Just Another Guy with Opinions

The Wright Factor

Posted by shadmia on May 5, 2008

Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s ex-pastor Jeremiah Wright has been in the limelight lately. He has received a lot of media attention for his views on 9/11, Aids and a host of controversial topics that have not sat well with many people. He is a black minister of a black church…..but not just any black church and he is certainly not just any black minister. Until his recent retirement he was the minister of the church that Barack Obama attended. He encouraged Obama to become a member of his church. He married the Obamas. He baptized their children. He was more than Obama’s pastor. He was Obama’s friend.

Barack Obama very publicly turned his back on Jeremiah Wright saying that some of the views of his ex-pastor were reprehensible and in no way represented his own, stressing that Wright does not speak for him nor his campaign. Was this done out of political expediency or was there a real disconnect between the two men who have known each other for many years? The truth may just be a complicated yes on both counts. But whatever the real answer is, I think the real question should be why has this ex-pastor been given such prominent news coverage? Is this an attempt by the media to make Obama seem guilty by association?

The recent media attention of Jeremiah Wright began with an interview with Bill Moyers of PBS. Click here to watch the interview.

Bill Moyers himself had some comments in reference to the media reaction to Rev. Wright:

But in this multimedia age the pulpit isn’t only available on Sunday mornings. There’s round the clock media — the beast whose hunger is never satisfied, especially for the fast food with emotional content. So the preacher starts with rational discussion and after much prodding throws more and more gasoline on the fire that will eventually consume everything it touches. He had help — people who for their own reasons set out to conflate the man in the pulpit who wasn’t running for president with the man in the pew who was.

Behold the double standard: John McCain sought out the endorsement of John Hagee, the war-mongering Catholic-bashing Texas preacher, who said the people of New Orleans got what they deserved for their sins. But no one suggests McCain shares Hagee’s delusions, or thinks AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality. Pat Robertson called for the assassination of a foreign head of state and asked God to remove Supreme Court justices, yet he remains a force in the Republican religious right. After 9/11 Jerry Falwell said the attack was God’s judgment on America for having been driven out of our schools and the public square, but when McCain goes after the endorsement of a preacher he once condemned as an agent of intolerance, the press gives him a pass.

Bill Moyers, in summing up, comes to the conclusion that race is a factor in the media attention of Wright:

Which means it is all about race, isn’t it? Wright’s offensive opinions and inflammatory appearances are judged differently. He doesn’t fire a shot in anger, put a noose around anyone’s neck, call for insurrection, or plant a bomb in a church with children in Sunday school. What he does is to speak his mind in a language and style that unsettles some people, and says some things so outlandish and ill-advised that he finally leaves Obama no choice but to end their friendship. Politics often exposes us to the corroding acid of the politics of personal destruction, but I’ve never seen anything like this — this wrenching break between pastor and parishioner. Both men no doubt will carry the grief to their graves. All the rest of us should hang our heads in shame for letting it come to this in America, where the gluttony of the non-stop media grinder consumes us all and prevents an honest conversation on race. It is the price we are paying for failing to heed the great historian Jacob Burckhardt, who said “beware the terrible simplifiers”.

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