Friday, March 14, 2008

Frightening



The words of Barack Obama's Pastor, Jeremiah Wright, are disturbing. At times, you have to wonder if this guy actually believes what he is saying. To be fair, Obama has distanced himself from the comments, but nevertheless, these anti-American tirades are frightening.

However, Obama should explain to potential voters why he has been attending this particular church for so many years.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

First off, I think that criticism of this guy is fair game, unlike the bizarre and imaginary connections of Obama to Islam that were used as a smear. Not there there is anything wrong with Islam per se on top of it all.

So my questions are: how typical of a (black) preacher are his statements--are they understandable? And should Obama be held responsible for them?

As far as the first one, from what I understand black preachers tend to be more outspoken and theatrical. Blacks have been subject to hundred of years of oppression--there's more to be angry about. And beyond just politics, I've heard (I haven't been) that black churches are much more spirited then white ones--people tend to find those boring in comparison. Of course these are stereotypes, but I think they often hold true. Obviously comments from someone with first-hand experience would be welcome here.

Clearly, a lot of what he says is inflammatory. However, some of it does need to be said. For example, Americans haven't yet come to terms with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Unless they're teaching it differently then when I was in school, things need to change drastically.

It sounds like Obama has distanced himself somewhat--is this enough? People will have to judge. In comparison, I think Hillary's behavior in response to Ferraro's comment was pathetic. Yes, Obama is where he is partly because he is black, but no more than Hillary is where she is partly because she is a woman (in particular a white woman, and married to an ex-President, etc.). Hillary could have brought the parallel lack of women Presidents into the discussion and looked like she had some integrity.

Another factor to consider is that, although I don't know the specifics, is that in neighborhoods in many areas such as the South side of Chicago, the religious leaders are often political leaders and they are among the strongest forces that glue the community together. For Obama to ignore or reject such people would be foolish and bad for the people he hopes to help.

I hate to reduce this in part to black vs. white, but I think it's necessary to understand the situation.

Anonymous said...

I would add that this guy bothers me a lot more. What he says is certainly more UN-American than what Obama's pastor says. Of course, McCain's connections to him are not as strong. I first saw this in the Angry Arab:

http://www.motherjones.com/
washington_dispatch/2008/03/
john-mccain-rod-parsley-spiritual
-guide.html

"Senator John McCain hailed as a spiritual adviser an Ohio megachurch pastor who has called upon Christians to wage a "war" against the "false religion" of Islam with the aim of destroying it."

"Parsley claims that Islam is an "anti-Christ religion" predicated on "deception." The Muslim prophet Muhammad, he writes, "received revelations from demons and not from the true God." And he emphasizes this point: "Allah was a demon spirit.""

Also (same article):

"More recently, his campaign hit a rough patch when he accepted the endorsement of the Reverend John Hagee, a Texas televangelist who has called the Catholic Church "the great whore" and a "false cult system." After the Catholic League protested and called on McCain to renounce Hagee's support, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee praised Hagee's spiritual leadership and support of Israel and said that "when [Hagee] endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for or believes in.""

Average American said...

Jeremiah Wright's anti-American tirade is absolutely inexcusable! He's worse than the once young Jesse Jackson ever was. As Obama was trying to distance himself he said he didn't hear these outburst and stayed in that church because Wright was retiring soon......BULL SHIT!!

Has everyone forgot that Obama was voted "the most liberal of all 100 Senators"?

For a young politician, he sure has mastered the art of bullshitting quite well!

If you want to see America change--drastically--for the worst--just put a democrat, either one of them, in the White House while there is a democratic Senate and House!! You will not recognize the place in 4 years! and I mean that in the absolute worst possible way!!

Joe

P.S. C.H. As a political moderate you may find my blog interesting, please check it out.

Anonymous said...

C.H., I indeed expect you would find his blog interesting.

