Friday, March 28, 2008


On Wednesday, March 19, 2008 Jeff Jacoby, the conservative op-ed columnist since 1994 for the very liberal Boston Globe wrote a column entitled, It’s Still A Question of Wright and Wrong. This commentary delved into Barack Obama’s recent speech on Race and his controversial relationship with friend and self-declared Mentor Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., the recently retired, now pastor emeritus of Chicago’s controversial Trinity United Church of Christ.

Like many in my generation I was impressed with Obama but concerned, even scared, about the undercurrent that appears to be running through this man’s history and politics especially when you consider the intimate relationships that he has formed over the years. One in particular has the Republicans foaming at the mouth anticipating an ultimate battle for the White House against Obama. Yes, that person is Pastor Wright who will, no doubt, be at one of many epicenters of any Obama candidacy.

Jacoby’s commentary was so telling that I choose to present it in its entirety for your review. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“I have known my rabbi for more than 20 years. The synagogue he serves as spiritual leader is one I have attended for a quarter-century. He officiated at my wedding and was present for the circumcision of each of my sons. Over the years, I have sought his advice on matters private and public, religious and secular. I have heard him speak from the pulpit more times than I can remember.

My relationship with my rabbi, in other words, is similar in many respects to Barack Obama's relationship with his longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. But if my rabbi began delivering sermons as toxic, hate-filled, and anti-American as the diatribes Wright has preached at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, I wouldn't hesitate to demand that he be dismissed.
Were my rabbi to gloat that America got its just desserts on 9/11, or to claim that the US government invented AIDS as an instrument of genocide, or to urge his congregants to sing "God Damn America " instead of "God Bless America," I would know about it straightaway, even if I hadn't actually been in the sanctuary when he spoke. The news would spread rapidly through the congregation, and in short order one of two things would happen: Either the rabbi would be gone, or I and scores of others would walk out, unwilling to remain in a house of worship that tolerated such poisonous teachings. I have no doubt that the samewould be true for millions of worshipers in countless houses of worship nationwide.

But it wasn't true for Obama, whose long and admiring relationship with Wright, a man he describes as his "mentor," remained intact for more than 20 years, notwithstanding the incendiary and bigoted messages the minister used his pulpit to promote.

In Philadelphia yesterday, Obama gave a graceful speech on the theme of race and unity in American life. Much of what he said was eloquent and stirring, not least his opening paean to the Founders and the Constitution -- a document "stained by the nation's original sin of slavery," as he said, yet also one "that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time." There was an echo there of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who in his great "I Have a Dream" speech extolled "the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence " as "a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir."

The problem for Obama is that Wright, the spiritual leader he has so long embraced, is a devotee not of King -- who in that same speech warned against "drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred" -- but of the poisonous hatemonger Louis Farrakhan, whom the church's magazine honored with a lifetime achievement award. The problem for Obama, who campaigns on a message of racial reconciliation, is that the "mentor" whose church he joined and has generously supported with tens of thousands of dollars in donations is a disciple not of King but of James Cone, the expounder of a "black liberation" theology that teaches its adherents to "accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy."

Above all, the problem for Obama is that for two decades his spiritual home has been a church in which the minister damns America to the enthusiastic approval of the congregation, and not until it threatened to scuttle his political ambitions did Obama finally find the mettle to condemn the minister's odium.

When Don Imus uttered his infamous slur on the radio last year, Obama cut him no slack. Imus should be fired, he said, "There's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group." When it came to Wright, however, he wasn't nearly so categorical. Oh, he's "like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with," Obama indulgently explained to one interviewer. He's just"trying to be provocative," he told another. "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial," he said. Far from severing his ties to Wright, Obama made him a member of his Religious Leadership Committee only four days ago.

Such a clanging double standard raises doubts about Obama's character and judgment, and about his fitness for the role of race-transcending healer. Yesterday's speech was finely crafted, but it leaves some serious and troubling questions unanswered.”

Following that honest, transparent and well received piece some would have you believe that Jacoby is himself embracing the double standard and is less sensitive to these issues because he attends a synagogue with an “overwhelmingly white congregation” in the mostly White Boston suburb of Brookline since after all Brookline, “has made very little progress in integrating itself.” Maybe Jacoby should move to Chicago, renounce Judaism, embrace Christianity and join Trinity United Church of Christ before some folks give him any credibility.

