Paul Greenberg

If the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will just keep talking, talking, talking on television and in the pulpit, before the National Press Club and who knows where next, he may yet succeed not only in sinking Barack Obama's presidential campaign but stirring such a reaction that, against all odds in this year's anti-administration climate, he'll succeed in electing the Republican presidential nominee.

It's happened before in a way. All the yippiefied tumult at the Democrats' Daley-dominated convention in 1968 drove Americans to reject both warring factions, recoil in disgust from the whole orgy of anger and disorder on display, and elect the original comeback kid, Richard M. Nixon, president of the United States.

A spectacle that could make the ungainliest of politicians, our own Richard III, look irresistible had to be mighty repellent indeed - much like the rhetoric of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago. As a preacher he's one heck of an effective politician - for the opposition.

A former congregant of the Rev. Wright's is now of some prominence in national affairs. The Hon. Barack Obama first tried to dismiss his old mentor as some kind of eccentric uncle. But the senator may have grievously underestimated both Jeremiah Wright's staying power and his sheer, inexhaustible capacity for embarrassing the nice, reasonable Barack Obamas of this world. For the senator's opponents, the reverend is the gift that never stops giving. More, surely, is to come. And the senator's critics can't wait.

The Rev. Wright's latest tour de farce took place at the National Press Club in Washington, where he claimed his critics were really attacking his church: "This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It is an attack on the black church."

Goodness. I've been in more than a few black churches in my superannuated time - and have found myself unable to keep my arms from flying up in autonomous exaltation at certain uncontainable moments. Nor could I keep from joining the chorus of affirmation after affirmation (A-men! Yes-s-s-!), and from wanting to shout Hallejuah! at climactic points. Just writing about the black church makes me long for its warm comfort and restoring strength.

And the music! If you have not prayed with Mahalia Jackson, wanting deep in your heart to Move On Up a Little Higher or sought strength to Keep Your Hand on the Plow despite everything, well, you have a wealth of spiritual renewal ahead.

But as usual, I've gotten carried away when the subject is the black church, which, come to think, may be the whole object.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.