Campaigns/Elections

Wright From the Beginning

Why every candidate, not just Obama, is bad on religion

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Barack Obama deserves to take heat for his relationship to his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, the man who's lit up many a TV screen and Internet tube with his claims that "America's chickens are coming home to roost" and "the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color."

Indeed, Obama deserves at least as much heat as every other candidate for president since Jimmy Carter. Let me explain.

When Barack Obama chose to join the congregation of Trinity United Church of Christ back in 1987, his decision was partly spiritual, partly calculated. As Obama tells it in his 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father, he was seeking two things. He was seeking salvation. He was also seeking a secure perch in the volcanic politics of black Chicago. In his interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama spoke plainly about his political concerns and Wright spoke back in his own language. "I'll try to help you if I can," Wright said. "But you should know that having us involved in your effort isn't necessarily a feather in your cap. Some of my fellow clergy don't appreciate what we're about. They feel like we're too radical. Others, we ain't radical enough."

Wright was not talking about his rhetoric that has since become the stuff of heavy cable rotation. Wright was talking about the church's flashiness and reputation for a more upper crust following in the black community. But Wright assured Obama that the church had a real presence in Chicago's South Side and that its "Black Value System," which Obama read that day, revealed the church's goals: To keep blacks in the community and to keep them from scattering to the suburbs. "While it is permissible to chase 'middle-incomeness' with all our might," reads the statement, "we must avoid the third separation method—the psychological entrapment of Black 'middleclassness.'" Here were the makings of a political base.

But Obama's decision to join the church was not simply a political calculation. Uncertain and struggling with his faith, he was moved to tears when he stopped in one Sunday and heard Wright preach on the "audacity of hope" (a phrase that later became Obama's signature). He found Christ in that church. That's the perversity of this scandal. Deciding to stay in Trinity United after 1996, when he had won a perch in the state Senate, was the end of Obama's calculation. Staying in the church through this presidential campaign, fully cognizant that Wright and his doctrine could become a liability (talk radio was shredding the "Black Value System" a full year ago), was not craven.

Obama seemed whipsawed by the reaction to Wright in a way he has never seemed so far in this race. In hs attempt to explain Wright before the "More Perfect Union" speech, Obama wrote that he "has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor." This was true, strictly speaking. But Obama has straddled the line between politics and the pulpit in his meteoric political career. His rise had a lot to do with his ease at talking about religion, which seemed to Democrats like—pardon the pun—manna from heaven after the debacle of John Kerry's campaign. In his 2006 "Call to Renewal" speech, a key moment in his rise, Obama told religious liberals gathered in D.C. that "secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square." He called for progressives to understand and utilize religious speech to push their agendas. And he called for more than speeches:

Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will?

Obama's speech was, in some ways, a concession speech. He was saying that the advocates of closer church-state coordination were right, and it was time for progressives to understand that. And both Bill and Hillary Clinton had beaten him to the punch. Bill's administration pioneered the faith-based initiative, the federal grant for religious charitable programs: "Well-designed partnership between government agencies and religious bodies which can, at least in theory, unleash the underutilized compassionate energy of religious civil society," as Clintonite and Harvard Professor Mary Jo Bane has written. Hillary sang the praises of faith-based initiatives early on in this campaign.

Faith-based initiatives are not at the root of religious politics; they are an outgrowth of them. Of all the bizarre rituals that are followed by politicians and no one else—seizing infants from strangers and posing for pictures with them, taking camera crews on hunting trips—probably the most alien is church tourism. Presidential candidates are expected to visit, glad-hand, and even make sermons in churches all over the country they're itching to rule. "The presence of Democrats in black churches right before elections has nothing to do with religion," says Amy Sullivan, an editor at Time and the author of a book (The Party Faithful) about Democrats and religion. "They just see churches as a convenient way to reach a big number of black voters at one time." But Democrats do pay back these congregations and their leaders when they get into office, in the form of careful federal aid and in the form of access. Just ask Lewinsky-era White House guest Jeremiah Wright.

This is a strange bargain between the candidates and the country. Up to now, no one has demanded that a candidate renounce his pastor as the punditocracy suggested Obama do. No one demanded it of George W. Bush, no one demands it of Hillary Clinton, and no one demands it of John McCain. But it is expected that Clinton and McCain, like Bush, will sweep into countless churches without ever asking what their pastors say. They will go to some churches, like Rod Parsley's World Harvest Church or John Hagee's Cornerstone Church, where the pastors are on the record demanding "the false religion" of Islam be "destroyed," or that New Orleans was pummeled by hurricanes because "it had a level of sin that was offensive to God." McCain's occasional criticism of religious right leaders did not prevent him from going to Liberty University and asking Falwell and his students to support the war in Iraq. But if McCain's experience so far is a guide, all the candidates will have to do is disagree with the bad stuff and they'll get a free pass to campaign.