Some say that it’s about time we started to talk about the issues of race in our country. I absolutely agree, but not to the point of indulging Wright’s seemingly treasonous tirades (God Damn America) because we need to be sensitive to cultural differences in America. We can and should continue to engage these issues without Wright’s divisive vitriol. Let us not forget that Wright’s greatest influence comes from James Hal Cone the African-American Christian theologian and the best known architect of Black Theology which states emphatically that, “If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him.” Hmm?

A fully satiated Obama has now disingenuously severed any formal ties with Wright and his campaign while still embracing him as his Mentor, Friend and “Uncle”. We remain assured of Wright’s endorsement of Obama though that shouldn’t scare us any more than John Hagee endorsing John McCain.

Just two weeks ago Obama would have you believe that for the twenty-plus years that he has been attending Trinity that he hadn’t really listened and then characterized Wright’s remarks as thought provoking. Later he chastised the public for, “paying too much attention to a small number of "stupid" comments.” Now this week Obama stated on national television that he would have left Trinity United Church of Christ had his longtime pastor, whose very predictable anti-American comments about U.S. foreign policy and race relations were well known, not stepped down. This writer suspects that Obama’s new found perception of Pastor Wright only developed when national polls revealed that Wright was only viewed favorably by 8% of voters. I suspect those particular voters also believe that Jesus, Cleopatra and Hannibal were Black.

Further revelations about Wright will continue to surface to include his now famous quote from the Trumpet Newsmagazine about the enemies of Jesus, "The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans." Not only does this statement document Wright’s blatant racism but also highlight his ignorance that Italy didn’t exist as a country until 1861.

We should note that Trumpet Newsmagazine which started publication at Trinity United Church of Christ in 1982 has none other than Pastor Wright as CEO and daughter Jeri Wright as its publisher. We also should note that the last Trumpet issue was the November/December 2007 edition, which among other subjects, profiled Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that bastion of racial harmony who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement "Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter" Award at the magazine's 25th anniversary gala late last year. The magazine and Pastor Wright extolled Farrakhan as one who, “truly epitomized greatness.”

I guess that we all remember Farrakhan’s remarks as reported in media where he called Whites “blue-eyed devils” and “potential Humans”, described Judaism as a "gutter religion" and said “Jews are "bloodsuckers." Most feel that the only thing that Farrakhan epitomizes is bigotry, hatred and intolerance. Oh, did I mention that Obama contributed over $22,000 to Trinity in 2007? Did I mention that Trinity United Church of Christ recently sanitized their web site in light of the recent controversy?

We have also recently learned that Pastor Emeritus Wright will be literally enjoying the fruits of his labors in a country he has damned in a home currently under construction in suburban Chicago. The home in a private, gated, mostly White community is valued at $1.6 million dollars US. This would appear to be the height of hypocrisy from the man who preached and ranted against those who would approach the alter of materialism. By the way, Wright bought the land and sold it to his church who then gifted the land and home to Wright while also attaching a $10 million line of credit, all according to Does something smell in here?

Ironically, Wright came to Chicago and the Trinity United Church of Christ when no other church would have him. In thirty-six years he built the church from 87 members to over 10,000 by preaching his militant Black Theology. That growth alone and the influence of James Hal Cone on this rage-filled congregation should send a loud and resounding message though they preach Reconciliation.

I certainly agree that we don’t live in a single culture, indeed, the macro cultures of the South, the North and the West are visibly different. As many of you know I am a student of African Cultures and hold them and their people high. I don’t believe in the homogenization of America which destroys the individual identity. Rather, we are a patchwork quilt of many diverse cultures and values where the ultimate mantra, from many - one, has an even greater meaning.

While it would appear that some of Wright’s inflammatory remarks have been taken out of context, it would appear that Wright continues to embrace those messages and is far from contrite. When does one cross the line from a “straight-talking pragmatist” to an anarchist? At the least we need to delve even further into incendiaries like Wright and his ilk who would foment dissent and hold them accountable for their behaviors.

And, yes, we need to find out where Obama’s heart really is before we all sit in a circle around a campfire, hold hands and sing Kumbyya while Al Qaeda slips up behind us. Will the real Barack Obama please stand up.


Ned Buxton

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