Michael Gerson

Obama's speech implied that these toxic views are somehow parallel to the stereotyping of black men by Obama's grandmother, which Obama said made him "cringe" -- both are the foibles of family. But while Grandma may have had some issues to work through, Wright is accusing the American government of trying to kill every member of a race. There is a difference.

Yet didn't George Bush and other Republican politicians accept the support of Jerry Falwell, who spouted hate of his own? Yes, but they didn't financially support his ministry and sit directly under his teaching for decades.

The better analogy is this: What if a Republican presidential candidate spent years in the pew of a theonomist church -- a fanatical fragment of Protestantism that teaches the modern political validity of ancient Hebrew law? What if the church's pastor attacked the U.S. government as illegitimate and accepted the stoning of homosexuals and recalcitrant children as appropriate legal penalties (which some theonomists see as biblical requirements)? Surely we would conclude, at the very least, that the candidate attending this church lacked judgment and that his donations were subsidizing hatred. And we would be right.

In Philadelphia, Obama attempted to explain Wright's anger as typical of the civil rights generation, with its "memories of humiliation and doubt and fear." But Wright has the opposite problem: He ignored the message of Martin Luther King Jr. and introduced a new generation to the politics of hatred.

King drew a different lesson from the oppression he experienced: "I've seen too much hate to want to hate myself; hate is too great a burden to bear. I've seen it on the faces of too many sheriffs of the South. . . . Hate distorts the personality. . . . The man who hates can't think straight; the man who hates can't reason right; the man who hates can't see right; the man who hates can't walk right."

Barack Obama is not a man who hates -- but he chose to walk with a man who does.


Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
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