From Average American's blog:

"Are we really 100% sure Obama is not muslim? His father was a muslim. The muslims believe that religion follows the father, and that once a muslim, always a muslim, punishable by death if you convert. Even if Obama considers himself a Christian, many Muslims consider him one of them. That makes him a target!!"

It's sad that people consider being a Muslim to be a disqualification from being President. Unfortunately I do think "average Americans" feel this way.

C.H., of course I'm interested in your feedback on this one.

C.H. said...

Wow...I must admit you guys have me backed into a corner and rolled between multiple issues I care deeply about.

I suppose I should make it clear how I feel to begin with. First off, I STRONGLY reject this misguided notion that Islam is a violent religion and that Muslims are bad people. Having met with the Muslim community myself, and having read through the Koran, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Islam is a religion of peace. This incorrect assumption that the current war on terror is somehow a battle between Islam and the West is a load of crap. Muslims have by far been the main victims of terrorism, and the people who are strapping bombs to their chests and blowing up women and children have hijacked the faith as a means to recruit followers. Trust me, most Muslims here in the USA understand that many people have reservations about the faith's beliefs, but through diaologue and understanding, we can change that. If, by any means, John Mccain is embracing people like this, you can bet his office will be recieving a letter from me. However, I think that Mccain's stunt with Hagee was meant more of a way to draft religious conservatives into his camp, seeing as many far-right leaders have rejected his candidacy. Also, Mccain's support for the Iraq War shows he probably does not embrace the religious right's views on Islam. If you tuly believe that Islam is an evil religion, you would not be in favor of keeping 150,000 American soldiers in Iraq to help bring peace to a Muslim country. After all, if they're all nothing but a bunch of suicide bombers, as some bigots have suggested, why be there to help them?

Now, as for Wright's statements, I have never been to an African American church, although I would like to do so in the near future...in fact, amid this controversy, I would like to do so soon. There's no doubt America has had racial tension for centuries, but let's not forget that it is the opportunity to live in a great nation like the USA that has allowed people like Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright to to hold prominent titles and whatever they want. It is the people of the United States who will likely nominate Barack Obama to become the Democratic candidate. We've had an ugly past in regards to race issues, but in this day in age, we should be putting that behind us and solving issues through dialogue. Screaming divisive statements gets us nowhere (by the way, I would include John Hagee, Falwell, and Robertson in that).

Obviously, I am not black, I am white. However, I've had problems in my life myself, bad problems in fact. However, I rose above it, and decided I wanted to make the world a better place. Today, things have really been going well for me, and I hope to travel around the world in the not so distant future and do volunteer work (look at my sidebar offerings). Do I look back and blame my country? No. In fact, I thank god everyday that I have the opportunity to live here, to have the chance to build myself up into a person who can do his part to help to bring peace to the parts of the world that need it.

...and as for that statement Wright made about HIV, even he must not believe that. In my mind, it would have been no different if he had suggested the gov't was behind 9/11.

For the third time (I cannot stress this enough), race is an explosive issue. The things that happened throughout the 1800's and up until the 1960's were some of the darkest days in our history...but its just that now, "history". We should be working on making a better future, where we don't have to judge a candidate by his/het race, or their faith, or their gender, but instead the issues they are talking about.

Anonymous said...

C.H.

Well said about the issue of hate directed at Muslims. In many ways anti-Muslim/Arab hate is still considered acceptable by many people and that has to end. And yes, I was trying to get you to express your views forcefully--I think it's important.

I don't think McCain, Clinton or Obama are bigots in any way. It does look like some of Clinton's people may be smearing Obama a bit. I find it suspicious that this has only become a real problem as Clinton has gotten more and more desperate.

I don't buy the argument that anti-Muslim bigots wouldn't favor troops in Iraq. If you don't know people in "Middle America" (I think things are different to some extent in California), just check out the anti-Muslim bigots on the Angry Arab. Do they support the U.S. in Iraq?