Why is that? Why is Barack Obama's 20-year fellowship a mark on his character but the drive-by and politically motivated fellowship of every presidential candidate simply expected? I understand the argument that Obama might have been influenced by Wright in the pews. I understand it and I don't buy it. The candidate has had 12 years in government to demonstrate his Wright-inspired AIDS conspiracism or race hatred, and he hasn't done anything of the kind. The only possible conclusion is that he disagrees with Wright's occasional outbursts. After the senator's "More Perfect Union," former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson argued that the fair-weather support of Republicans for Jerry Falwell was excusable in a way Obama's relationship was not, because those Republicans "didn't financially support [Falwell] and sit directly under his teaching for decades."

That's a red herring. Republicans, led by George Bush, gave Falwell political access: visits to the White House, jobs for Liberty University graduates, actions that amplified his voice and strengthened the bonds between church and state. The financial aid that Obama gave Wright was a part of his private faith. The attention lavished on Falwell, one among many religious-cum-political leaders who built bonds with the Bush White House, had a public effect on who sits on federal benches, on which charitable organizations get taxpayer cash, and on how much credibility we give to ideas like abstinence education.

The furor over Obama's church is the result of a blurring of the lines between faith and politics. "What this reveals," says Amy Sullivan, "is that we've really gotten warped in last 20 to 30 years in so closely linking politics and religion and assuming somebody who's your spiritual leader is your advisor as well. If everybody quit when their pastor gave a sermon that offended them, no one would stay in the same church." The stakes for "everybody" are not so high, though. You quit a church, and that's one less donation per week and one less pair of hands to clean up after a fellowship dinner. You are not trying to butress the bridge between religion and government.

Pastors do offend people. Pastors have a complicated relationship with their parishioners. That relationship should be private, and even though Obama was a bit player in the great "warping" that Sullivan talks about, and even though his relationship with Trinity United started with realpolitik, I feel for him here. Every candidate for this office for 30 years has been playing a game with religion. He shouldn't be the only one who loses.

David Weigel is an associate editor of reason.

NEXT: Big 'n' Richardson

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  1. John Hagee recently confessed to the New York Times that McCain aggressively sought an endorsement from him.

    I’m sure Episarch will be here soon to condemn and attack John McCain for his approval and acceptance of Hagee and his disgusting beliefs/statements.

  2. What amazes me about the Obama church flap is that people would still rather vote for a guy who goes to a wacko church than an atheist…

  3. So Reason is bending over backward to make excuses for Obama- the same Reason that ginned up a lynch mob after Ron Paul. hmmmmmmm

  4. dw, you really don’t see the difference between (say) bush or mccain dropping into a questionable congregation and obama being a 20 year faithful member? between bill’n’hill (say) making an appearance at al sharpton’s church and obama having wright marry him, baptize his kids, and dedicating his book to him?

    how does the kool-aid taste?

    (not that any of the invisible guy stuff really matters, it’s just your odd double standard)

  5. edna, so being an opportunistic phony is how much better than regularly attending a church where the pastor holds objectionable and radical views?

  6. As a practicing atheist, I don’t understand how any intelligent politician can cling to any of the world’s “great” religions. But they do, and so do an ungodly number of Americans. I suppose I could make what I regard as irrational views about deities and miracles and the insanities of Leviticus a litmus test for who to support for Leader of the Free World….and I would end up with no choice at all.

    What I DO know is that Barack Obama is who he says he is, not who his pastor is. And I do know that the speech he gave on race–an actual coherent, nuanced argument, rather than a collection of sound-bites–was something completely different in American politics, a straight-forward critique of liberal racism (like one that America’s First Black President could have given, had he had the courage.) And I do know that I am tired of the holier-than-thou advice of those who expect Obama to turn his back on an individual with whom he obviously has a complicated personal relationship, that obviously transcends his short-term political interest. To dump the guy who married you and baptized your kids would truly be like disowning a family member for political gain.

    Obama’s election will put liberal racists like Al Sharpton and the cast of thousands of diversity trainers, minority contractors and others of their ilk out of business. As a libertarian Democrat who wants to rid my party of identity politics, I look forward to an Obama presidency.

  7. As a practicing atheist

    How the hell can one be a “practicing” athiest, where the core belief is that there isn’t anything to practice to begin with?

    What I DO know is that Barack Obama is who he says he is, not who his pastor is.

    How? Because he says so?

