country does he love? Tell Him to go there. He wants God to Damn America?? While we sing God Bless America….please God Bless AmericA. CUZ I’M AMERICAN, NOT MUSLIM. The Pulpit is to call for forgiveness, repentence of the individual to God. And it is never effective to do so from a HATEFUL attitude.

  • mary CA

    Virginia: “Secondly, Barack Obama is anything but a Christian.” Libel or slander, there, sweetie. One of the reasons I support Senator Obama is he is a refreshing breath of fresh air to what we have had in this so called “Christian country” and the culture of hate led by our current administration.His actions show he lives the words of Christ as in: Love thy neighbor; do unto others; turning the other cheek; if you were not blind you would see it. Your angry rant proves there is a ‘typical’ white person. Michelle made it clear early on that Barack was not running as a black man, he was running as a man. It is his unique understanding of two cultures that makes him uniquely suited to preside over a diverse culture. His mother left the church, because of people like you. Same reason I did. We are spiritual. Religion is man-made you see and “by their works you shall know them”. You are quick to condemn. Obama is not pandering to people The Clintons and press turned him into “the black candidate” to get votes; he just speaks about his positions on issues. The Clintons, Steinem and Ferraro turned this into a skin color race and ethnic contest. Intelligent people know that. He thinks the majority of American people are decent. I wonder, if he reads comments like yours, and begins to question why he thought that. A true Christian religion should produce more people like Obama and less like you and other people commenting here.

  • Logistics

    @jordan vaughn:There is no single document of law which can be perfect. The Constitution is far from perfection, if it was perfect we wouldn’t need law makers now would we?@utwoIt helps if you spell chameleon correctly,

  • Dan

    My God I can’t believe that some people are still blinded by the one sided story that was told years ago. America has ignored the race issue for decades now. People are so afraid of talking about the race issue, Which I think is part of America and got to find ways to deal with it. It will be hypocritical of Americans going around the world setting up Truth and reconciliation commissions in various parts of the world but can not set up one so people can share the horor stories that make up the American history, so people who have no clue or have been brain washed in America can understand the bitterness, hatred, injustice and discrimination that boils underneath the beauty of the American Society. They only want to talk about the sugar coatings and forget about the bitter history. OBAMA started it let us continue the dialog. I am inspired. There are still lots of racists in the US Government but their children and friends never disowned them.

  • Anonymous

    Sam Lance:: “CUZ I’M AMERICAN, NOT MUSLIM.” Many Americans are Muslims. Buddhas. Hindi. Wiccans. That is what makes the United States great: freedom of choice and freedom to worship. You are not very “American” in your rant.You also did not hear the entire sermon. Your mind already pre-judges, so even if you do, you would not comprehend the message. Wright is a Christian, not a Muslim, so your rant does not make sense. Your hatred comes through loud and clear. It is exactly people like you that turned me off on Christianity. Muslims and others are much nicer, loving and kind human beings from my personal knowledge of them on a one-on-one basis.