Regardless of the progress that has been made in the U.S. on civil rights, any honest person can tell you it's incomplete. Many blacks (and whites) are angry, and I don't think it's our business to tell them they can't express their anger nonviolently by speaking out.

A side issue: Michelle Obama grew up in the South Side of Chicago. Did she grow up in this church? Would it have been inappropriate and hurtful to her close-knit family to abandon it due to a disagreement with some pastor's statements? If Barack Obama pulled his family out of the church because he thought in 20 years it would be a negative on his resume for a Presidential run is that something to respect?

Regarding the AIDS conspiracy theory. This is actually very popular in the black community--I would strongly recommend not holding this against him unless you want to condemn a large number of people. In a 1990 poll, 29% of black New Yorkers thought that AIDS was deliberately created to infect black people.

http://swallowingthecamel.blogspot.
com/2006/03/aids-conspiracy-theories
-acts-cynthia.html

There are a number of conspiracy theories that are popular in the black community. There is some justification for this--often cited is the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" in which men were unknowingly infected with Syphilis and many were not treated--for decades. And again, many blacks are just angry and suspicious.

I once heard Jesse Jackson speak at a big outdoor rally. Beforehand, I really didn't like him, and I thought much of what he said was inflammatory--certainly the way it was portrayed in the media. He was incredible--very charismatic, and a lot of it derived from his background as a preacher. And I don't really like preachers.

I am a bit troubled by Obama's ties to this guy, but I suspect he had other reasons to be connected to the church--because of its importance in the community, possibly his wife's family, who knows? What struck me about Wright is that he seemed very angry--I sensed that more than hate (although he did have that anti-white bit--it was more about white privilege, though).

This Parsley guy bugged me a lot more--he preaches unadulterated hate against one group of people, a group who are already the subjects of bigotry (I think most white people can handle a little criticism about their position in society on the other hand). Hagee is also a bigot. McCain obviously hasn't been close to these guys for 20 years, so he can certainly claim his relationship is just out of political convenience and not such a big deal. However, aren't they exactly the "agents of intolerance" that he condemned in the past?

I hope this whole thing doesn't become a big deal.

Anonymous said...

Here's a more recent poll on the HIV conspiracy theory--it's up to half:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/
wp-dyn/articles/A33695-2005Jan24.html

"Nearly half of the 500 African Americans surveyed said that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is man-made. The study, which was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, appears in the Feb. 1 edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

More than one-quarter said they believed that AIDS was produced in a government laboratory, and 12 percent believed it was created and spread by the CIA.

A slight majority said they believe that a cure for AIDS is being withheld from the poor. Forty-four percent said people who take the new medicines for HIV are government guinea pigs, and 15 percent said AIDS is a form of genocide against black people."

Jposty said...

He might very well be distancing himself from his comments, but the truth is Rev. Wright is still working for the Obama campaign in an official capacity.

-James
www.thepoliticus.org

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add a brief (too brief) article from the Wall Street Journal that describes such black activist churches and their role:

http://online.wsj.com/article/
SB120571815933840625.html?
mod=googlenews_wsj

Excerpts:

"While the sermons of Mr. Wright, Sen. Obama's blunt-speaking pastor, who is about to retire, may sound spiteful to some, they are rooted in the history of black protest and a Christian theology shared by some African-American churches."

"The approach is more overtly political than that of most black Protestant churches, says Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University and a former member of the Trinity congregation."

""America is our country and we love her, yet she has done such awful things," said Ms. Harris-Lacewell. "We have to have a place where we say…'This is not okay. I'm still hurt about this.' ""

Anonymous said...

jposty:

The site you give seems to be a bit obsessed with Ron Paul.

I'm not a fan personally.

C.H. said...

Sorry I've taken so long to post my thoughts, I've been in Boston these last few days.

Anyway, I just watched the speech Obama gave about Wirght and the "larger issue of race". Obviously, I don't think that Obama truly believes in Wirhgt's statements, but at the same time, I don't think he is as repulsed as he claims to be, seeing as he has been listening to this guy for 20 years.

