Conservatives ought to be careful before they insist that Barack Obama further renounce his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. This vicious guilt-by-association political game cuts both ways.
The left has used this game to marginalize conservatives. In 1993, the Rev. Eugene Lumpkin was fired from the San Francisco Human Rights Commission because he said he believed the Bible told him that "the homosexual lifestyle is an abomination against God." This year, critics called on GOP nominee John McCain to denounce supporter Pastor John Hagee, who called the Catholic Church "the great whore."
McCain said he did not agree with all of Hagee's views and later specifically repudiated Hagee's anti-Catholic rhetoric. As McCain told Fox News' Sean Hannity last week, "I think that when people support you, it doesn't mean that you support everything they say."
Obama's condemnation last week of Wright's over-the-top and downright racist statements should settle the matter as well -- especially as Wright is retiring from Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ and no longer is one of Obama's many campaign advisers. Yes, I know what Wright has said. In 2003, Wright accused the American government of funding the drug trade and told his congregation not to sing "God Bless America," but instead, "God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people." Wright called the 9/11 attacks an example of "America's chickens coming home to roost." His church gave anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan a lifetime achievement award.
Obama has praised Wright as a former Marine who lovingly "preached the gospel of Jesus." Maybe. But Wright clearly had a strong hate streak going. You don't crow that the 9/11 victims essentially got what was coming, and not -- at some level, anyway -- hate America.
I have white friends who argue that they would walk out of a church where the minister spouted hatred against racial minorities; hence, they expect that Obama would do the same.
They note that Obama considered Wright a mentor and that the senator was a member of Wright's church for some 20 years -- which suggests a close spiritual relationship, even if the Obamas were one family among 8,500 Sunday worshipers.
I appreciate their point, but they ignore a certain reality about being black in America. To wit: In certain venues, a black man is going to hear anti-white comments from African Americans who have not had the extra something it takes to get ahead in this world. After a while, the buzz becomes background noise. That doesn't mean Obama buys into all their grievances -- although he probably believes some and understands more.