  • GeorgePS

    Mr. Obama’s Philadelphia speech, in spite of its eloquent passages expressing his hope for better racial relations in America, is a mastery example of literary subterfuge, the broadening of the scenery whereby an object of inquiry becomes blurred and lost in the background, or more bluntly, the escaping of a slippery fish from a pond into a lake to hide in a wider expanse of water. Mr. Obama states: “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static . . . ,” an apt analysis in view of his campaign slogan of “change” that will surely move the country out of the “static” stalemate under his leadership, but the truth is more tragic and personal.Rev Wright, in spite of Mr. Obama’s defense, is not a victim of his circumstance, the circumstance of his race, but of his own hubris, of his own failure to keep hope and faith in what is good in America and other fellow race. While racism still remains in American society, America does not espouse racism as a creed, and while racism still lingers among some white, not all white are racist. The sin of Rev Wright is that he lost his faith and hope in America.And Mr. Obama’s profound mistake in his defense is that Mr. Obama still sees America and its white race from the identity of an angry black intellectual who assiduously, in spite of his bi-racial background, and unlike many bi-racial people who refuse to identify themselves with a race, cultivated his black identity at the exclusion of his white heritage, which he laboriously exorcised out of his soul, as his 1995 autobiography testifies. His line, “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community,” clearly indicates where his loyalty still lies, to his intellectually cultivated vision of the unified black community, the community that men like Rev Wright mistakenly and pretentiously claim its leadership. But black community, like the white, are far more diverse, far less united than advocates of each race purport, except under the common American value espoused in our Constitution and the sense of patriotism for the land where our families and friends live, of which Rev Wright so flagrantly savaged.For many black, Mr. Obama’s mention of Rev Wright and the black community in the same vein in his own defense grossly misrepresents the entire black community. Indeed, to them Rev Wright represents the past, the past that black community must depart, as much as the white community must from its lingering racism. And Mr. Obama’s defense of Rev Wright harks back to that unfortunate past, just as his conscious attempt to identify himself as a wholly black person (perhaps until recently) by abandoning his white heritage harks back to the grievous divisions of races precipitated by each individual’s conscious attempt at finding racial identity. The dismal truth of his speech is that he failed to understand, while acknowledging the damaging nature of Rev Wright’s pronouncements to America’s racial relations, the obvious fact that Mr. Obama’s unflagging support of Rev Wright (that he is like Mr. Obama’s family member, that he cannot be disowned) has done further damages to racial relations and will continue to do so.This is the sin of Barack Obama: he stood there by Rev Wright while the Reverend was caught up in his pride as a stirring preacher, a vainglorious social critic, spewing out his tirade decrying of the injustice of the whole nation, of an entire race, and he said nothing, did nothing, and to this day Mr. Obama still stands by Rev Wright and does nothing, notwithstanding his speech, except to keep his faith in the Reverend. It is an admirable act of friendship fitting for a private citizen, but it is an act unbecoming of a US president, for he must stand, not by his friend who failed his hope and faith in America, but by his country and all its people. This, in spite of his rhetorical eloquence, Mr. Obama failed, no, refused to do. His speech did neither heal America’s racial problems nor of his own. Instead, many Americans increasingly perceive him as part of America’s racial problems, not the solution he wishes to present himself. Indeed, Mr. Obama, unwittingly, has become a racially divisive man, the Democrat’s November Bogeyman.

  • Paul

    I’m amazed as I read such vindictive comments from Clinton supporters, Obama supporters and McCain supporters alike. Obama didn’t use his speech to tear anyone down. Not his pastor, not his detractors, nobody. But he called on each of us — himself included — to do better. He called on us to rise above racism and to take care of each other in America and in the world. If we fail to do that and just keep bickering about this, we will be the ones guilty of empty rhetoric without meaningful action. He held up the mirror for each person in the USA. Let’s look into it and see what we see.

  • joseph

    “I’m amazed as I read such vindictive comments from Clinton supporters, Obama supporters and McCain supporters alike. Obama didn’t use his speech to tear anyone down.”Paul, I am amazed and saddened too.Despite his intent- Obama’s speech has divided this country and set race relations back 30 years. Too bad he did not leave when he first heard hatred for whites and America coming from the pulpet. His close association with his Pastor and his attempts to justify himself has taken the Democratic Party to an incredible and deeply concerning low.

  • quark

    It appears you are falling for the rhetoric the rest of America is falling for and worse, you are an educated man who is repeating it without analysis.First, this pastor’s ranting has nothing to do with religion.Second, bigotry is wrong. No amount of rationalizing will make it right. If we want our children to grow up better than past generations, we must teach them that lesson. Condoning bigotry from any race will only prolong its existence. Third, Obama’s speech twisted the issue to focus only on Wright’s racism, but Wright espoused anti-American themes as well. It may be okay for academics to hate their country – they can’t do much harm – but I cannot accept that attitude in a President.Fourth, when someone’s actions and words don’t match, they are lying. Obama attended that church for 20 years and now he “says” he didn’t agree with the teachings. The conclusion should be obvious to anyone who cares to think instead of only repeating what they hear – he is lying. In that sense, he is no different than Clinton or any other politician and really offers nothing new.