    And I do know that the speech he gave on race–an actual coherent, nuanced argument, rather than a collection of sound-bites–was something completely different in American politics, a straight-forward critique of liberal racism

    Or, it could just be a dodge, trying to deflect him from the same standard that a white guy would be held to. If you buy his speech so totally, you want Ferraro back on Hillary’s campaign with an apology for making it a big deal? No? Then you’re holding a double standard.

  8. Dodge? That speech was no dodge.

    It was probably the least dodgy statement I’ve ever seen a politician give.

    I don’t think you’ve seen it.

  9. Obama’s election will put liberal racists like Al Sharpton and the cast of thousands of diversity trainers, minority contractors and others of their ilk out of business.

    I would like to believe you’re right about that, but I don’t.

  10. First polling on the impact of the speech and issue:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/MARB-ObamaCallback.pdf

  11. and I still maintain that he will drop out before the convention. The dogs are on the scent and they won’t stop till they have him. There are new “revelations” about Obama and other questionable folks everyday now. The jaded eye of the american voter became a magnifying glass. That has now become a microscope. Love him or hate him or just don’t care. I predict that he is finished.

  12. joe,
    thanks for the link. The numbers most significant i think are the 15 point drop in his ability to unite

  13. …all the way down to 53.

    A day after the worse week of his campaign.

  14. and I still maintain that he will drop out before the convention.

    I dunno about that.

    At this point — Clinton has no realistic way to take the lead in pledged delegates — the only way to win the nomination is by coup via super-delegate…and that would cause a civil war within the Dem party.

    Check out the Politicos report here

    This may be an indication of the type of press Hillary will be getting in the near future

  15. See, I thought the most important bits were:

    1. More likely to vote for him/less likely/no difference:

    14 – 14 – 70. Little movement, evenly split between more and less.

    2. Approve of the speech: 73% Democrats, 30-something% Republicans, 63% Independents. They’re breaking with the Democrats.

  16. If this was going to make him collapse, we’d be seeing that by now, and we aren’t.

    It might dog him long term, brotherben, but as a campaign-ender, it didn’t work.

  17. Adding…

    I also just saw an article (looking for the link) that showed Obama closing the gap nationally vs. Clinton…

    and another one that says her campaign is in teh Red (based on FEC filings) and this might hurt her ability to attract super-delegates

  18. @brotherben

    The numbers most significant i think are the 15 point drop in his ability to unite

    Actually, the most significant numbers in the poll were these:

    Interviews were conducted among 542 registered voters by telephone on March 20,
    2008.

    Rarely if ever do I see a poll with that small of a sample provide an accurate representation of opinion. As a rule of thumb, I ignore any national poll with a sample size under 1200.

  19. “and so do an ungodly number of Americans”

    Just curious. What exactly does that phrase mean to a “practising atheist?”

  20. People don’t want to vote for an atheist in part because some of the most destructive regimes of the 20th century were officially atheist and often pursued policies to that end. Think Soviet Union, Red China, and a few others. I say this as an agnostic who doesn’t agree with the anti-atheist sentiment, but I’m pointing out one reason atheism isn’t that popular.

  21. Pig Mannix | March 21, 2008, 6:34pm | #

    As a rule of thumb, I ignore any national poll with a sample size under 1200.

    Scientifically, a survey of 400 to 500 people is just as accurate as a survey of 1200.


  22. It was probably the least dodgy statement I’ve ever seen a politician give.

    I don’t think you’ve seen it.

    joe, if I hadn’t taken a vow to try to get through an entire week without calling you a moronic fuckwit, I’d definitely apply that now.

    If you’d stop drinking the cool aid and trying so hard to show your lack of intelligence, what I’ve been saying is BO wants us to hold him to a different standard than everyone else, because he’s black, presumably. He dodges the issue of his pastor by trying to refocus the discussion on race. What he had to say was maybe good, maybe bad, maybe somewhat idealistic, but it was an attempt by a politician to refocus a discussion away from him.

    I know you love that he’s black, at least half, you hate yourself as some whiny liberal white guy from mAssaChewShits (hey, I’m with you on that one) and you hate Caucasians as an extension of yourself. You’re an idiot, yes, all that is quite public knowledge. However, how the hell can you justify a different standard based simply on race? What possible thought process causes you to think that it’s logical and morally right to excuse in BO what you would mercilessly attack in a white nonliberal candidate?

    Please don’t pull out some crap about the pastor not being a racist, just answer, should there be two standards based simply on race or not? If not, then where are you posting your personal apology for scourging white political non-liberal politicians?

    If so, and you honestly believe that there should be two standards based on race, then it shall be quite humorous to hear your justification for that.