If you're in a church for 20 years and your pastor harobors the same anti-American sentiment as Wright, odds are you would know about it, no matter what he says otherwise.

However, I must also say that Obama brought up an interesting point in his speech when he mentioned how the founding fathers decided to continue the slave trade even after writing the Declaration of Independence. It really made me think.

To change gears a little...

What's there to say about Ron Paul? Isolationism, ignorance, and non-intervention come to mind, as I have displayed on my sidebar. I really don't like him, and I must say out of all the presidential candidates who have or are running his beliefs would be the most harmful.

Anonymous said...

C.H.

Hope you had fun in Boston. I went to school in New England and honestly it never really did that much for me. Sort of like a larger version of the crappy town I lived in. However, pretty much everyone I knew loved it.

So I've been thinking of something. It's a question full of generalizations and I hope that I don't insult anyone--let me know.

My impression in the U.S. is that not only are we ready to elect a black President--but we want to. Mainly because we would feel better about the country and it would help put the past behind us.

However, we're not willing to elect just ANY African-American, but someone who we perceive as non-threatening. I would think of it as a spectrum--say Colin Powell on one end and maybe Farrakhan at the other.

If you don't believe that whites have (in general) still have this fear of blacks, ask a 20 year old black male whether a women is more likely to clutch her purse and/or cross the street if he is wearing jeans and a t-shirt vs. a suit. This is a non-political example, but I think it's one we can all understand (and maybe have witnessed). I believe fear of blacks (especially men) is still ingrained in our culture.

So where would other prominent blacks lie on this spectrum of threatening vs. nonthreatening? Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? In the middle, probably to the threatening side. Cynthia Mckinney? Maybe even more threatening. Alan Keyes?--well, "crazy" more than threatening per se. Wright isn't Farrahkan, but he really scares people. For whatever reason, few of the less outspoken politicians have generated much interest in the last few years.

Along comes Obama. Extremely bright (I certainly don't see him as the product of affirmative action), charismatic and non-threatening. And the kind of guy who seems down-to-earth enough that you could sit down and have a beer with. The Muslim b.s. could be used to erode the fact that he's non-threatening. I don't see that it has.

But what about Wright? He's someone people fear. What does that say about Obama? Does it shift him in the direction where a lot of people will see him as what they perceive as a radical black politician like Sharpton, Jackson or McKinney? No longer a "safe" one?

I was thinking about this as well. Do we judge (extremist) black preachers by a different standard as whites? Wright says some scary things. I think we would perceive someone who believes him as dangerous. But how about someone like Pat Robertson--he's said 9/11 was God's punishment for lesbian, feminists, gays, etc. He's said tons of bigoted things--I'm sure one could make quite a tape. Or Fred Phelps, the guy who pickets funerals of guys, dead servicemen, and others. Do we fear the white guys (or maybe just laugh at them) but not the black guys--and why not?

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

The stuff above was awfully long. To summarize:

Does the Wright mess make Obama seem less like Colin Powell and more like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton?

C.H. said...

At first, many people (and most still do) found Obama to be the man who could put an end to the intolerance and political fighting that was tearing our capital apart..."a uniter, not a divider" to be specific. Now that this is out, it will likely follw him all the way to the election in Nov. (assuming he gets the nomination, and I still think he will)...the question is, how many people are affected by it?

----------------------

Anyway, I was reading up on Fred Phelps, the guy who runs that hate church in Topeka Kansas. If that is not the definition of a hater, then I do not know what is. For all his hatred of homosexuals, I was surprised to see he is a registered democrat, as surprising as that sounds.

To be clear, the hate we are hearing from people like Phelps, Wright, Robertson, and Parsley does not seem like Christianity to me. I was originally baptized to the Catholic Church, and I've always been encouraged that the Christian faith promotes good and kindness.

C.H. said...