  • Billy

    How dare any public official speak openly about anything criticizing America!We are America, the greatest nation of all time. We are the standard for the world to follow. We cannot have leaders who will not embrace our ideas of life liberty and the American way. If they can’t openly say the pledge of allegiance with a clear conscience, than they do not belong in any government office. The American way is always right, even if it sometimes seems to be wrong to a few people. Look at the big picture. We cannot lead the world if we accuse ourselves. The founding fathers would roll over in their graves if they knew what was going on in this presidential race. These candidates are not worthy to be dog catchers. Preacher’s can speak freely in church, they have little public accountability. Elected politicians must be more discrete. It is best not to expose our flaws in public. Rather we should seek to find solutions in private. The naked truth is never popular and when politicians speak in public they need to understand this. So go ahead tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

  • delspurlock

    IS THERE SUCH A GOD?

  • Larry James

    My dear friend and MIT Chaplain, Robert Randolph sent me the link to your most thoughtful comments. Thanks for helping us process the current debate and conversation. I have admired you and your work for many years.

  • Birddog

    Excuse me but this aurgument was settled by Malcolm X over 35 years ago. As Documented in one of the most influential books to come out of the Civil Rights Movement ‘The Autobiography of MAlcolm X’, Malccolm taught us that raciest speech or actions ought never to go unchallenged irregardless of the speakers sense of entitlement or aggreivment…… Although Brother Malcolm for several years belonged to a ‘church’,the Nation of Islam or Black Muslim FAith, that was led by a rabid raciest Louis Farakhan the Senior , after MAlcolm paid a pilgrimage to Mecca and was instructed in the true colorblind faith of Islam he rejected the hate filled Sermons of Farakahn and broke away from the Black Muslims.As described in Malcolm’s book he knew he would probably pay for denoucing Farakhan with his life, but also understood that the only way this nation would progress would be for us to progress forward together Black and White.MAlcolm died for his convictions and I do not think his death should be in vain……Reverend Wright is simply a throwback to the racism of the Black nationlist movement of Farakhan, and I can only wonder what MAlcolm X would say about his rantings and what he would think about Obama’s panderings to Wright?

  • mariano

    Sam Lance:: “CUZ I’M AMERICAN, NOT MUSLIM.” Many Americans are Muslims. Buddhas. Hindi. Wiccans. That is what makes the United States great: freedom of choice and freedom to worship. You are not very “American” in your rant.Paul: ‘I’m amazed as I read such vindictive comments from Clinton supporters, Obama supporters and McCain supporters alike.” You obviously do not know many Obama supporters. They are people who speak like Sam Lance or Virginia. They are not easily swayed to hate by an edited biased tape created to divide and aired by a bigoted media. We are, however, as a group tired of Hillary’s followers labeling us, as she does Obama, with their crimes. We are Iraqi Veterans Against War, Veterans for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, Christians, Muslims, Hebrews, agnostics, atheists, Pulitzer and Nobel peace prize winners, current and former elected government officials, college students, 12 year old boys, 94 year old ladies, 60 year olds who never voted before, Republican pro-war Marine Veteran, feminists of many ages, baby boomers of many ethnic groups, scientists, doctors, nurses, teachers, social service workers, peace corp volunteers to name a very few. People that care about other human beings.

  • mariano

    “They are people who speak like Sam Lance or Virginia.” To Paul’s comment correcting the typo, the sentence was “They are not people who speak like Sam Lance of Virginia”.

  • Asim MA, San Antonio

    A profound piece.

  • Asim MA, San Antonio

    Birddog,Malcom X would understand Rev. Wright’s anger but would disagree because X went thru it all.The fact of the matter is that the whole fuss is not really about Rev.Wright-but a cheap attempt to hurt Obama and it did not work.