  23. “and so do an ungodly number of Americans”

    Just curious. What exactly does that phrase mean to a “practising atheist?”

    To take a stab at both (being myself a “practicing” Atheist):

    The first means pretty much what it means to everyone else; it’s a common English turn-of-phrase, though it is also possible that the poster was being consciously cheeky.

    To be a practicing Atheist, as I understand it, is to live one’s life as if God does not exist (and all the attendant changes to worldview, behavior, metaethics, etc. that may or may not entail). Beyond that, much like any other religion, the effects of “being an Atheist” on the person who holds those beliefs vary widely.

  24. Apart from the “opposition to ‘middleclassness'” portion, the Black values system for Obama’s church sounds like a bunch of the generally dippy bullcrap from people who can’t understand why people might actually want to live their own lives rather than have everything be within the “community”.

  25. economist,

    Oh, great, now that you’ve made that comment we’ll have to listen to explanations about how the Communists weren’t True Scotsmen, uh, I mean atheists.

  26. Scotsmen couldn’t be athiest. It takes God’s help to distill whiskey that damn good.

  27. Obama’s problem here is not just a “questionable connection” to an “extremist religious leader.” First, it’s a very strong connection, far stronger than McCain/Hagee, etc. Second, the extremism is a lot more extreme, because the black liberation theology expounded by Wright is explicitly race-based and, to some large degree, Marxist.

    Perhaps most damning, though, is that the beliefs of Obama’s chosen church are directly at odds with his earlier, vague message of post-racial unity. There’s nothing unifying about a “black value system,” or AIDS conspiracy theories, etc. Obama’s mask has slipped, and he’s attempting an impossible straddle: belatedly decrying Wright’s “controversial” statements, while refusing to reject Wright wholesale.

  28. Scientifically, a survey of 400 to 500 people is just as accurate as a survey of 1200.

    All things being equal, maybe. But as a practical matter, no. You have to consider that a national poll is going to have to account for differences in regional attitudes, cultural differences, economic situation, etc. A smaller sample is less likely to contain broad enough representation from all those various demographics.

    I didn’t just pull that number out of my ass, I got it by following polls for a long, long time, and observing the differences between polls with larger samples and smaller samples, and comparing the various polls against actual election results. Do some of your own comparisons, and you tell me.

  29. If so, and you honestly believe that there should be two standards based on race,

    Wait, where is ther a double standard?

    the Black values system for Obama’s church sounds like a bunch of the generally dippy bullcrap from people who can’t understand why people might actually want to live their own lives rather than have everything be within the “community”.

    I agree, but I don’t know why you excepted the “middleclassness” part. I don’t know why Wright’s church seems to think everyone you grow up around has to look like you.

  30. “Second, the extremism is a lot more extreme, because the black liberation theology expounded by Wright is explicitly race-based and, to some large degree, Marxist.”

    I dunno if that makes it more extreme than Hagee’s. He is jonesing for the end of the world after all.

  31. Indeed, what belief system could be more “extreme” than biblical literalism?

  32. I’m sure Episarch will be here soon to condemn and attack John McCain for his approval and acceptance of Hagee and his disgusting beliefs/statements.

    Sorry, was driving home from work when this got put up.

    McCain is a fucking asshole. There is little he can do to make me think worse of him. This does it, a little.

    To me, McCain is so obviously a hypocritical asshole that I assume everyone else must see it too. However, with Obama, people don’t seem to.

    But I have a feeling that anyone complaining that I pick on Obama but not McCain is just upset that his hero is getting picked on.

  33. So, Other Matt, just out of curiosity – have you seen, heard, or read the transcript of Obama’s speech?

  34. Episiarch:
    I don’t have a dog in this hunt, but whose pastor problems would you say are worse? McCain’s or Obama’s?

    Would you say Obama is worse for staying with his pastor after his pastor’s statements? Or would you say McCain is worse for cozying up to one (or two counting Jerry Falwell) when he had no intention of ever having any connection beyond the momentary political one?

    Does the difference in the statements that the pastors made matter? Was there any difference in the ugliness of their statements in the first place?

  35. I am constrained to defend Senator Obama and Reverend Wright.

    Fifty four years after Topeka Board of Education vs whomever, when we talk about failing schools we invariably are talking about inner city schools serving African Americans.

    Forty some odd years after Gideon and Miranda if we are talking about police abuse we are still talking about African American men being abused.

    Forty years after we declared war on poverty we are still talking about an irreducible and persistent underclass made up of African Americans.

    Look at the rates of enlistment in our armed forces, people working for our municipal governments, people caring for us in hospital and nursing homes and you will see a highly disproportionate number of African Americans.

    African Americans have paid and continue to pay their dues to America. Yet America continues to deny them entrance to the club.

