As we read in "Dreams from My Father," In 1985, when a twentysomething Barack Obama was shopping for a Church, he was also on his self-described search for his identity and was trying to figure out where he fit in this universe. He had discovered, to his dismay, that his birth father was not the hero he imagined. Obama was vulnerable and disillusioned. He deliberately sought Wright as a source of authentically black inspiration.... and the two developed a very close relationship that has weathered Wright's turn to separatist black nationalism and radical politics. Obama eventually settled his identity wanderings in someplace very different, but his relationship with Wright endured.
"The title of Reverend Wright's sermon that morning was 'The Audacity of Hope.' .... As I watched and listened from my seat, I began to hear all the notes from the past three years swirl about me. The courage and fear of Ruby and Will. The race pride and anger of men like Rafiq. The desire to let go, the desire to escape, the desire to give oneself up to a God that could somehow put a floor on despair."
An epiphany. "Hope," for Obama, traces its origins to this sermon. Wright is therefore important as an intellectual source for Obama's politics and not merely a spiritual guide.
Anyway, Andrew Sullivan wants to hear more from Obama about Rev. Wright:
It's nutty, offensive and paranoid stuff. And it is perfectly legitimate for reporters and voters to ask questions. It is not much nuttier than Falwell and Robertson, however. And I don't think it's racist to understand that the black church has a different cultural style in its preaching and activism style that helps add some dimension to Wright's record. If you read Obama's books and listen to him speak about his church, it's clear that he was not drawn by Wright's more inflammatory and offensive language. His engagement with the Church was an attempt to connect with the life and feelings of a black urban class he had never truly belonged to and whom he intended to represent. We can forget what an outsider Obama was when he first came to Chicago.
Nonetheless, Obama needs to be much more forceful and candid in explaining his relationship with Wright. I'm a little leery of getting in between a man and his minister - it's not unlike the lawyer-client relationship in some ways. And, goodness knows, I have had many a priest with whom I have disagreed or even found offensive. But like many people, I wouldn't sit through one of these sermons, let alone come back for more. And it would be helpful, to say the very least, if Obama told us more candidly why he did and does.