  • mariano

    “Mr. Rendell, whose speech preceded Mr. Farrakhan’s, commended the Nation of Islam for its emphasis on family values and self-sufficiency.” from NY Times: “Philadelphia Mayor Joins Farrakhan to Calm Ethnic Tensions” By Michael Janofsky Published: April 15, 1997Birddog: Do I have to give you a description of what was done unto a 14 year old child visiting his cousin in the south based on a white woman’s word that he whistled at her? It was not pretty, it was not isolated. If you did not live through Jim Crow south and are not black, I suggest you stop labeling people who did. (“by a rabid raciest Louis Farakhan the Senior”) You read the book, so you know that Malcolm’s father was tied to a railroad track and murdered. People then and now do not understand justifiable anger and rage. Just do a google search for Emmett Till images and get a clue.Did you know our Supreme Court gave the Ku Klux Klan the right to burn crosses on their neighbor’s lawn overturning a 50 year ban on cross burning in Virgina? I am ‘white’ and I am angry. How dare a group known for murders and terrorism get a free pass from our government in 1998? If I were Wright I would be spitting nails too. I am, actually. The Bible says Love does not rejoice in evil. The opposite of love is hate. It is not Wright that is “hateful” nor the senior Farrakhan.How many of you haters know that Wright was esteemed by both President Johnson and President Clinton?

  • jerry

    Mariano- maybe you know:Have you read Pat Buchanan’s 3.21.08 column?A Brief for Whitey”Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America’s fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Al about Tawana Brawley, the Duke rape case and Jena. And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.”

  • Henry James

    Rev Gomes: Brilliant post. Brother William would be proud to call you a colleague.There are many aspects to this complicated case, and here are two:Theoretical and PracticalTheoretically, it is clearly possible for a Preacher to be beyond the moral pale and deserve the condemnation of society AND his parishioners.You have to decide whether Rev Wright is Wrong on this dimension.Practically, there is little doubt tht Mr Taylor is Emphatically Correct in saying that the duty of a Preacher is to speak Truth to Power, not toady up to power. This is surely what Jesus did, and it got him crucified.The sins of Racism are of an immense scale. Doesn’t mean we whites have to be paralysed with guilt about the sins of our fathers, but it means we have a moral duty to come to grips with them.The SINS of our country in going to WAR without threat are similarly heinous, and a reflection of our sorry history of insensitivity to those parts of the world that are MUCH poorer and less powerful than we are. The arrogance and ignorance of the Bush administration in waging this war is a Sin, if you believe in God, and if you believe in a God who punishes Sin, it is surely a Sin that such a God would punish (damn) America for.So, the nerve of Rev Wright to speak to truth. To power, nonetheless.

  • DRH

    Buzz-phrase of the day : “speak truth to power”. Wright did no such thing. He ranted and raved in front of a friendly audience. He railed against people who were not in the room. He indulged in the craziest of falsehoods… that the USA created AIDs to kill people of color, etc.

  • GAryd

    Wrong sir. Had Mr. Wright actually spoken the truth you’d have a leg to stand on. AS it is he used his bully pulpit to feed lies to his congregation.

  • Henry James

    DrH rightly criticizes Rev Wright for claiming that the Government deliberately put AIDS into the Black Community.DRH: have you ever publicly said something that wasn’t true? (i know I haven’t). are you willing to disregard all of black experience and all of black church history and good will because Rev Wright is Wrong on this one.???Do you defend the US decision to invade Iraq? Do you think there is ANY truth in Rev Wrights statement? Can you understand why he made them in the context of the black experience?Rev Wright has done LOADS of unambiguously wonderful things for his parishioners. He has some residual anger towards the White Majority as does much of his congregation. Shall we engage him and his parishioners in dialog about that? Or should we go tisk tisk?

