Friday, May 02, 2008

On Mssrs. Obama and Wright

I have found the events of the past couple of weeks deeply troubling, I think a lot more deeply than than I will be able to write, but it seems like it's worth a shot.
There are many ways to start peeling this onion. Let me start with Mr. Wright.
I don't agree with most of what I've heard from him, which clearly isn't his entire 20-year ministry, but nothing I have heard in his defense has been "he doesn't really believe that", so I'm going to assume that the remarks played so often are consistent with his overall message. Certainly, his recent public speaking engagements gave him a chance to refute or repudiate any errors of fact that have occurred.
I do not agree with his claim that 9/11 is an example of "chickens coming home to roost". That is an incorrect reading of the motivations of Al Queda certainly, and of Middle-Eastern/Muslim societies in general. But as a pastor, asking his flock to look within our society for Sin, I don't find it offensive or out-of-bounds to have that point of view.
I have a real deep problem with his claims that the government was involved in "inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color". The historical record is damning enough without having to make up, reinforce, and socialize conspiracy theories. “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied.” No, it didn't. And while Wright (or you and I, for that matter) can surf the web and find some crazy site that claims to have evidence that HIV is a government invention, it only takes a modicum of judgement and discernment to figure out the correct answer. And that, Mr. Wright, is what you get paid for -- using your judgement and discernment in a leadership position.
And this is where someone should've nudged Mr. Obama. There, in a church filled with hundreds of Americans, a person in a position of influence used a casual lie that would/could/should have a dramatic impact on how each person in the room sees the world. And a leader that knows this, sees this, hears this, and realizes what kind of poison this lie carries should/could/must speak out. And Mr. Obama didn't; and still hasn't, really.

Another facet of this issue: the church I grew up in was a somewhat-racially-integrated Catholic Church in middle-class Detroit. I say "somewhat", because although there were many black families that attended, the numbers were not in proportion to the overall population (at least from my pre-teen recollections). So I thought "Black Churches" were just like mine, except for longer sermons and better music. Now I find that there's a big difference; I don't know how close to "normal" Trinity is, but it's clear that the "Black Church" faith experience is much different than my preconceived notions.

So maybe this is over, and I certainly believe it's not the most important thing in a President. But I do believe that Mr. Obama is a lot more like a "regular" politician than his supporters believe, and that his inexperience in campaigning and in governing will be an ongoing problem. Whether the problem ends in November or not is the fundamental question.

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