Politics,  Theology/Bible

A Few Thoughts about Obama’s Speech

Everyone has been talking about Senator Barack Obama’s speech on race and religion (transcript, video). I don’t know that I have much to add to what’s already been said by others, but I will share a few thoughts.

1. Low on substance. Obama is a great speech-maker. His rhetoric is top-notch. But I don’t think the substance of the speech really amounted to much. Obama admitted that he knew about Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s extremist views, but he didn’t do much to explain why he nevertheless enlisted him as an advisor. Wright says that “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.” How could Obama attend Wright’s church for 20 years and give money to support this kind of message? For me, the problem with Obama’s relationship to Wright has nothing to do with race. The problem is the specious and harmful ideology of one of Obama’s closest spiritual advisors. The speech does nothing to allay that concern.

2. Overblown reaction in the media. The talking heads of the media have been heaping praise on the speech from the moment Obama stepped away from the podium. Chris Matthews said it “the best speech ever given on race in this country.” The editors at the New York Times put the speech in the rarefied company of Abraham Lincoln’s and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural addresses and John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religion. The editors at the Washington Post called the speech an “extraordinary moment of truth-telling.” I think these glowing assessments are overblown. No one can possibly know what the long-term impact of a speech will be on the day that it is given. Those who have already concluded it to be one of the “best” in American history reveal more about their political biases than they do about what the real legacy of this speech will be.

3. Sober critiques. I think Michael Gerson and Michael Medved‘s critiques of the speech may be the best that I’ve read so far. Here’s a pointed excerpt from Gerson:

‘Obama’s excellent and important speech on race in America did little to address his strange tolerance for the anti-Americanism of his spiritual mentor.

‘Take an issue that Obama did not specifically confront yesterday. In a 2003 sermon, Wright claimed, “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.”

‘This accusation does not make Wright, as Obama would have it, an “occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy.” It makes Wright a dangerous man. He has casually accused America of one of the most monstrous crimes in history, perpetrated by a conspiracy of medical Mengeles. If Wright believes what he said, he should urge the overthrow of the U.S. government, which he views as guilty of unspeakable evil. If I believed Wright were correct, I would join him in that cause.

‘But Wright’s accusation is batty, reflecting a sputtering, incoherent hatred for America. And his pastoral teaching may put lives at risk because the virus that causes AIDS spreads more readily in an atmosphere of denial, quack science and conspiracy theories.’

4. The issues. This speech does nothing to change the fact that Obama is still painfully wrong about some of the most important issues of our time. Chief in my mind is the fact that Obama continues to support the immoral regime of Roe v. Wade, a ruling that has been disproportionately destructive towards African-American babies. As John Piper has noted, “The African-American population in America is about 14% of the whole. But African American babies account for about 33% of the lives lost in abortion. 74% in Washington DC, 62% in Mississippi, 52% in New York City, 50% in Georgia.” How does Obama’s speech change these realities?

5. Theology. It is well-known that Reverend Jeremiah Wright is a proponent of what is called “Black Liberation Theology.” In my view, Liberation Theology is a dangerous aberration. The version espoused by Wright is perhaps even more dangerous. Does Senator Obama hold to Black Liberation Theology?


  • Bryan L

    “Obama admitted that he knew about Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s extremist views, but he didn’t do much to explain why he nevertheless enlisted him as an advisor.”

    I think he addressed this. He made it plain that he was his spiritual advisor not his political advisor. What do his political views have to do with the spiritual counsel that he gives Obama? Obama said politics are not what they discuss.

    What exactly is Wright’s ideology that you mentioned? A few conspiracy views do no make an ideology. How much of Wright’s sermons have you listened to? Even 1 whole one? I think it would be dangerous to assume a lot more about Wright than what a few comments out of context (although still incendiary) can tell us.

    “I think these glowing assessments are overblown. No one can possibly know what the long-term impact of a speech will be on the day that it is given.”

    I agree. But I do think it was a great speech and if he does one day become president it could be one of those historic speeches.

    Bryan L

  • Paul

    I will expound upon this later, but in the meantime, I will say this:

    until you’ve seen the south side of Chicago and all of its quirks up close and personally, and until you can walk a mile in Obama’s or Wright’s shoes having lived what the average churchgoer to the Hyde Park UCC lives through, you have no business talking about the possible race baiting or troublesome remarks made from the pulpit.

    Y’all living down in Texas simply have no idea, and to parade around like you might have the slightest clue as to Chicago politics or community is simply silly.

    Sorry, Denny, but a post made from ignorance and most to ignorance like this, that comes from a place of obviously not knowing the total of the situation chaps me beyond belief.

    Like I said, more later.

  • Keong

    Paul, I disagree with you! I’m not from the Texas. I’m from Singapore. I have been following the news.

    Whether one should walk in somebody’s shoes in order to understand another person, is not an easy answer to just say outrightly yes or no.

    Evaluating the sermon of Rev Wright and the good reactionary speech of Obama, just make me rethink where does Obama really stand in his race issue of the great America.

  • Denny Burk


    Reverend Wright was on the Obama camnpaign’s “African American Religious Leadership Committee.” He stepped down in the wake of the recent controversy. See here and here.


    I don’t think it’s helpful to say that the only people who can render a judgment about Wright’s remarks are those who have visited Chicago. That sounds like an attempt to shut down conversation. People from all over the country have opinions about Obama’s speech and Wright’s sermons. Are we going to shut out all the voices who haven’t been to the southside of Chicago?


  • Craig Moore

    Hate speech is hate speech no matter where you live. I doubt if you would excuse a redneck from the deep south for making racist remarks.

  • Bryan L

    Still Denny, that is just a religious committee. I’m not even sure what the purpose of the committee is and there are a lot of members other than Wright. I don’t see how his involvement even in that is much. Wright is not one of his most trusted political advisors he was his spiritual advisor.

  • Paul


    I’m not trying to shut down the conversation.