  • Henry James

    GaryCan’t wait til you get before the Big Kahuna on Judgment Day.Hope She can see Gray.

  • Anonymous

    Obama’s speech is why I will NEVER vote for Obama. Pat Buchanan is right. As president, the whole time he was in the WH Obama would be pResident Enabler. America would be sick of black whinning and vote him out at the end of his term. Good riddens.

  • Anonymous

    There is a certain case of “thous dost protest too much” going one here.I know people don’t like to think about our nuclear assault on Japan, or our entanglement with Israel in the middle east as “negative”, but I mean……somebody pushed white America’s button, and the theater is certainly entertaining to watch.Cheers to brazen preachers, despite their absurd god delusions!

  • Anonymous

    (This time without the buzzed spelling errors):There is a certain amount of “thou dost protest too much” going on here.I know people don’t like to think about our nuclear assault on Japan, nor of our entanglement with Israel in the middle east as “negative”, but I mean……somebody pushed white America’s button, and the theater is certainly entertaining to watch.Cheers to brazen preachers, despite their absurd god delusions!

  • Bob

    Prophet, my ass. If Wright is Mr. Gomes’ idea of a prophet, what’s his idea of a hate-filled bigot and a liar?No one begrudges black Americans their right to feel angry about slavery, about lynchings, about discrimination. If black people are angry, I understand, even sympathize.But, I cannot accept the lying. I cannot accept the willingness to make common cause with the enemies of America. And I cannot accept the racism and anti-Semitism that is the lingua franca in churches like Wright’s.

  • Carmen

    Obama Speech Summary: BOO HOO… WHAT AN APOLOGIST YOU ARE.

  • Gee

    Look, let us call a spade – a spade. Obama, just like Kery in 2004, is not going to see the west wing talk least of him occupying the white house. The democrat is in another loose loose situation. But, if they have less controvercial fighter as the nominee. They – the democrat has a chance.

  • Lee

    Thank you Prof. Gomes for such a positive and inspirational view of this Rev. Wright situation. Your words have restored my hope. I was beginning to believe that too many people were willing to ignore Sen. Obama’s message and focus on the media spin of Rev. Wright. Thank you for your inspiring words.

  • Neal

    Carmen, you got to the crux of the matter. Nicely done.

  • Anonymous

    Dr. Gomes,In light of Dr. Jeremiah Wright, I truly appreciate your incisive reflections regardng the prophetic task and the charge of the prophet to speak truth to power for the sake of redeeming and transforming our nation (and world) into a more just and humane society. Further, your observations (at least by implication) regarding our blind and uncritical allegiance to nationalism and patriotism despite America’s sinful, checkered past, as well our present socio-political landscape is also worth considering.Nothwithstanding, I think we should also give credit to whom credit is due. Regarding Obama, you maintain, “How easy and cowardly it would have been to disown the preaching of his former pastor.” However, I think Obama essentially does disown Dr. Wright publicly, politically, and theologically because he repudiates him, insisting that Dr. Wright was wrong for having made such, as he put it, “incendiary” remarks. For me, Obama is just as complicit as mainstream media and political pundits in maligning Dr. Wright because they simply address the sound bites rather than the actual sermons in a cursory fashion. Apparantly, they have not actually listened to these sermons in their entirety and thus have not thoroughly examined the biblical text and context for which Dr. Wright is addressing, nor the parllelisms he is drawing from it to our contemporary context. In the post 9/11 sermon, for example, Dr. Wright examines Psalm 137 which reflects the profound lament and rage the Israelites expressed during their captivity and exile in Babylon in the aftermath of Babylon’s invasion and destruction of Jerusalem. Zeroing in on vv. 8-9 in the biblical text, Dr. Wright calls attention to their unbridled rage and thirst for revenge against their captors: 8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator! 9 Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! 9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! (Psalm 137:8-9 NRSV)From this view, Dr. Wright illumines that in their unchecked rage, hatred, and preoccupation with retribution against Babylon, the Israelites were actually endorsing killing the innocent children of their enemies. In the wake of 9/11 and America’s rage and vow for revenge, as well the Israelite and Babylonian context, Dr. Wright underscores, as he puts it, “the insanity of the cycle of violence and the cycle of hatred.” Further, the grave and far reaching consequences it poses for defenseless and innoncent victims. In sum, Dr. Wright grapples with the very difficult question of how America might respond in the wake of 9/11 and the implications should we repay terror with terror.Rather than killing the messenger and the prophetic message as so many of us unjustly have, it would behoove us to fully engage Dr. Wright’s sermons in their entirety before racing to judgment and labeling him as a hateful, unpatriotic, racist, anti-semite. After all, Jesus was a Jew and was crucified for his unwavering contention that he was indeed the King of Jews. As our revered King of Kings, prophet, priest, and Savior, Christ is the center of every Christian’s pride, joy, and faith — including the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Obama’s decision to address religion and race as a politician in his speech last week has been hailed as seminal, courageous, and even noble. But, let’s not gloss over the fact that it was a politically expedient gesture for which Dr. Wright’s audacity and courage to speak truth to power as a prophet provided fodder for! Had Dr. Wright not troubled the waters, I seriously doubt that Obama would have felt compelled to pen and delivered this speech during the course of his campaign. So again, let’s give credit to whom credit is due.