    Barak Obama advocates a way to make that right.
    He is a post racial candidate because he does it without challenging white people’s assumptions or status.

    Unlike nearly other political leader, Senator Obama not only knows what is wrong, he knows how to make it right.

  36. Ahhh – Hagee/Falwell/Dobson and the ilk — all rapt in anticipation of total world war and Armageddon, therefore the “return” of Jesus where he stabs out all the non-believers guts?

    Or a whacked out ex-Marine with intense racial animosity?

    Has politics come to this shabby end?

    Probably so, as Fox News would capture it.

    These statements matter a lot to the idiots who care – the 20% in the “center” who have no inkling anyway.

  37. economist:

    I doubt that is the reason most people distrust or hold an irrational/vehement hatred against atheists. Most of the dumbass American population today couldn’t tell you who Pol Pot was or how well Hitler used religion to manipulate those around him. I doubt they could tell the difference between fascist Stalinism and Marxist communism. Considering the pathetic lack of historical knowledge most people are prone to, I truly doubt that is the reason. It probably has something to do with parental and societal indoctrination into believing a two-to-three-thousand-year-old book written by Middle Eastern shepherds.

  38. Other Matt, that was an awfully long-winded way to say “No, I haven’t seen it.”

    Sorry it hurt you feelings so much that I pointed that out. Oh, no, wait…no, I’m not.

  39. …you hate Caucasians as an extension of yourself.

    Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

  40. Obama is our Savior! Obama and Reverd Wright are RIGHT! God D*** america. Obama will apologize to our Muslim brothers for an arrogant america. Let us choose now to rally around Barak and Michelle and make them proud. No more so called “elections” which your “typical white person” votes for clinton. They are racists!

  41. Obama has funny ears.

  42. At this poit, it’s difficult to find anyone denouncing Obama who doesn’t lapse into language like “I know you love that he’s black, at least half, you hate yourself as some whiny liberal white guy from mAssaChewShits (hey, I’m with you on that one) and you hate Caucasians as an extension of yourself,” or “Obama will apologize to our Muslim brothers.”

    There is a large body of Americans who passionately want unity and healing, and a smaller but loud segment who are always going to work to whip up fights over race.

  43. God damn America is right!

    Of course, “Gawd” is no more, Manifest Destiny is a sham for Hannity-fags to hold on to, and Darwinism and supply and demand are twisty-fun currency games for Jap carry-traders……

    Obama is a dose of reality. The Bushnecks will have to adjust out of their Creationist-type fantasy.

  44. Perhaps most damning, though, is that the beliefs of Obama’s chosen church are directly at odds with his earlier, vague message of post-racial unity. There’s nothing unifying about a “black value system,” or AIDS conspiracy theories, etc. Obama’s mask has slipped

    Indeed, and Obama’s choice of a spouse, the resentful, race-obessed Michelle, says as much about him as his choice of church.

  45. Re: “and so do an ungodly number of Americans”
    Just curious. What exactly does that phrase mean to a “practising atheist?”

    And Elemenope’s comments: “To take a stab at both (being myself a ‘practicing’ Atheist):
    The first means pretty much what it means to everyone else; it’s a common English turn-of-phrase, though it is also possible that the poster was being consciously cheeky.
    To be a practicing Atheist, as I understand it, is to live one’s life as if God does not exist (and all the attendant changes to worldview, behavior, metaethics, etc. that may or may not entail). Beyond that, much like any other religion, the effects of ‘being an Atheist’ on the person who holds those beliefs vary widely.”

    Thank you, Elemenope. Pretty much correct on both. I certainly was trying to be humorous with “ungodly,” and I am actually one of those atheists who calls himself a non-theistic “secular humanist,” the bete noire of the religious right since the former California Supt. of Public Instruction, Max Rafferty, began alluding to “secular humanists” in the late 1960’s (a term that comes from The Humanist Manifesto of 1933, and which means we derive our ethical beliefs from the interrelationships of humans, instead of a relationship to some phantom in the sky.)

    My world view: “We are a randomly programmed occurence in an infinite set of possibilites.”

    My ethical system: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

    A total of 21 words, a few million words shorter than the Old Testrament, New Testament, Quran and Book of Mormon and other “sacred” texts–and a lot less open to the many interpretations that have created so much hell on earth in the past few millenia.