    However, what I am trying to say is that you cannot possibly have clear thoughts on what goes through the heads of black southsiders unless you’ve been there (and not just visited) to see what they see on a regular basis.

    You haven’t seen the way that these folks are kept down (especially in Hyde Park) on a daily basis. You haven’t seen the way that race relations are handled in Chicago. You don’t know the tension that exists here. And neither do Gerson or Medved. To even try to have that conversation without context would be like trying to discuss slavery in the Bible while only looking at the book of Philemon.

    Some things to keep in mind:

    1) Chicago, to this day, is the most segregated city in America.

    2) The South Side makes the North Side look like a picnic. Far from what many people generalize, it’s not a North Side = White, South Side = Black thing. The South side is far more mixed than most people realize, and that mixture makes for some really interesting moments. Small example…

    four white kids jump a black kid in Bridgeport, and beat him within an inch of his life. The four white kids get charged with simple battery.

    about a decade later, four black kids jump a white kid in Beverly, and beat him within an inch of his life. The four black kids get charged with attempted murder.

    This is what the black community in Chicago deals with on a DAILY basis. Add to that the fact that in Hyde Park, they have to deal with the fact that the white folks that live down there are some of the richest white folks in the entire city, or they’re some of the brightest kids in the world (remember, this is where the University of Chicago is at). So, between the city trying to maintain its interests and the University trying to maintain its interests, guess who gets the shaft? The black folks who also live in Hyde Park and its adjoining neighborhood, Kenwood.

    When you live in a pressure cooker like that, it’s bound to affect your thinking. And it’s bound to make you say “G.D. America” once in a while. I don’t blame Pastor Wright one bit for saying that.

    Getting away from the sociological aspects of this for a second, there are a few other things that we need to look at…

    1) Do you agree with EVERYTHING that your pastor says? Remember, these are three things being taken out of context. Do you think that this is the only stuff that Wright preaches about? (and if you answer yes, you’re a moron) Of course it’s not. All of us hear comments from our pastors that we don’t agree with. My pastor is in full agreement with the idea that female pastors are okay in the church. I don’t agree whatsoever. But I’m not about to leave a church where I feel at home and feel a sense of community because we don’t agree about everything.

    2) You have no business blasting Wright for his thoughts on AIDS unless you’re also going to publicly blast Reagan for calling AIDS a verdict from God. You have no business blasting Wright for his thoughts on 9/11 unless you’re also going to publicly blast Jerry Falwell for saying that 9/11 was our own fault as well. And finally, you have no business blasting Wright for saying G.D. America unless you’re also going to blast each and every instance where a black person has the right to get just a little more upset with the way that White America has run things to Black America’s disadvantage.

    There is a lot of local color involved here which you obviously don’t get in the slightest. To not address that in the context of a critique of Wright is to prove yourself useless to the conversation.

    If Obama loses the election because of his stance on abortion, or his lack of experience, I have no problem with that. However, if he loses because of this, I too will join Wright in saying “G.D. America” because this country would obviously be too stupid to be left to its own devices and electing its own leaders.

  • Joshua

    Not to take the race discussion further, but we all know full well that what Lucas said would make McCain out to be a racist. But if he was not white, he wouldn’t be called that.

    I am a mix of white and American Indian, and it is my personal belief (one I don’t force towards others) that it isn’t white people that are necessarily continuing the problem of racism. They aren’t helping it, but they aren’t alone in continuing the problem. What happens in Chicago aside, I grew up in a area that would have and still is considered the ghetto. I know those conditions. But just because you are black doesn’t mean you have to stay in those conditions.

  • Paul


    Wright made no overtly racist comments. What he said was the following:

    1) God Bless America? No, God d*** America.

    2) AIDS was invented by whites as a form of genocide against the blacks of the world.

    3) 9/11 was the product of years of arrogant policy in South America and South Africa, and this is just chickens coming home to roost.

    the first comment: If I lived where Wright lives, as I mentioned before, I might think that too. Not too much reason to be patriotic when this is the hand you’re dealt.

    2) While he’s obviously wrong here, he does actually get a bit of traction from the U.S. Government’s (read: largely white males) policies regarding AIDS. Trying to educate Africans with abstinence only education is incredibly ethnocentric and classist. That kind of ignorance only does one thing: promote the outbreak of AIDS in the non-western and non-Christian world.

    3) Again, he’s not right, but he’s not wrong either. I’ll bite my lip (fingers) here unless asked to elaborate.

  • Paul


    I’ll only address your last comment: how does someone with no money move? The best case scenario, which seems to be working around here has been to ship off CHA families (welfare families in public housing) to mixed income situations in the suburbs. And when not faced with poverty and disastrous public policy on a daily basis, they’ve done better for themselves. But how do you get there without the government help that so many evangelicals are so eager to get rid of? It’s a vicious circle, indeed.

  • Lucas Knisely

    According to Paul’s logic, black people from the south side of Chicago can’t judge the hate speech of a white supremacist from southern Tennessee because they haven’t “walked in his shoes”.

    My bogus alarm is going off.

  • Paul


    bull. First off, Wright isn’t speaking in black supremacist terms.

    Secondly, the nature of the rhetoric is completely different. The Tennessee redneck moron is spouting because he’s entirely too ignorant to see that we’re all God’s creations. Wright is justifiably mad because of the way that he and his have been held down by the establishment.

    It’s entirely too easy for someone who’s never lived here to try to talk about what they don’t know. My dad grew up in Hyde Park, and I have tons of friends down there (as does my wife). I see this stuff up close and personally. There’s a reason why this stuff doesn’t make the news in Chicago. It’s part of the landscape, and understandably so. What’s really funny is the difference between how this conversation goes down amongst us Chicagoans (even the republicans that don’t like the guy), and the way it goes on amongst people who don’t have context. You have no context, and in its place, you have indignant remarks. Good job.

  • rafe

    There is a reason for the acclaim this particular speech has received. It was provocative! It made me think about the complexities and contradictions that make up all of us. I’m not concerned with whether or not Obama wins the election or his approval ratings–he gave a good speech, period.