Oh, by the way, I am still in Boston..I'll be hear till next week.

In the coming days I'd like to do in the coming days is open up a thread on the issue of using religion as a means to promote a political agenda...and I would like to mention some other people who I feel need to be called out, in addition to people like Wright, I feel that the extreme right-wing preachers like Hagee, Robertson, and Falwell need to be condemned as well...personally their statements about Islam, other Christian denominations, and gays offends me as much as the things Wright says. I don't know about you, but I've had enough of people using religions (including Christianity and Islam) as a means to promote intolerance and bigotry...values that directly contradict faith.

What do you think?

C.H. said...

sorry, the first sentence their got a little messed up...

different keyboards can do that...I usually use a laptop, but I don't have that right now.

Anonymous said...

As I mentioned, I do find it suspicious that this, the Ferraro comment and others didn't come out until just now in the campaign. Just as Clinton is getting desperate and trying to pull all sorts of games--I find the Florida/Michigan ploy to be incredibly slimy. Of course some or all of this could be people at low levels of the campaign, however the timing is odd.

Yes, I think this will be an issue in the fall, as will the age/experience one. However, either may fade--there's no evidence Obama said anything intolerant or has ever let race become an issue in any way. Absolutely none. If they can't pin a thing on him, how long can they repeat "he knows (respects?) a bad guy".

I haven't heard much, other than the Princeton professor above (but I haven't looked), from African-Americans emphasizing the difference between their churches. However you need only look at the crowd in the background of the video to get a sense of this. Yes I'm sure even blacks would concede this church is a bit extremist--but it's in the South side of Chicago, which has far more than its share of poor areas and problems.

It's a megachurch with about 8,000 members if I remember correctly. People are angry and hurting. I can't complain if the Wright ultimately convinces them to channel their anger into doing things for the community--apparently the church is known for that. We can't assume that the congregation is as united in their thinking than if it were one of 250 people either.

But back to how much of an issue this will be in November. I suspect this will serve as an excuse for racism. It's "not OK" to oppose Obama because he's black. However, many people will consider his admittedly extremist black church to be fair game.

On the other hand, this is being hyped so much that people may well be sick of it come November. The media likes to pretend they are "fair", so they will be digging up or hyping things about McCain. Certainly his age, his ethics (Keating 5 and more recently lobbyists) and his temperament may be scrutinized (watch for the latter is my guess). I think the age issue will become irrelevant for both, and like most Presidential races this will in the end boil down to personality, likability and charisma.

Having a thread on religious haters of all sorts and their influence on politics would be a great idea. It's amazing that many people do not realize that promoting the Christian fundamentalist agenda and fighting other religions such as Islam is just as bad as what they criticize in other countries. I really wonder whether some would prefer a theocracy here if they had a chance. OK, I don't wonder for many of them.

My mom tells me she is voting for McCain; however if Huckabee is his running mate she will without hesitation vote for the Democrat. He scares her that much.

Fred Phelps is a whole different phenomenon. I had forgotten he was a Democrat--nothing surprises me about the guy. A friend of mine says that if you go far enough to the left eventually you end up back at the far right, and I think that's true. Another person on that boundary is Lyndon LaRouche. If you ever want to be amused/scared go to Phelps' site:
www.godhatesfags.com (no joke). All sorts of bizarre stories about how people deserved to die. On the front page is a friendly greeting: "God Hates You".

I was also raised Catholic, and while I think they have unhealthy attitudes regarding gender/sex/sexuality, they are not bigots and are very progressive on other issues. They aren't anti-science either, which actually shocks the fundies (and amuses me). They just don't preach bigotry and ignorance, and don't want the country to be a theocracy, unlike the "Christians" (who usually exclude Catholics).

Oh, if you are going to bring up the fundies, you might mention McCain's "agents of intolerance" comment in reference to Falwell and Robertson. This pissed a few people off, but led many, including Democrats (myself included) to think of him as a man of integrity. Then he backed down.