  46. green mamba: Yes, and it’s amazing to me that so many supposed libertarians are having a hard time figuring this guy out. On one side there’s his lefty mother, a communist mentor whose name escapes me (Frank something), lefty “neighborhood organizing,” a wacko and angry separatist lefty spiritual leader, an angry lefty wife, lefty voting record with barely a hint of bipartisan unity, regular shots at the free market, membership in the notorious Chicago Democratic political machine, a commitment to appoint Supreme Court justices who automatically take the side of the poor and minorities, proposals to vastly increase federal taxes, spending, and regulation. On the other side, we have some nice words about “bringing us together,” etc. etc. Other than some words, what in the world makes this guy appealing to any libertarian?.

  47. People don’t want to vote for an atheist in part because some of the most destructive regimes of the 20th century were officially atheist and often pursued policies to that end.

    The ultimate red herring. Stalin and Mao were atheists (Hitler emphatically was not), but they did not do what they did out of atheism. In fact, they built their respective power bases on dogmatisms as irrational and untenable as any religion.
    As Sam Harris said, there has never been a society in history that suffered due to an excess of reason.

  48. Other than some words, what in the world makes this guy appealing to any libertarian?

    It’s not that he’s all that appealing – he just doesn’t trigger my vomit reflex as quickly as the other two viable contenders…..

  49. Other than some words, what in the world makes this guy appealing to any libertarian?

    7 years of Bush?

  50. Not that I expect anything especially good from him. But I do prefer him to the other two abominable options.

  51. Jim Walsh, the atheists I’ve met haven’t been any more reasonable in the aggregate than the Christians I’ve met.

    Frankly, most of them have seemed more angry at God or their church or the religious people who picked on them at school than paragons of reason.

  52. I’ve got the popcorn. Am I late?

  53. Rhywun, if you don’t have the beer to go with the popcorn, then, yes you are. By the way, I got a huge fucking grant today, thanks very much. Tenure here I come.

  54. SWDWTLHJ,
    Man o man, what proposal did you write to get THAT type of grant?

  55. jpok | March 21, 2008, 9:18pm | #
    Not that I expect anything especially good from him. But I do prefer him to the other two abominable options.

    Yeah, I second that.

    I mean I’ll probably vote third party. (Depending on who McCain chooses as a running mate).

    But of the three, Obama seems the least worst.

  56. If it’s close, defeating the guy who wants to invade Iran needs to take top priority.

  57. It’s a summer gifted ed program. Over a million, for a non-largey type school. It’s not really that big a deal; we were the only institution that was financially competitive as far as hosting the program goes.

    I do feel a little “non-libertarian” for taking the money, but (and I realize that this is just a rationalization) the grant was going to be awarded to someone regardless. I am accepting government money, and I won’t be embezzling any of it, though, so that does make me feel a bit guilty. So I’m drinking!

  58. kwais: I’ve always thought, regardless of libertarian purity (which I can’t see that any of them have), that honesty or telling those on your side of the aisle that they suck counts for something in a politician. By that reckoning, I have a bit of a soft spot for both Obama and McCain.

    Not enough to actually go vote, or even if I were convinced to, to vote major party, but still…

    The ellipsis is the sign of a weak mind

    paraphrase of someone or another on this goddamn blog

  59. Congrats on the grant. Nice work sir.

  60. An excuse to all my friends:

    For a magazine called “reason,” you all certainly have a lot of non-angry articles about Reverend Wright!

    CHEERS!

  61. brotherben:
    Thanks! :oD

  62. Leaving aside whether the totalitarian atrocities of Communism actually stemmed from their atheism per se — and I think generally they did not, except in any cases where Communist regimes specifically targeted religious institutions or clergy — I think much of the American public’s distrust of atheism is linked to atheism association with Communist totalitarianism. “Godless Communists” is pretty much an established rhetorical cliche.

    I also think that for Americans who are old enough to remember her, the most visible figure of American atheism in late 20th century America was Madelyn Murray O’Hair, a rather combative, disagreeable, and unpleasant woman who did not exactly radiate “reasonableness.”

    More recently, the most visible and recognizable spokesman for atheism is Richard Dawkins, who comes across as intelligent and well-educated, but also openly contemptuous of the majority of the population, and therefore arrogant and sometimes snotty and unpleasant.

    Most atheists are quiet, tolerant, live-and-let-live people, but over the past lifetime or two the best-known and most visible embodiments of atheism have generally been pretty poor posterboys for building any kind of cultural movement.

  63. Stevo: who did not exactly radiate “reasonableness.”

    I’m using that as yet another excuse. You obviously didn’t intend it this way, but … DRINK!

  64. Obama’s speech, minus the collectivism and the liberal slap at free trade, was actually good. He basically said, “I disagree with my pastor, who has said some very outlandish things. I sympathize with everyone, the whites and blacks. Now let’s stop looking at races altogether, like, all the time.”

    Too bad his pro-affirmative action (and, even worse, comparable worth) voting record and previous comments says the exact opposite of what he said when delivering the speech.

