Virtual Voices

Wright rocks the boat

Campaign 2008

Whenever Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, decides to help Obama, he ends up inflaming the nation with questions of Obama's patriotism and political beliefs. The latest news: Two controversial sermon quotes, one of Wright saying, "Hillary ain't never been called a n------er," and the other saying, "God d-----n America."

Some say Obama's associations tell voters what he's really like. Wright's rhetoric is miles apart from Obama's but their personal connection is close. Wright performed Obama's marriage ceremony, gets credit for the title of Obama's book, and is Obama's spiritual mentor.

On The Weekly Standard, Dean Barnett says because voters don't yet know Obama, "The associations he chooses become relevant." On National Review's Corner, John Derbyshire says, "On the campaign trail, Obama has certainly not come across as a white-hating, America-hating black radical. A man can be known, though, by the company he keeps. Obama has been keeping some mighty weird company." (In Roger Simon's words, the company of a "racist demagogue.")

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Rod Dreher notes that the link between Obama and Wright is far closer than the link between John McCain and his anti-Catholic endorser, John Hagee. Break down the innuendo and you get this: Obama's conciliatory rhetoric could be disingenuous. He could be far more radical than he claims.

Another possibility is to believe Obama - that he "deeply disagrees" with some of Wright's beliefs but that "doesn't detract" from his admiration for the man whose altar call brought him to Christian belief. If Obama's conversion experience was the personal, heartfelt experience many evangelicals share, he might be reluctant to publicly repudiate for political purposes the man who facilitated it.

Putting this man in context may be important, too. On God's Politics, (before Wright's clips came out), Jim Wallis defended Obama's faith and called Jeremiah Wright "one of the leading revival preachers in the black church." Obery M. Hendricks called Wright a "wise, sensitive Christian freedom-fighter" who pastors a church from a mostly white mainstream Christian denomination. Do the views in this particular sermon define Wright, or, in Obama's words, "the good works he has done"?

See Slate.com for the blog buzz, read Daniel James Devine's article in the latest WORLD, and join WorldMagBlog's debate here.

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