When Wright came to Trinity Church in Chicago in the 1970s -- invited to give the worship a more black inflection and foster stronger ties to the community -- the middle-class parishioners who had beckoned him left when they got a dose of his radicalism. The national United Church of Christ denomination considered distancing itself from the Wright-led church. Yet Obama came -- and stayed.
In search of an identity and a community, Obama found it in Trinity, where he was converted by Wright's signature "Audacity to Hope" sermon and its black-liberation themes of the suffering of blacks merging with that of the ancient Israelites (not to be confused with today's condemnable Israelites). Obama can't be begrudged his youthful initiation, but remaining at the church for two decades? Wright is a canker on his candidacy, raising questions about who he really is and about his honesty.
In a slippery dance, Obama maintains that he was thoroughly shocked by Wright's original radioactive statements and hadn't heard him say such things, although he did hear other (always carefully unspecified) "controversial" things. The threat to Obama as the paladin of the "new politics" is that, as he dodges and distances on Wright, people will come to agree with his former pastor's newly dismissive evaluation: "He says what he has to say as a politician."