Theology, Politics, Wright and Obama

The exposure of Jeremiah Wright's worst moments of racial ugliness is, to my mind, overdue in the MSM. It's not something new to anyone who has closely followed the Obama candidacy or Obama's history. If you've read his books, it's very old news. It's also very hard to argue that Obama was somehow trying to hide this association. He titled his campaign book with a slightly different formulation of a Wright sermon. Mark Steyn believes that this means that Obama must be disconnected with reality. Actually, it means that a rising black politician in Chicago is disconnected with Mark Steyn's reality. But a rising black politician needs to have a little more exposure to the world of the black urban experience than a Conrad Black protege, paid to express prejudice with unerring humor and wit.

The relevant - the only relevant - question is: are Obama's beliefs represented by the handful of video clips of the most incendiary of Wright's sermons? Or to unpack it a little further: Does Obama believe that black people should damn America? Does he believe that racial separatism is a viable option? Is he a black liberation theologian?

Seriously, I can find absolutely no evidence that he is, and if anyone can, I will gladly eagerly air it.

Give me a speech or a sentence or an off-hand remark in the last twenty years in which Obama has said such a thing or reflected such a worldview and I will gladly post it. On the other hand, we have many, many, many examples of Obama's own thoughts on these issues, several extraordinary sermons and speeches, two books, one of which is searingly honest about race and faith and identity. The notion that this immense record should be displaced by a few YouTubes by someone else seems, well, disproportionate.

I still believe airing all this is important and salient. God knows there is plenty in Wright's theology I find repugnant - although my knowledge of the tradition from which he springs is limited. But the same could be said for the Southern Baptist Convention, for example, or the eccentric but obviously sincere former hippie, Arthur Blessit, who brought our current president to Christ. Or my own church, for that matter. What they have all said about gay people is horrifying to me, and I do not share all the political views of my spiritual leaders. The key - it seems to me - is the candidate's public positions on these issues - not what his pastor has said and says in the pulpit. I remain in a church which describes gay people as "intrinsically disordered." But my own record in the secular world is obviously radically different. Exactly the same standard should apply to Romney or Obama or McCain. No one should get a pass; but they also all deserve a chance to say what they think in the secular world on the relevant issues.

Of course, if people really think that someone shouldn't be elected because of some bigoted statements from the pulpit of his church or his congregation, and his continuing to be a part of that church, that's their right in a democracy. If people want to believe that Obama has been deceiving the entire world in everything he has ever said for twenty years and is, in fact, a Christian version of Louis Farrakhan, then that's their right in a democracy. But the evidence we have doesn't only not support it; it rebuts it. If our democracy cannot handle that empirical evidence and prefers to engage in mind and soul-reading of the most paranoid kind, then it is in a much direr state than we imagine.