In his several explanations and denunciations of his longtime pastor, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama asks us to believe that he never heard any of the sermons in which Rev. Jeremiah Wright denounced and asked God to damn America. Neither was he present, he says, for Rev. Wright's message in which he said America got what it deserved on 9/11 because we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II and have bombed other countries. He apparently also missed the one about how America created AIDS. The implication appears to have been that it was a plot to wipe out blacks, since the disease disproportionately affects African Americans.
Other church members must have told Obama what Rev. Wright said, or he could have viewed the sermon on the church's Website. It appears many others besides just Rev. Wright share this point of view. If one looks at the video, church members are standing, shouting approval and applauding. This is not one man speaking for himself. From the reaction, one can fairly conclude he is speaking for most, if not all, of the congregation. But not for Barack Obama, he says.
A statement issued by the church last Sunday accused critics of attacking "the legacy of the African-American Church." That is like excusing racism in some Southern white churches 50 years ago because of a "legacy" of bigotry. Hate from a preacher - black or white - can never be justified.
I have attended enough churches over the years that if I missed a Sunday service at which the pastor had said something as incendiary as Rev. Wright, I would have heard about it and done more than denounce it. I would have left that church. Obama says Rev. Wright is a "Bible Scholar" and has spoken at seminaries around the country. He specifically mentioned Union Theological Seminary, which is theologically and politically liberal. Liberal seminaries teach a "social gospel" that is more social than gospel and more the earthly agenda of the Democratic Party than the Kingdom of God.
As the left attempts to peel off religious voters from their ties with the Republican Party, which has used and abused them, they are encountering some of the same pitfalls experienced by conservatives. These include outrageous statements from their own preachers. In the '60s, some conservative preachers denounced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., calling him a fellow traveler with communists. They opposed integration as "unbiblical." In the late '70s, they began a too-close association with Republican politicians who were all too happy to have their votes, but advanced little of their agenda, either because they could not, or because they would not.
The voice that black people should be listening to is not Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but Bill Cosby. At Jesse Jackson's 33rd Annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition conference in Chicago in 2004, and at many other venues, Cosby called on his fellow blacks to stop blaming the "white man" for their problems. Cosby suggested most of the problems in black America are caused by "what we are doing to ourselves."
This is the attitude that appeals to others, especially whites, and makes them want to help poor blacks escape poverty. Blaming whites for black problems may empower the speakers, but it repels people who genuinely want to assist the disadvantaged to become advantaged.
Obama says Rev. Wright is no longer among his campaign's "spiritual advisers." Obama should not be asked which of Rev. Wright's outrageous statements he disagrees with, but rather which ones he does agree with. That Obama remains a member in good standing of Trinity United Church of Christ indicates that he prefers the company of many people who have demonstrated that they believe what their pastor has said.
The religious left will get no further than the religious right in its attempt to use government and political power, rather than the power of God. Political power can only empower itself and that is not real power. As with the right, the religious left will sully its primary message in favor of another kingdom (the world) and another king (a presidential candidate), which violates several biblical admonitions. By rejecting those admonitions, they are setting themselves up for frustration, disappointment and failure.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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