  • Paul


    way to distort logic.

    I am not saying who can and cannot say hateful things. What I am saying is that some people have more right to complain than others. Southern whites who choose to complain about the blacks that THEIR ancestors brought to these shores AGAINST THEIR WILL are foolish and ignorant. This is far different than people railing against injustice, either real or perceived. Unfortunately, those injustices in this case are just as often real as perceived.

    And I am not saying that certain people cannot talk about it. What I am saying is that context is important (the main focus of this which you seem so willing to dodge), and without it, your comments are at best ignorant, and at worst, hurtful to the larger stakes at hand.

    You claim that my comments are ironic given the topic. I say that they are all the more true because of the topic. Much like me, you probably cringe when atheists or people of other faiths take key passages of the Bible completely out of their intended context. I am simply doing the same when Republicans are using the same tactics against Obama.

  • Joe

    Paul, in my humble opinion, you are an apologist for those who speak hate toward our country..It is not OK to speak hate toward anyone ( whether you agree with them or not), black, white, brown, etc, especially from the pulpit.
    By the way, you said ” I’ll bite my lip (fingers) here unless asked to elaborate.”
    Don’t recollect anyone asking you to….
    Your referring to another whom I doubt you even know as being ” The Tennessee redneck moron ” is grossly inappropriate.
    Finally, I don’t believe your comments rise to the level of ” chopped liver “

  • Paul


    you’re wrong in so many regards that I’m simply shocked.

    I’m not an apologist for Wright or those like him. However, I also think that it’s far from fair to judge his comments without the context that they’re given in.

    And I didn’t elaborate on the point that I said I wouldn’t elaborate on. Learn to read. It’s a fantastic ability.

    And I know more than my fair share of Tennessee redneck morons. I have been blessed to have a family heritage that includes North Africans and folks who live throughout Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. And in speaking to them about matters of race, they have never been able to give me a decent answer as to why they feel the way they do about those who don’t look like them, even when it’s pointed out that the white “trailer trash” are often just as bad, if not worse than their black “ghetto” counterparts.

    Talk when you know. Stay silent when you don’t.

    That’s why this topic and the way it was presented stinks to high heavens.

    And if my comments don’t even reach the level of chopped liver, I wonder what does? I am sure you can point me in the direction of any number of Dr. Seuss books, right?

  • Joe

    Paul, your anger is disturbing.
    Your personal attacks mean nothing because as you said ” Talk when you know. Stay silent when you don’t.”

    S-h-h-h !

  • Paul


    my attacks only come about because it’s obvious that you couldn’t read whole statements. And telling me that my comments don’t amount to chopped liver ISN’T a personal attack?

    pot, meet kettle.

  • scott

    the most ironic lines in obama’s speach:
    “The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.”

    From this comment, I would imagine Obama doesn’t think segregation on Sunday morning is a good thing. And yet Wright’s church, which Obama has chosen to attend for 20 years, is one of the most intentionally, explicitly racially segregated churches I have ever heard of. See their website. http://www.tucc.org/about.htm

    What is Obama doing there?

    Nevertheless, all this stuff about Obama and the extreme views of his pastor… hopefully no one really thinks Obama believes that stuff. This guilt-by-association stuff may be taken too far. But I think it does show a bit of carelessness, and perhaps even cowardice, for not speaking earlier against the harmful views of his pastor, which Obama now says were “not only wrong but divisive”.

  • Lucas Knisely

    Guys, I guess we should also not condemn the hatred and lies of Osama Bin Laden without first acknowledging the full context of his situation and what he has experienced.

    Paul, the above comment is extreme on purpose. Point being, your rhetoric surrounding this situation doesn’t seem applicable to any other situation. Why is that? You seem to be treating Wright with kid gloves for reasons unbeknownst to us. And it isn’t exactly charitable to just keep cutting down anyone who attempts to disagree with you.

    You seem to consistently elevate yourself above everyone else based on your knowledge and experience. This sort of dismissive tactic doesn’t do much for Wright in light of the majority of men and women in the black community who condemn and disapprove of Wright’s comments. The latest polls show that only 8% of America approve of his beliefs and teaching.

    I will admit ignorance to what it is like living as a black man in the Southside of Chicago, even though it honestly has very little to do with Wright’s misinformation and false teaching. But I will, however, stand alongside my black brothers and sisters in Christ from the Chicago area and other parts of the country who hotly condemn what Wright teaches and believes. If they understand the situation better than I, and I will grant that in some ways they do, then I stand with them. On the same token, I stand alongside my white brothers and sisters in Christ from Tennessee and other parts of the country who hotly condemn white supremacy.

    And I just want to reemphasize that your dismissing of anyone outside of the context of where Wright lives geographically is not a valid way of arguing. You can’t just slap the “ignorant” label on everyone in the United States that doesn’t happen to live on the Southside of Chicago. I suppose I could spew hate speech about liberals and claim that you don’t know my context or experience in Louisville, KY. Again, my point is that your dismissive way of arguing doesn’t function in other situations.

  • Paul


    there’s no kid gloves here. What irks me is the complete and utter lack of context given to these comments. Without it, it makes Wright seem like he is made out of bluster and has no substance. I feel for the guy, because I can understand what could and would drive someone to those statements. Which are no worse, mind you, than Jerry Falwell saying that gays and the ACLU brought 9/11 upon us. Until you publicly denounce those comments made by a fellow white Christian, and until you denounce every student of Liberty University by association, you can’t very well blast Wright and Obama by association.

    Secondly, I don’t elevate myself above anyone. What I am saying is that it irks me to no end when someone who has no clue of the context here starts complaining about what a preacher is saying. Context is very crucial here, and it’s the one point that everyone here has tried to duck. Take that context head on, and THEN tell me what you think. As for the poll you mention, 8% of America disagrees with THREE things that this guy has said. THREE THINGS. And yet you and others here are willing to judge Wright based on those three things. I would hate to be judged on three random abrasive quotes that I’ve uttered in my 33 years on the planet. I’m pretty sure that you would too. Again, this guy has my pity because he’s not only being taken out of context, but he’s also being dragged across the coals for what is obviously not the focus of his life’s work.

