Barack Obama's (Other) Controversial Religious Connection

Friday, March 14, 2008

  • Obama and Wright (Source: New York Times)

    Obama and Wright (Source: New York Times)

Written by Josh Dehaas

One of the reasons which many young Americans have rallied behind Barack Obama is because they seem his as the urban, liberal and above all, secular alternative. Instead of a God-fearing conservative or a centre-left White House reincarnation, it seems the fresh blood thirsted for by Christianity-wary Americans is embodied in the saviour called Barack.

But Barack Obama, much like Clinton and Bush (and nearly half of Americans) is still a member of a church. Perhaps religious, perhaps pragmatic, it’s certain that if he hadn’t attended the services of a black pastor for the past twenty years, he would not have garnered as much support from the black community in Chicago. Large urban congregations, like the 8,500 strong Trinity United Church Obama calls home, are more likely to vote for Obama the Christian, than Obama the liberal.

But a video that’s popped up on YouTube recently has made Obama’s religious affiliations seem as politically damaging George W. Bush’s. While Bush’s born-again-Christian experience was inspired by televangelist Billy Graham, Obama has claimed to be similarly moved to renewed Christian faith by the leadership of a very controversial evangelist, Minister Jeremiah Wright. The video shows Wright preaching hateful conspiracy theories about white Americans, making such ludicrous accusations as his claim that the government sells drugs to blacks just so that they can put them in jail. His rants reveal an obsession with inciting hatred against white people, comparing the modern-day treatment of blacks to the persecution a black Jesus faced two thousand years ago. But instead of denouncing his preacher for years of hate-filled sermons, Obama told reporters “I don’t think that my church is actually particularly controversial.”

In the YouTube video, shot in 2003, Wright shouts “The government gives them [black men] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike laws, and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no, not God Bless America, God Damn America, that’s in the bible... ” And five days after 9/11, he suggested the attacks were somehow justified because "we [America] bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye."

So what, some will surely say. Just because he went a church with a hateful little Minister doesn’t mean he agrees with reverend Wright’s philosophy. But according to an April 2007 New York Times article, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/30/us/politics/30obama.html?_r=1&oref=slogin “He [Obama] had sampled various faiths but adopted none until he met Mr. Wright, a dynamic pastor who preached Afrocentric theology, dabbled in radical politics and delivered music-and-profanity-spiked sermons.” And not only was he married by Wright, but Obama proudly named his book The Audacity of Hope, after a sermon Wright gave in 1988.

Perhaps getting out the more radical elements of his support – those who would agree with the incendiary and fallacious remarks made by the Jeremiah Wright – is important to him winning states like Pennsylvania. These are the voters who believe that Obama simply says one thing about White America while believing another so as to trick them into electing him to the position where he will finally put white Americans in their place. But if the young, liberal, white voters who trust him because he sounds so sincerely honest start seeing him as this kind of jaded pragmatist, they’re unlikely to show up and vote for him at all. One of these types of supporters is bound to be right and the other is bound to be disillusioned. If Obama sees the anti-white preacher as entirely without credibility, then he will lose credibility himself for claiming false religious inspiration. And saying one thing and doing the other is the exact type of claim he needs to avoid after the NAFTA debacle. The other explanation, which seems very unlikely, is that the (maybe) future president of the United States actually believes that the white establishment is so inherently racist that they sells drugs to blacks in order to put them in jail, that terrorism against America is justified because of World War Two, that modern day blacks are persecuted like black Jesus was. The truth is neither possibility suggests a president who young, secular liberals can trust or and believe in.

But alas, will this actually become an election issue running 24/7 on CNN like Geraldine Ferraro’s recent remarks? It will all depend on the media. This video was brought to the attention of Americans on ABC News this week and was picked up by Fox News within hours. What I’m curious to see is if it will be covered at all by NBC, Newsweek, CNN or any of the voices in the mainstream media who have given the Obama-ship such fair winds to sail.

“Jesus was a poor black man. The Romans were rich, the Romans were Italian, which means they were white, and the Romans ruled everything in Jesus’ country.... Hiliary never had a cab whiz past her and never pick her up because her skin wasn’t the right colour....” Mr. Wright ranted in a more recent speech supporting Obama. Facing more heat as the YouTube video gets more hits, Obama has likened his spiritual leader to “...an old uncle who sometimes says things I don’t agree with.” Should the media give this story its due attention, Obama will be forced to either alienate the supporters who agree with Jeremiah Wright’s hatred for white America or risk losing support of the Americans who support Obama as the honest dreamer who the media has made him so far. Once again, it all depends on the media.

Sources: ABC News and the New York Times

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  1. Posted by: R on Mar 15, 2008 @ 7:33am

    I don't see anything ludicrous about this quote “The government gives them [black men] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike laws, and then wants us to sing God Bless America?" Sounds like he's got it spot on. Actually I have no problem the idea that maybe American foreign policy had something to do with 911 either.

  2. Posted by: D on Mar 17, 2008 @ 12:44pm


  3. Posted by: Ken on Mar 22, 2008 @ 8:26pm

    Ok, so I`m an atheist and I've never trusted that any American running for office isn't religious somehow. I mean they grew up in the States, where anything that is perceived to be associated with Atheism, like the Texas Atheist Association is somehow a criminal or even Terrorist organization.

    However, a "racist" African-American ranting about white people is far less racist than a white person attacking a black.

    Why? Because African-Americans have a very real, historical, and even modern reason not to trust white people.

    When was the last time a black politician truly had control? Rice & Powell both have white advisors. What I`m trying to say is, his brand of so-called "Racism" comes from a deep justified mistrust, as a result of years of discrimination, which goes on to this day.

    IE: Katrina, Black overrepresentation in jail, how even the most affluent blacks are underrepresented in all level of politics except local.

  4. Posted by: f on May 24, 2008 @ 6:24pm

    I understand the mistrust blacks have for whites... I mean look at Hurricane Katrina and how poorly the blacks were dealt with... If you listened to the whole sermon and not just pieces than although not justifing the remarks they are definetly not as radical as they seem. Blacks stil face systemic racsim and whites never have and probably never will... I am sorry but I think you are just complaining over nothing!!!

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