  • CHEYENNE WOODRUFF

    I’m beginning to wonder if Rev. Wright is running for US President;not that he wouldn’t make a great President! The White world is so intimidated by hearing the truth, and especially from educated and well respected Blacks who are not in their hip pockets! Hats off to Rev. Wright and to all Trinitarians for “Standing By Your Man!” After all Hillary stood by hers. What Rev. Wright has preached about for thirty-some years has not changed. What has changed is that a Black man is likely to become US President and that has upset White America! Rev. MLK said a lot of the same things that Rev. Wright has been saying, just in a different tone, and maybe more “politically correct”- again by White America’s standards. When Blacks care enough to teach Blacks, stand up for Blacks, help Blacks to better themselves, and not be afraid to do it- that creates a major problem! Keep on saying the “right” thing Rev. Wright, instead of the “White” thing. I suggest that all Catholics denounce their churches and especially their Priests who have sexually molested young children! I suggest that Hillary be sanctioned for lying about sniper fire in Bosnia, at the expense of men and women serving there who were killed by sniper fire! God is with Rev. Wright and so am I. If God be for you, he is more than the world against you!

  • jo ann smith

    Lovely, thanks for your insight. I am proud of Obama and of Rev. Wright. I have heard his sermons in context and would be proud to sit in his church.

  • Anonymous

    Twice I’ve posted material about Barack Obama and his 20 year membership in Jeremiah Wright’s church and its adherence to Black Liberation Theology as espoused by James H. Cones. Why have both postings been deleted? The postings are not offensive and are factual with stated references. This site must be run by the same type of people that monitor websites in China! Remember Newsweek: The Truth Will Set You Free.

  • Ron Nicholson

    I am writing on April 28. Rev Wright spoke this morning at the National Press Club and on CNN to the NAACP last night. Whether we like it or not the fat is in the fire, by artifice or accident Barack Obama’s all for a national dialogue on race has begun. Better so than let go on in hushed tones and double entendre at the restaurant and bar, the club, the shop the board room. Enough of the looped sound bites and sanctimonious denials by anchor men and women. It was going to be a major part of the campaign anyway. The question now is, what are the moral leaders of this great nation going to do? The National Council of Churches, the Arch-bishops, the Southern Baptist Council, the Jewish Community, our Islamic brothers? Are they going to hide their eyes, cover their ears and remain mute or are they going to speak out for God and for America? How long, Oh Lord, How Long?

  • Obama Well Wisher

    The post WW II Germans dealt with the Nazi issue head-on. It did not hurt them. It healed them and made them a great people and a great nation with nothing to hide.America could learn from the experience.