Obama and Reverend Wright?

Can someone clear this up for me? What was the controversy here and what’s the truth?

Obama referred to Wright as his mentor, and dedicated one of his books to him. Then it turned out that Wright had delivered some rather virulently anti-American statements in some of his sermons, and Obama did some waffling about loyalty and then dissociated himself from the whole mess.

The controversy was that Wright was someone Obama looked up to and had been influenced by, and therefore came up during the campaign. It was a little harder to dismiss than the Bill Ayers flap, since Obama had made it clear that Wright was an important figure in his life.

I suppose I could go thru and cite everything above, but it won’t do any good.


The controversy was that Wright said controversial things. We could have entire debate threads on “the truth” regarding many of these statements. They were often delivered in the bombastic style typical of preachers, and made for some great TV clips - they were played ad nauseum for a few weeks. If you are interested in the specific statements, they should not be hard to find, both in and out of context.

Obama was a member of Wright’s church, and I believe Wright administered their wedding. Obama looked up to him at least to some extent - as a man and as a spiritual leader. So the question was raised: “how much does Obama agree with the things that Wright has been saying”.

In the end Obama distanced himself from Wright, and disavowed many (all?) of the controversial comments while attempting not to disavow the man. As I recall, however, ultimately he had to, as the Rev. seemed to enjoy his time in the spotlight and made more controversial statements even after the first Obama speech on the matter.

Very little ultimately came of it because the voters seemed to decide that a church-goer shouldn’t be held responsible for all of the things said by the pastor (or, alternatively, some voters probably agreed with some of the things that Wright said).

Or perhaps the voters decided that a crypto-Muslim probably wouldn’t put much stock in what a Christian preacher said anyways… :wink:

Wright did what preachers should do: speak what he believes to be the truth regardless if it’s popular or not. None of the Biblical prophets were sent to tell the people that everything was just peachy, nor should modern-day clergy. So if the US is causing pain and suffering or not doing enough to end it, then perhaps an appropriate thing for him to say was indeed “God damn America.” It may not fit with the “Rah! Rah! USA! USA!” chant that you might get from right wing preachers, but in my opinion it’s more in keeping with the teachings of Christ.

It was a big deal because it was a five second soundbite that could be played endlessly on FOX, causing right wingers to drool uncontrollably and simultaneously accuse Obama both of being (GASP!) a Muslim AND a radical black Christian.

Wouldn’t it be more in keeping with the teachings of Christ for Wright to judge not, lest he be judged? If the US is out there causing pain and suffering, isn’t Wright supposed to tell those pained sufferers to turn the other cheek and resist not evil?

I don’t think so. You can point out the evil in the world and speak out against it and try to sway public opinion, you can peaceably demonstrate, and you can exercise civil disobedience and still be in keeping with Christian values, much as Martin Luther King did.

Fair enough. What do you think “judge not” means?

And a godless Marxist atheist. Don’t forget he’s that too.

What it doesn’t mean is to shrug your shoulders at injustice.

Jesus warns us against judging other people, and pointing out the sin in them instead of being self-critical about the sin in our own lives. But throughout the Gospels, Jesus exhorts his disciples to use discernment to judge good from evil, and to preach the values of the Kingdom of God. If Rev. Wright believes that the USA was violating these values, it was his responbility to speak out against it just as the OT prophets spoke out against Isreal and Judah when they strayed.

Using “judge not” as a catch-all excuse to ‘live and let live’ or ignore injustice in the world belies a very shallow understanding of Jesus’ teachings and the Gospel message.

That’s why I said “fair enough” to a particular claim about what it doesn’t mean, and then asked what it does mean.

Again, you’re great with that’s-not-what-it-means stuff. We’ve established what you think is a very shallow understanding of “judge not”; what do you think is the very deep understanding of “judge not”? (At that, what’s the very deep understanding of “resist not evil”?)

The “deeper” understanding is basically a variation on the golden rule, or the categorical imperative.

Do not judge others by a standard that you are not comfortable being judged against.

Sound, factual judgment of actions was encouraged by Jesus, as well as strong self-judgment. But not rash, unfounded, or mean-spirited judgment, or hypocritical judgment (the plank in your eye while judging the mote in another’s).

The point is that he said “God damn America,” which is a curse. It literally means “God, send America to Hell.” Christians are not supposed to curse, only bless. See James 3:9-12. I’ll quote verse 10 (NIV): “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

Now, in context, he is talking about teachers, but that’s exactly what the reverend is as a preacher. So there’s no way to argue it doesn’t apply to him. It’s fine for him to be unpatriotic. Heck, it’s fine for him to have problems with America. But it’s not okay to curse America, even if it was only rhetorical to contrast with “God bless America.”

I don’t think Wright’s sin was in judging America, but in saying “God damn America”. If he did not mean it seriously, it is a sin against the commandment against taking God’s name in vain. If he did mean it seriously, that is a sin against charity - almost the worst one I can think of.

Christians are allowed to judge actions, but not people, as worthy of condemnation.


I suppose you could take “judge not, lest ye be judged” that way (focusing on the “lest ye be judged” rather than the "judge not), but doesn’t he say it right after spelling out that you should resist not evil but instead forgive others their trespasses – adding that you should be perfect like God, who maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust; for if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

A fair question. In practice, we judge all the time. Christ doesn’t say we shouldn’t have prosecutions and trials and punishment, that would be ridiculous. Christ Himself did a little judging with the money changers. I think you can witness for the truth as you see it without judging. If I might take some liberties with Wright’s words, he’s calling for the US to repent what he sees as sinful ways. I don’t see a lot of difference between that and the anti-abortion religious, and it would be perfectly logical for a pro-lifer to say “God damn America” for allowing abortions to happen. I wouldn’t agree with it, but it would be logical.

To take further liberties with Wright’s words, he’s challenging us to see ways in which we are not perfect and to work for change. If he has to say “God damn America” to wake us up and call attention to our shortcomings, I don’t see that as out of bounds. Unfortunately, this kind of reflection doesn’t fit with a five second soundbite.

I’m not going to try to defend “God damn America”; the misuse of “judge not” is just a pet peeve of mine. I agree that asking God to damn America, or declairing that he does, was out of line.

REv. Wright has the right of free speech. It has no impact on my life or yours at all. His words are not going to convince me or anyone else to commit crimes.
To pretend the Rev, influences Obama is a creation of the right. When I was young and went to church, the sermons bored the hell out of me. I tuned them out and looked at the girls.
But Obama is so weak that Wright’s words overtook his judgement and made him go super anti America. That is why he ran for president?
Damn, make some sense.

The difference, Gonzomax, is that Obama had said on several occasions that Wright was an important person in his life, key to his spiritual development. He didn’t have the same relationship to Wright as you had to the sermons you experienced.

That’s not to say that the situation made sense.

He was playing up to the religious. i doubt Wright had any impact on him at all.
If he said no religious leader matters in my life, he would have been worse off.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barack-obama/on-my-faith-and-my-church_b_91623.html In Obama’s own words.

gonzo, do you ever post anything that you didn’t pull out of your ass?