    Read over the bulk of the man’s sermons, and then tell me that you’re willing to throw down a blanket statement like, “But I will, however, stand alongside my black brothers and sisters in Christ from the Chicago area and other parts of the country who hotly condemn what Wright teaches and believes.” Because I am pretty sure that 99% of what he teaches and believes is fairly close to being in line with what you or I believe as well.

    There’s a subtle racism to the whole way this has been conducted. While Fox is willing to rattle cages and bring up random quotes, have they even tried to interview Wright about his deeper theological convictions? While just presenting the worst of a man (less than 2 minutes worth of dialog in a lifespan, of what, 60-70 years?) without trying to dig deeper into the hows and whys of what brings about such comments is troubling. And until you’re ready to do that, you’ve got no right to condemn the man, especially without even giving him the benefit of context.

    Sorry if I’ve offended.

  • Brett

    Obama could preach the sermon on the mount and many on here would be critical of it. Can liberation theology be dangerous? Absolutely. However, so can Calvinistic theology, which many readers on here subscribe to. Some on here probably like and respect the late Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, and both men have said things very dangerous as well. To set up red flags because Obama goes to this man’s church is childish and immature at best, especially when he said the things he did about it in his speech (which presumably lacks content according to Denny’s standards, maybe he just should have presented TULIP).

  • Lucas Knisely


    So if any pastor gets up, and says that HIV was used by the government to oppress the black community, I have to read all his sermons and address his situation’s entire context and history before condemning such a ludicrous lie?

  • Paul


    condemn THAT ludicrous lie. Sure, go ahead. Do it.

    However, to be like many on the right and say that Obama should abandon his church, or then claim that Trinity UCC is a hotbed of hate speech is ridiculous, and would require further reading before making a blanket statement that offends not just Obama or Wright, but also the other thousands of people that also attend that church.

  • Lucas Knisely


    How would you counsel me if my pastor stated such a ludicrous lie? If he never admits that it is a lie, is he qualified to preach? Can I trust anything he says? If my pastor, because of his past, has a polarized and over focused agenda toward the white community, should I stay under his teaching?

  • Joshua

    I fully realize that and have been in that situation. You can rise out of a situation without money. It takes hard work, determination, and faith. However, I realize it is no walk in the park, and it doesn’t “happen over night.” I agree its a vicious cycle, but I don’t believe that a government knows whats best for me.

    I must admit though, from the depth of this conversation here since I posted last I think I am not qualified to continue this one, so I’ll sit and continue to read everyones comments here. 🙂

  • Paul


    I’ll turn this back on you and ask you if the students of Liberty University or the churchgoers of Thomas Road Baptist Church should have staged a mass walkout when Jerry said any of the following…

    1) AIDS is a plague from a just God upon the homosexuals

    2) The purple teletubby is gay

    3) 9/11 was God’s punishment upon us for having gays, lesbians and the ACLU in our country.

    The first and the last are just as outrageous as anything that Wright said. The second is still just hilarious.

    That said, Wright is wrong that the white man invented AIDS to kill the black man. However, he’s not too far off from the white man did little to stop the spread of AIDS when the government still had any sort of a chance of stopping it in its tracks. And through our government’s ethnocentric and classist policies, stupid white men basically encouraged the spread of AIDS.

    Seeing the way that AIDS has ravaged the black community, I’d be mad too. Maybe even mad enough to use some vicious hyperbole to get the point across.

    Personally, I’ve walked out of churches and never come back for far less than what Wright said. However, to judge a man based on THREE comments and THREE comments alone, again, is ridiculous.

  • Paul


    a refreshing post from you indeed.

    While I agree that a government can in no way know what’s best for me, sometimes, they can offer the best option of what’s available.

    For those lucky enough to get moved from Cabrini Green or the Robert Taylor homes, they’re in a situation now where maybe (and probably) they’ll see what success looks like and try to emulate it. That’s always been my biggest problem with the projects and other such ghetto and barrio setups, is that failure breeds failure and success breeds success. Not seeing some success up close and personally sometimes can be the biggest detriment to bigger and better things. So, if the government can provide that when others can’t or won’t, then I say more power to ’em. Hopefully, they’ll use that power properly.

  • Lucas Knisely


    I’m asking a simple question. Turning it back around still leaves my question unanswered. What should I do if my pastor said any of the things you quoted?

    You asking if they should have staged a walk out is moot because it doesn’t apply to me nor can it be revisited.

    What do you think? Should Christians stand by and allow their leaders, preachers to say outlandish things without responding? Many of us have and continue to respond to heretical and ignorant things said by Pat Robertson and others. Your rhetoric assumes that we don’t/haven’t. I wish God would remove people like Pat Robertson from their place of influence because people like him spread false teaching.

    If my pastor preached for 30 years, and never uttered a single word of heresy from the pulpit, but 3 times decided to say that the KKK was God’s new chosen underground prophets, that Hurricane Katrina was God judging gays and lesbians, and that whites should unite and mainly focus on the white community, should I remain under his teaching? Don’t those 3 statements disqualify him from being a preacher? Don’t they undercut my pastor’s reliability? Just for clarity, my pastor has never said anything close to my above examples.

  • Paul


    my question stands, because it is entirely reasonable. Wright said nothing worse than what Falwell said. And that Denny, or other southern baptists never called him on the mat for it makes this, like I said before, at the very least, a racist witch hunt. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Either Falwell is a nutjob, and Reagan a far more vile figure than given credit for (for calling AIDS a verdict from God), at which point, we can move on to deciding what Wright is, or their comments were harmless, at which point, Wright’s should be deemed so as well. So which is it?

    I ended my post by saying that I personally walked out on churches for far less than what Wright had said, so I think that answers the question.