Have fun in Boston. Enjoy the weather (joke--it usually sucks until at least late April/May)

Anonymous said...

C.H.

I just wanted to add the obvious: while there are people who use their so-called religious beliefs to promote intolerance, there are certainly those who do the opposite. The heavily Christian abolitionist movement was a good example.

In the 20th century, Jews made a disproportionate contribution to the founding and the funding of the NAACP. Likewise, the women's movement in the 1960-70s had as its leaders people of Jewish heritage like Steinem, Friedan and Abzug. While Judaism wasn't involved in these causes in any organized way (that I know of), it does have a very strong tradition of supporting social justice and it shows.

C.H. said...

I absolutely believe that religion is primarily used for good in the world. I think religion gives people hope and comfort in a dangerous world. However, there are some people who try and use it as a means to accomplish a political agenda, and thats wrong.

At the same time, let's not forget that the biggest mass murderers in history were atheists who despised religion and faith (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot).

Anonymous said...

C.H.

A semi-personal question. Obviously ignore it as you like. Are you a Unitarian Universalist (not to be confused with the Unification Church: Moonies!)? I know a fair number of people who are, and it sounds like the most "laid back" religion that's out there. I understand a huge number of the members are former Catholics and Jews who don't want to totally reject religion.

Wikipedia has a nice article:


"Unlike fundamentalist theology, Unitarian Universalism is based on a pluralistic and liberal theology. Unitarian Universalists believe that all people and faiths contain a piece of, and must have access to, the divine. Because of this, Unitarian Universalists draw inspiration from a variety of other faith traditions. Many Unitarian Universalist churches have meditation groups, Seder dinners, or Christmas Eve services. Children's religious education classes teach about the divinity in world religions. One of its more popular curricula, Neighboring Faiths, takes middle and high school participants to visit the places of worship of many faith traditions including a Hindu temple, a Reform or Orthodox synagogue, and a Catholic church.

Many Unitarian Universalists consider themselves humanists, while others hold to Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, natural theist, atheist, agnostic, pantheist, pagan, or other beliefs."

Some of those comments remind me of things you have said.

I should add that I don't have any personal religious beliefs, but the Unitarians I know are all very good people.

Anonymous said...

A great CNN story that puts the 9/11 comments in the proper context of what else Wright was saying. It makes a huge difference:

http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/
03/21/the-full-story-behind-rev-
jeremiah-wrights-911-sermon/

This is starting to smell to me more and more like an expertly done smear campaign. If so, who's responsible?

C.H. said...

I don't think so. Anderson Cooper has been doing everything possible to downplay this whole controversy, but the fact is, it cannot be disregarded. Now, I do not think Obama believes the hateful things Wright says, but at the end of the day, he is still one of those people who believes that America is the problem in the world...an "Abu Ghraib" American if you will. With or without the Wright story, it does not change the fact that I cannot bring myself to cast a ballot for Barack Obama this November.

How many times have we heard Obama talk about the need for "aggressive diplomacy" with Iran because they are only responding to Bush's actions? At first, when you make such statements with authority as Barack and Hillary have done, people will believe it...but at the end of the day, the truth is that Iran has been actively destabilizing the Middle East for decades, long before Bush came to office. I'm not necessarily opposed to trying to talk to them, but it is nieve to assume such a move would hold all the answers when every action they have taken shows that the Iranians are not seeking peace (check out some of the articles I linked to in my post about Mccain and foreign policy up top...its scary stuff).

C.H. said...

As to your question about my beliefs...

Interesting you should ask that. The truth is, I do not have any particular religious affiliation, although I was baptized Catholic and try to attend a Catholic church a couple times a month. I also have a friend who is Mormon, and have attended services with his community as well.

The best way to describe myself would be an "omnitheist" or "spirtual". I do embrace the notion that there is more to life than what we see here. I should also add that I do not necessarily agree with the politics of the Catholic (or other denominations) church.