    Sigh.

    There is a large body of Americans who passionately want unity and healing, and a smaller but loud segment who are always going to work to whip up fights over race.

    Ironically, these fights are against the affirmative action crowd (those using race as an issue ), and that crowd completely distorts how much racism there really is in America, saying that it’s rampant. And to that, their opponents say that there isn’t much racism, and blah blah blah it’s just one big convoluted mess.

    Yeah, the people who bring race into this are definitely a problem, but there’s still the “America is still deeply racist” crowd of people who think they’re of an elite few with the common sense of a doornail, and they’re just as annoying and arguably even dumber– there are probably more cases with people favoring Obama because he is black than people opposing him because he is black. The big problem is that none of them will shut up, and they just trigger each other.

  65. Wait, ignore the last paragraph because the “America is still deeply racist” crowd falls into the subset of people who “whip up fights over race.”

  66. To summarize, it’s a well-documented fact that the most vocal people among us are often not the most reasonable. I don’t feel like writing an essay on how this seems to go double for the leadership of “the Black community” since the end of the Civil Rights era, but I will say people like Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint seem to get slightly less attention than Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and I think Rev. Wright is part of the same tradition.
    Whether Obama gets the nomination or not, there is a golden opportunity here for African-Americans to turn the mirrors in on ourselves.

  67. Umm, dude, he active sought out and chose to attend a racist church for 20 years.

    You just can’t beat that.

  68. ? Que? “Can’t beat that”?

  69. #69???

    /kicks pebble

  70. Umm, dude, he active sought out and chose to attend a racist church for 20 years.

    Uh, yeah, those 28 seconds of edited video sure puts you in an excellent position to tell us about that church.

  71. joe – that d00d obviously falls in the 14% who’s still against the big O.

  72. Has anyone else bothered to watch the entire “God Damn America” sermon on You Tube?

    It’s a sermon titled “God and Government,” about how God is eternal and good, while governments change and often screw us.

    Not a bad sermon, actually.

  73. And props to Fluffy, who was able to keep his head and see through the fear- and race-mongering as soon as the hatchet-job video came out.

  74. “should there be two standards based simply on race or not?”

    Wasn’t Weigel’s argument that Obama is being treated worse than other politicians? If so, the application of a uniform standard would inure to the benefit of Obama (unless, of course, the uniform standard was to hold politicians accountable for their pastor’s words in which case all would be heavily criticized).

  75. Of course, to the individual who posed that question, the idea that a black person could be treated worse than a white person isn’t possible. It’s white people, and only white people, who have legitimate beefs about racial injustice.

    And if you think otherwise, that’s because you hate white people.

  76. cill the landlord?

  77. “Uh, yeah, those 28 seconds of edited video sure puts you in an excellent position to tell us about that church.”

    No, I can read their website and know of Black Liberation Theology.

    There’s no difference between a black ethnic nationalist church and a white ethnic nationalist church.

    But keep spinning those wheels.

  78. “I know you love that he’s black, at least half, you hate yourself as some whiny liberal white guy from mAssaChewShits…”

    Fuck me, joe’s turning into LoneWacko.

  79. How the hell can one be a “practicing” athiest, where the core belief is that there isn’t anything to practice to begin with?

    A practicing atheist just mentions that he is one when a theist brings up religion. No shame, no feigned superiority, just a statement like “I’m an atheist, gods don’t matter to me”.

  80. There’s no difference between a black ethnic nationalist church and a white ethnic nationalist church.

    Sure, dood. Whatever you say. Who needs a passing familiarity with history, when you’ve got simplistic semantic parallels?

    People who talk about their culture – not their Irish heritage, not their American heritage, their “white heritage” – are exactly like people who talk about their black heritage. Exactly.

  81. I’m just judging individuals by the same standard. Obama’s a half-white guy, raised comfortably in Hawaii, who then chose a church that’s racialistic to the core.

    “Who needs a passing familiarity with history, when you’ve got simplistic semantic parallels?”

    “People who talk about their culture – not their Irish heritage, not their American heritage, their “white heritage” – are exactly like people who talk about their black heritage. Exactly.”

    Do you normally contradict yourself in the space of two sentences?

    Black Liberation Theology, which is the basis of the Trinity Church (and they and Wright are open about this), is an entirely different animal. It’s a recent product, laced with all the worst tendencies of the Black Power political movement of the late 1960s.

    In that respect, a Black Liberation theologician and David Duke would understand each other real well, even if one rails against whitey, and the other the ZOG. Since you’re a guy who supposedly loves history, think the original Black Panthers.

    But just admit it, you don’t want to know any of that. You’ve aleady picked your side.