    However, I am not Obama. I am not a worshipper at Trinity UCC. I have not been a part of the outreach programs that they have undertaken which have put the words of Christ into action, making them (in my eyes) a better church than most from the git-go.

    Also, a matter of practicality, though I am probably dead wrong here: I don’t remember there being too many protestant churches in Hyde Park. Trinity might very well be Obama’s only choice if he’s looking for an afro-centric protestant church in the area that doesn’t cater to college students.

  • Lucas Knisely


    Both Falwell and Robertson have been publicly addressed by many southern baptists. Al Mohler himself was on the O’Reilly factor addressing some statements Robertson made. I think you are blasting us for this so called “witch hunt” and it isn’t fair.

    I’ll pose some similar questions to you. How many blog entries of Denny’s have you read? Have you read every major leader’s blog in the convention? If not, you are witch hunting and blasting us without knowledge of our entire context and history. I believe that is what you were charging us with at the outset.

  • Paul


    you said the magic words! It isn’t fair!

    Well, it isn’t fair to Obama to equate him to three comments from Wright, either.

    glad it took us forty posts to agree on it.

  • Paul

    By the way, knowing that Robertson is a certified nutjob, I never mentioned him. I mentioned Falwell.

    You never gave me an answer about him.

    Either he was a loon, at which point, we can justifiably call Wright a loon, or he was a great man of God, at which point, you’ve got no ground to stand on.

    Which is it?

  • Lucas Knisely


    The statements from Falwell that you’ve mentioned are wrong and not Biblical. I would not sit under his teaching nor would I vote for a presidential nominee that willfully sat under Falwell’s teaching for 20 years.


  • Paul


    I would hope then, too, that you wouldn’t have dared vote for anyone that would actively seek his endorsement, or the endorsement of Liberty University, which McCain has.

    I guess that leaves you with Nader or whoever the Libertarians run.

  • Paul

    I read your post. So, being judged by the company you keep only works when you don’t like the candidate?

    Considering the loons that McCain is racking up, (the folks at Liberty, Bob Jones, John Hagee and Rod Parsley), his company is looking like the poster children for people who make Christianity look bad.

    Why hasn’t he gone after Mohler or Ravi Zacharias or David Jeremiah? Are they too normal and/or sane?

    And do you really think that voting for the guy whose spiritual advisers range from thinking that America was conceived to destroy Islam to that the Catholic Church is the great whore is any worse than voting for the guy who thinks that 9/11 was the result of decades of poor policy?

    If anything, Wright is far MORE sane than either of those wackjobs.

  • Brett

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I would like to second Paul’s conclusions about Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, Parsley, etc. If we’re making such a big deal out of the whole Wright thing, then we need to make as a big if not bigger deal about the other side. This truly is the pot calling the kettle black. Falwell basically started the whole religious right movement which many on here seem to be a part of. Did some of the candidates these men endorse sit under their teachings for 20 years? I don’t believe so, but they were certainly associated with them and cheerfully accepted their endorsements. Though they are not of equal weight, they are certainly very close…and I would in no way accept the endorsements of these men.

    Sorry to butt in

  • celucien joseph

    It is very unfortunate that some of our reactions/comments toward Obama’s speech are simply “negative” and “unchristian” and reflect a reluctant spirit to move toward racial harmony and reconciliation in this great nation. No wonder, we make little progress in our own denomination in terms of race relations (I include myself in the picture). Personally, I disagree with Obama’s stand on many issues (i.e. abortion, marriage, etc). However, after I heard his speech on race, he has gained more respect and reverence from me. I admire the man more for his courage to talk publicly, audaciously and unashamedly about the great problem that divides us, the American people, and the evangelical church.

    Moreover, personally Obama’s speech had a great effect on my life—to the extent that the Lord used it in my life to convict me of my own flaws and shortcomings. Yet, the greatest challenge in the speech comes to this question: what are going to do as a people and evangelical Christians to make racial harmony a reality in America, particularly in our churches.

  • Paul

    sorry, but reading over all of these posts, it is amazing how people read what they want to read and discard the rest.

    The topic of context was never addressed, not once, by anyone trying to put down Wright’s remarks.

    Until context is addressed, this conversation, and most of the people involved in it throughout the country will remain to be ignorant of the larger issues that loom that allow comments like Wright’s to be made in the first place.

    And shame on us all for that.

  • Bryan L


    I forgot to thank you earlier for addressing my question about “What racists remarks did Wright make?” I think the only one you didn’t mention that I thought most people had in mind was when Wright said Hillary doesn’t know what it’s like to be called a n***a. I thought some might object to that but surprisingly none have brought it up.

    I largely agreed with your analysis of his comments and the context they were made in or that might have been in the background of what he was saying.

    Bryan L

  • Paul


    no problem.

    what’s really sad though is how few people understand the difference between supremacist behavior and airing grievances. And yet another poster here doesn’t understand the difference between understanding and aiming for your market and racism.

    What’s really interesting here is that you’ve essentially got a situation where you have a whole bunch of people that think that race or context are the two smallest issues here, when really, without race or context, you’d have no story.

    And of all of the people to try to view THIS STORY as a color blind incident, it’s the guy, who, to the best of my knowledge is a white guy who works at a white school that has white students. He also reads white magazines (at least one of which has a racist pedigree…check your links, Denny), listens to white music (his music entries would have you believe that he’s never willingly listened to a black artist) and goes to a white church. How often has Denny, or anyone else that reads here, tried to cross that racial divide and learn more about the other guy, his grievances, or why he might think about things completely differently than a white guy would think about them.

    Face it Denny, Lucas, Joe and Craig, you’re not black, and you never will be. We all will never deal with what they have to deal with, and to call them out for comments made, without taking race and context into effect is ethnocentric. It’s trying to force your views and your life upon lives that have never known the joy of not being stared at when you walk into a store or pump gas. It’s trying to make folks think like you that have to deal with people questioning their motives and their abilities when they get accepted to any school or program. You have no clue what they go through, and yet you’re trying to make them deal with their problems the way that you would deal with yours. That’s basically the definition of ethnocentrism.

