March 14, 2008

Barack Obama: On My Faith and My Church

Barack Obama responded to the recent videos of Rev. Wright in The Huffington Post. He wrote as follows:

The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He's drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.

Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

Because these particular statements by Rev. Wright are so contrary to my own life and beliefs, a number of people have legitimately raised questions about the nature of my relationship with Rev. Wright and my membership in the church. Let me therefore provide some context.

As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It's a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.

Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.

Did Barack Obama answer the questions you had about this issue?


Janet Shan said...

I find it hard to believe that he never heard any fiery sermons from Rev. Wright on social issues he rants about. It seems to me that is how this pastor conducts himself. Obama has been a member of his church for 20 years, that is a long time to not know who the true Jeremiah Wright is, considering he said that he was a close friend and spiritual adviser. I am not blaming him for the things Wright said, but it makes me wonder if he is being really candid and truthful about all this. He lauded Wright with such statements of praise and called him his spiritual leader. For me, that means to follow some of his principles and understand his philosophy. When I hear spiritual leader, I think about someone like the Dali Lama and his followers. I am glad he spoke out, but why did he wait so long. He clearly knew something was amiss when he disinvited him from an event a year ago. I think this will have some effect on his campaign and I am hoping, that though he has the clear lead in terms of delegates, this mess will not create a "Willie Horton" campaign killer for his quest for the presidency. Like Hillary, he waited too long to say something. He only said it after he had come under increasing fire from the fallout and from many conservative talk radio folks, including Sean Hannity, making a big issue out of it.

msladydeborah said...

Pastor Wright did not say anything that has not been voiced by the common man. He could make a case for his statements~American policies and military actions have created anti-American sentiment and there is no denying that as a fact.

What bothers me the most about this particular action is the fact that Obama should have to make an accounting for what he did not say. Pastor Wright is a citizen of the United States~freedom of speech is his to utilize just like any other citizen. You do not have to like or agree with one word that he says. But he can say it.

Obama is going to have to weather a lot of storms as the stump continues. This too shall pass!

Anonymous said...

Also check out the response of the Jeremiah Wright fiasco responded to on these web sites: and

Interesting comments from a native Chicagoan who has attended the church (but admits is not a member) and proud supporter of Barack Obama.

Villager said...

Janet - I've had chance to listen to the full sermons ('9/11' and 'God Damn America') from which the snippets were cut. I find it remarkable that America has been duped into satanizing Rev. Wright based on a few minute snippets. The full sermons give you a much different view of the pastor...

Lady D - Now that we are a few weeks away from the initial furor, I find myself more and more proud of Barack Obama. He will make a remarkable POTUS...

DN Lee - Thank you for the referral. The post was on time. More importantly for me, I had never seen that blog before. I appreciate having another entry for the Black Blog Rankings...