    But this goes a step further. You’ve read numerous times that you need to understand context before passing judgement, and yet you’ve refused, eager to send this guy, and Obama by association to the gallows anyway. That’s not simply ethnocentrism. THAT’S racism.

    And until you’re willing to discuss context, yes, you ARE being racist.

  • Denny Burk


    Under number 1 in my original post, I wrote this:

    “For me, the problem with Obama’s relationship to Wright has nothing to do with race. The problem is the specious and harmful ideology of one of Obama’s closest spiritual advisors. The speech does nothing to allay that concern.”

    Wright’s comments would have been unacceptable coming from anyone–white, black, or something else. Like I said, my problem with Wright’s remarks has nothing to do with the color of his skin.


  • Paul


    the only problem, is that in your quest to take color out of it, you also take context out of it. YOU CANNOT SEPARATE THE TWO. If you try, you only come off looking like the guy who wonders why everyone doesn’t live and think exactly the way he does.

    Because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

    Without race, and without the problems with race in this country, Wright likely wouldn’t have this ideology.

    Until you’re willing to deal with context, you’re being at best, ethnocentrist, and at worst, racist.

    Deal with the context. Just looking at the words won’t get you anywhere. Unless you’re looking for an easy way out. But you should be better than that.

  • Ferg

    it’s interesting reading the posts in this blog. I haven’t been quite able to follow peoples train of thoughts however I do agree with pauls sense of context.
    I am an Irish person, born and bred here. My country has had its fair share of difficulties and divisions. For people who don’t know, basically Ireland was a 32 county country. The English came and took it over. We revolted and in 1916 we formed a Republic, however, we lost 6 counties to the English. These 6 counties are called Northern Ireland and belong to the United Kingdom. Ever since then, there has been a struggle for certain people who want the 6 counties back (Republicans [generally Catholics]) and people who want the 6 counties to stay British (Unionists [generally Protestants]). I personally just want peace, if peace means that the British keep the 6 counties, then so be it.
    HOWEVER, I was speaking to a unionist a month ago. I don’t like talking about the issue as its too raw a topic, but this person pushed me and asked for my truthful opinion. I told her that the british should get out of Ireland, and that I am not particularly fond of people who claim the 6 counties as British.
    you may find this ‘racist’, that i don’t like the fact that british people call the 6 counties theirs. however, when put in context of what my grandfather and great grandfather had to go through, in loosing their businesses as they were stolen by the british and their language was stolen by the british and a lot of their heritage, and mine too it starts to make a bit of sense.
    I have no idea, and I never will have an idea what black people have to go through, just like people who aren’t irish don’t know what its like to have their heritage gravely damaged. and I don’t even know what it’s like to be a true Irishman living in the north, feeling that my land is still invaded by the British.
    my true feelings however should never make me act like a victim. the same goes for all people who feel oppressed. despite the fact that I hate what the british did to my country, i’m still called to love them and in a sense, to get over it. it happened, the north belongs to them and if the only way to get it back is through violence, then that will never be acceptable. sometimes we need to keep our mouths shut and to try to come to some sense of understanding.
    i hope that makes even a tiny bit of sense!

  • Lucas Knisely


    You said: Face it Denny, Lucas, Joe and Craig, you’re not black, and you never will be. We all will never deal with what they have to deal with, and to call them out for comments made, without taking race and context into effect is ethnocentric. It’s trying to force your views and your life upon lives that have never known the joy of not being stared at when you walk into a store or pump gas. It’s trying to make folks think like you that have to deal with people questioning their motives and their abilities when they get accepted to any school or program. You have no clue what they go through, and yet you’re trying to make them deal with their problems the way that you would deal with yours. That’s basically the definition of ethnocentrism.

    But this goes a step further. You’ve read numerous times that you need to understand context before passing judgement, and yet you’ve refused, eager to send this guy, and Obama by association to the gallows anyway. That’s not simply ethnocentrism. THAT’S racism.

    That’s a large accusation with no backing, Paul.

    You can keep rehashing this and baiting me and others to keep coming back, but it only furthers your own self defamation. You are the one classifying people by race and discrediting their view on the situation accordingly. You are the one who continues to make the issue about race rather than words. You are the one who continues to hurl insults of being “ignorant” mainly because someone happens to be white. You are the one passively defending the hateful quotes of a man simply because he is black. So pardon me Paul, but you are the one saying things with racist undertones, not us.

    You want to make this mainly about race? Fine, go ahead. But do me a favor Paul, and leave me out of it. I never made this about race or said Wright should think like me or that Obama should be thrown to the gallows. So feel free to continue to put words in my mouth, but the reality is, it is dishonest. And you might actually succeed in clouding the issue and making myself, Denny, and others appear to be racist to someone skimming the discussion. But hopefully careful readers will see what is really going on here.

  • Paul


    I can sum all of this up in one sentence, and it’s a sentence that I’ve used before: YOU CANNOT SEPARATE WRIGHT’S COMMENTS FROM HIS RACE!

    That is the difference between you and I. I understand that if you take race out of the equation, and if you take 400 years of race relations in this country out of the equation, and suddenly all things were equal, Wright wouldn’t have a reason to have this ideology. However, that is not the case. And until you realize that, YOU, SIR, LUCAS KNISELY, ARE AT BEST AN ETHNOCENTRIST, AND AT WORST A RACIST.

    Yes, I am injecting race into this conversation, because you can’t have this conversation without it.

    You have consistently dodged the concepts of race and context in this discussion, which makes it a completely illogical discussion. Until you understand that this blow up has EVERYTHING to do with race, and little to do with much else, you remain, at best, an ethnocentrist, and at worst, a racist.

  • Brett

    The true story about Rev. Wright’s 9/11 sermon. Take a look for yourself. This is the sermon causing such a stir. I don’t know if I could list one thing that I disagree with in this article, and knowing the context and content of his sermons is much more informative than reading one quote somebody wrote with an agenda to make him out to be a dangerous monster.


  • Paul



    I must say, this post and the reactions to it and my observations have been very instructive. I’ve come to the conclusion that at the very least, some southern white men think that the only way to avoid being racist is to jettison all talk about race itself. This way, blacks that feel disenfranchised by the system are simply whining, or possessing bad ideologies or are dangerous. This way, those southern white males can wash their hands of their own culpability in the situation.

    This is the only reasonable explanation for why Denny, Lucas, Joe and Craig are so willing to try to separate the race and context issues that are so well entrenched at the root of this situation.

    But that’s what happens when politics becomes more important to you than the gospel.

    Denny, prove me wrong…

  • Benjamin A


    Great post. Thanks.


    I like your passion for the rights of black people. As Obama said, things have come a long way. Sure, our Republic isn’t perfect, but it never will be, however, it is more perfect today than it was 50 years ago (except for the decline in morality).
    By the way, you make a lot of assumptions about people who post on this site that just doesn’t fit. I’m a European-American, though I choose to simply be called American in that my earthly birth land is America. My ancestors came out of France and I will spare all the ill treatment stories of the French Huguenots, because at this point in time, it doesn’t matter. Life goes on, with or without you and me.
    We all have stories we could tell that prove simply one thing. Sin is alive and well; all people have sinned and continue to sin. Sin leads to death. This world tells that story very well. So well some have abandoned the faith as a result of sins fruit (Bart Erhman).
    By the way, my roommate in college, freshman year, was a black man I went to high school with in a Dallas suburb. He and I were close friends and played hoops together in high school and one year of college. I didn’t go back for my soph. year due to family problems. Have you ever willingly lived with a black man? I have.
    We conservatives are more diverse than you want to give us credit for; so try not to be so dogmatic and not paint ‘everyone’ on this blog with the same brush.
    Context is key, and yes the black community has been oppressed, and yes I can understand the anger and hurt from which the Reverend Wright speaks; but as a minister, who is there to feed the flock of God, from the word of God, he has to realize, as James said so long ago, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (Jam. 1:20).” And in James chapter 5, the first 6 verses, we see that those Jewish Christians, who were dispersed as a result of persecution; who lost everything they had and were oppressed; whose way of life would never be the same; in verse 7 James had the audacity to tell these believers to be PATIENT. That’s how God instructed those believers to respond to their ill treatment. And as for how long they were to be patient, James says, “until the coming of the Lord.” Some must have thought James to be a fruit-cake. Some probably still do.
    So while Rev. Wrights anger can logically and emotionally be understood, I am expecting more from him than that. That being said, I don’t expect him to be perfect, and I do have the ability of not standing over him with personal judgment; God’s word is sufficient to judge him as well as the rest of us. We all must be willing to be judged by Scripture, especially those who teach, for teachers “will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1).” Context and race must not give license to sin.

    Obama knew before entering the race that every leaf of his life would be turned over. Such is the scrutiny for those who wish to become President. And if he or you think it is bad now, just wait until the general election process begins. There’s no telling what will come to the surface. Such is the context of politics.

  • Paul


    thank you for the thoughtful post.

    A couple of things to point out:

    1) I know conservatives are a broad bunch. Some are sane and thoughtful, some take it to its logical extreme, and some are just nuts. Just like my fellow liberals. However, the people that have posted so far have tried to paint Wright as a monster with scary ideology without taking into account the context of the situation, which is unfair to Wright and Obama. And as Christians, are we really called to tell half truths about people? Talking about these snippets without mentioning race is just that, talking in half truths. And if I remember my philosophy class right, BS’ers are worse than liars because they have no respect for the truth. Yet, by trying to separate race and context from Wright’s remarks, we’re left with half truth. Denny should be better than that. As should Lucas, Joe and Craig. I am only painting the conservatives that post to this blog with a wide brush because they’ve given no other option. NOT ONE of them has stepped up and even asked a question about context. It’s just been telling and telling and telling about supremacist this and not fair that. In that regard, the only wide brush that they’ve been painted with is the one of their own choosing.

    2) have I lived with a black man? Yep.

    3) Now, in addressing context, you acknowledge the hurt and pain of the black community. I agree, it’s not right to be wrapped up in the pain so tightly that the gospel takes a back seat to that pain. That said, is Wright the first pastor to speak about politics or social issues from the pulpit? Of course not. We are simply singling Wright out because his viewpoint only makes sense to 14% of the populaion, at most, and to 86% of the population, especially when his comments are taken out of context, they sound anti-american and anti-caucasian.

    4) How patient can you expect Wright to be? And at that point, was MLK not being patient enough? Let’s put things in context AGAIN. Like I said, if blacks throughout the country already have enough to contend with, south side blacks are dealing with even more. Now you have to deal with a city that is gladly segregationist. Now you have to deal with a university trying to keep a lid on the very neighborhood that Wright (and his fellow churchgoers) live in. How much more does he have to take before he finally snaps? And frankly, two of the four statements that he made are completely understandable, even amongst Christians, being said from the pulpit (the AIDS comment was wrong, and without further explanation, wrongheaded).

    5) Finally, Benjamin, we completely agree on your last point. Politics is a dirty game, played by some dirty, dirty, DIRTY people. If he was ever planning on running for president, he should have gone to a nice storefront church where no one would have had any right to complain. Oh well.

  • Quixote

    It’s interesting to me that race has become such a big deal while gender has faded in importance. Hillary’s pastor (whoever he may be) could say that Obama’s never known what it is like to be called a B**ch or a C**t. And for all the racism dividing this country, we could argue that sexism still divides it as well…such as (but not limited to) education and health issues, financial and job equality, and the way women are treated/viewed in general.

  • Paul

    absolutely agreed, Quixote.

    I think, in this election, however, sexism doesn’t play nearly as much of an issue as who the woman is in this case.

  • D.J. Williams


    “I understand that if you take race out of the equation, and if you take 400 years of race relations in this country out of the equation, and suddenly all things were equal, Wright wouldn’t have a reason to have this ideology.”

    I understand your emphasis on context, but context does not necessarily excuse ideology. For instance, you could apply your exact same logic to Hitler and say that if you remove the disenfranchisement and political oppression of post-WWI Germany and suddenly all things were equal, then Hitler wouldn’t have had a reason to have his ideology. It’s an extreme example, but its the exact same logical progression. Your exhortation to see this in context is valid, and I have sought to do exactly that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the context excuses the ideology from criticism and denunciation.

    “This way, those southern white males can wash their hands of their own culpability in the situation.”

    This is a broad and condescending statement. I’m a southern white male – who now ministers (and lives) in the poorest and most ethnically diverse zip code in the state of KY. You assume that the attitudes and opinions that many here express are driven by biases that are often flat out not true.

    “But that’s what happens when politics becomes more important to you than the gospel.”

    And that is a cheap shot.

    I think you’ve got some vaild points (the Roland Martin article on CNN is a good one to elaborate on those ideas), but in the end you stretch your argument too far and make assumptions about your opponents that are as stereotype-driven as the racism you decry.

  • Paul


    re: your example…there’s a good chance that if France (and America by proxy) had not sought to destroy Germany post WWI that Hitler never would have gotten into power. If I had a time machine, I also would have slapped the principal of the art school that turned down Hitler’s art aspirations. There are lots of woulda coulda shouldas to deal with in Hitler/Germany’s case.

    The difference is, Hitler’s anti-semitism was a position of supremacy, and Wright’s is not.

    And by ignoring context, THAT is the point that the southern white males here have missed over and over and over again. There is a huge difference between race supremacy and justified anger, and by bringing up the KKK, white supremacists and even Hitler here, it is obvious that so many here miss the larger point…

    If White America would treat Black America with respect and true equality, Wright would have no reason or place to adopt his ideology in the first place.

    Should Wright’s ideology be criticized when it is wrong? Yes. However, saying, IN THE PROPER CONTEXT, “God d*** America” is not wrong. He’s got much to be angry about. And certainly much more than a professor at a college who seeks to take quotes out of context in order to make the politician that he doesn’t like look bad.

    Insofar as broad and condescending statements go, actions speak far louder than words. In 64 posts, exactly TWO of the conservatives here have even mentioned context. What else am I to believe?

    re: cheap shots…it might be a cheap shot, but it’s not necessarily wrong. This is just the latest instance where I’ve seen someone on the right put the RNC’s agenda ahead of Jesus Christ’s. Jesus wouldn’t have us telling half truths about each other in order to make a political figure look bad. Sorry.

  • Chris

    Great discussion but the real issue is not about Wright its about Obama! Personally I think he has assured a loss in the general election by NOT completely disassociating himself from Wright. He made a huge misstep and its going to cost him. It was his choice and its not the medias fault or the RNC’s fault or white Americas fault. He alone made a choice and now he has to live with that choice which to me means he won’t have President before his name, at least not this time.

    As an aside it seems that the undertone here is about fairness. When is life fair? Where does God promise us fairness in this world? No where! Only is His justice is fairness evidenced. So life ain’t fair!

    We can argue all we want about whether it’s fair to judge Obama by his pastor, I think it is, bit even if it’s not so what? There are so many other unfair things that take precedence!

  • Benjamin A


    Your statement: “If White America would treat Black America with respect and true equality, Wright would have no reason or place to adopt his ideology in the first place.”

    That’s like saying, ‘If people would just stop sinning, we would all get along really great.” I don’t believe any American’s are going to wake up some day and just stop doing what their sinful/fleshly hearts have them do. White, Black or Brown. Sorry. But this is why the gospel is so relevant. And this is why the royal law of James 2:8, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” is so powerful. Those disenfranchised Jewish Christians were actually expected, from God’s vantage point, to love their neighbor as their self. That’s what makes the gospel so relevant to those still lost in sin, who are looking to put others down because of race, gender, etc.. It helps point them to the cross. It exposes them to their greatest need.
    That being said, I’m not saying we shouldn’t help those who are disenfranchised. To the contrary, all believers everywhere are to “love their neighbor as their self”.

    You also said: “There is a huge difference between race supremacy and justified anger,”

    Question: As a believer with scripture as your guide, how do you justify anger? When is it appropriate and when is it sin?

    I brought up James 5:1-7 and showed how God expected those disenfranchised Jewish believers to respond to their harsh circumstances (some even being “put to death” v.5); and that God called them to be PATIENT. By the way, that word patient is a compound word: macros= long & thumos=anger. God is telling them to be long-suffering; to hold back anger until the coming of the Lord, at which time there will be no need for patience or anger.
    You seem to believe Rev. Wright has a justified anger, as a believer, and I’m curious how you mesh that with scripture.


  • Trent G.

    Paul said,
    “If White America would treat Black America with respect and true equality, Wright would have no reason or place to adopt his ideology in the first place.”

    But you already made clear that this isn’t an “American” issue it is a Chicago issue. If this is truly an American issue than shouldn’t people in Texas be able to talk about it. But you already said they, “simply have no idea”. People in Texas don’t know anything about racism like the people of Chicago do. So more accurately your statement should read, “If White Chicago would treat Black Chicago with respect and true equality, Wright would have no reason or place to adopt his ideology in the first place.”

    DJ said,

    “I think you’ve got some vaild points (the Roland Martin article on CNN is a good one to elaborate on those ideas), but in the end you stretch your argument too far and make assumptions about your opponents that are as stereotype-driven as the racism you decry.”

    This is probably the most well-balanced statement said so far in this discussion which includes anger over generalizations followed by more generalizations. And, don’t get too upset Paul, that doesn’t mean your comments are “chopped liver”. I think you have some legitimate things to say (and I would guess Wright probably does too), but I think in the over-reaching rhetoric it gets lost. Just my opinion.

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