  82. I’ve read over the black liberation theology sveral times. The percieved seperatism is a problem for me but here’s the deal.
    We white folks like to criticize the blacks about dropout rates, unwed pregnancy rates, school performance, high crime rates etc. So this church has the nerve to organize a community “theology” that is trying to raise awareness of all those things to change the black community in socially responsible ways. Our reply is,” that’s racist of them.
    They seem to be addressing the problems from within. Are the roots of the theology questionable? yes. Is the rev a bit looney in his sermons? Yes, in my opinion. Does our history give him justification for some of his paranoia? absolutely.
    Senator and Mrs. Obama have resumes full of community project work. Maybe this church is the most involved in the black community in Chicago. Good on them.

    But the fact remains that their willingness to ignore what many percieve as racist, america hating, delusional ranting from the rev Wright for 17 years is not compatible with the office senator Obama seeks. Already we are seeing stories about other preachers with a similar message, and new black panther endorsements and ties to Rezko and associates. In our political climate, it doesn’t take much more than the appearance of corruption to force someone out. The advantage that Hillary has is the dirty laundry was all aired in a more forgiving time.

  83. Has John McCain’s pastor–not Hagee or Parsley, but the pastor of whatever church congregation McCain regularly attends–weighed in on this yet?

    Does McCain regularly attend worship services? If so, where?

    Who married John McCain to the adultress who broke up his first marriage–a woman who now aspires to be First Lady?

    Did Hillary Clinton object to the Rev. Wright being invited to the White House–then her home–during the Lewinsky scandal?

  84. I’m just judging individuals by the same standard.

    No, you’re not. You’re pretending that a racial identity made up for the purpose of racial politics – “white identity” – is the equivalent of an actual socio-ethnic group that is exists prior to and outside of politicals – black identity.

    If you were judging by the same standard, you would compare it to people who go to explicitly Greek or Hispanic churches.

  85. But just admit it, you don’t want to know any of that. Actually, I knew all of that already, and didn’t let political web sites feed me a spin-doctor version of it three days ago and then pose an expert.

    I’m just not as terrified of black people as you’d like me to be. sorry.

    You’ve aleady picked your side. Sure, like you haven’t.

  86. BLT is a racial identity made up for the purpose of racial politics, you genius. I have less reason to “fear” it than black Americans themselves, who have been overwhelmingly the victims of such hateful nonsense spread as salvation.

    And for the record, I don’t think McCain, Clinton, or Obama are good for the United States, so I’m not on anyone’s side in this campaign.

    The bottom line, however, is that Obama chose to go to a racialist church that specializes in crafting conspiracy theory scape-goats, and then attempted to lecture others on post-racial identity.

    You can continue to chew on that cognitive dissonance for a while.

  87. BLT is a racial identity made up for the purpose of racial politics, you genius.

    No, black liberation theology is not a racial identity. Black is a racial identity, as well as being an ethnic and religious identity. Black liberation theology is a religious and political program which incorporate that pre-existing ethnic and racial identity.

    If you can’t even keep that straight, what makes you think you are in a position to lecture about this?

  88. Whoops, strike “religous identity” in that first sentence.

    typo

  89. Sure do wish Heathcliff Huxtable would weigh in on this black liberation theology. Much of it reads as a response to his exhortations to the black community.

  90. What if you taught the black value system, substituting “community” for black, to the disenfranchised and less fortunate in this country. You put emphasis on self reliance and self worth. Could you develop independence in the community that would result in less desire and therefore less necessity for social entitlements? This could result in smaller government by attacking the problem at the root. It would strengthen the economy over the long run.
    If you can foster an ethic of personal responsibility in the lower class of all races, you can have real footing to fight the knob heads that want to babysit society, resulting in wholesale repeal of nanny state laws.

    Damn you dirty bastages for getting me to think something through to a point that it makes real sense.

  91. robert chapman,

    All true, I’m sure. But are those problems because of racism? Why don’t Asian minorities have those problems?

  92. Strang man ! I don’t know him ! What’s the matter ?

  93. brotherben, I had attempted to bring up similar points. I’ve always thought some of the most vocal leadership in the “African-American community” focused too much on racial demagoguery, but the reason there are 5 percenters and NOI is because a lot of poor people want to hear something positive about “community” and “self-reliance.”
    These are the things Cosby talks about, too, just without radical trappings.

  94. I am really nostalgic for Reagan now, not because I think he was a great president, but because he hardly ever went to church…

  95. Let’s not forget that, when Wright made the “chickens coming home to roost” comments, he was *quoting* Ambassador Peck (a white man) who said those words on Fox News. How can you judge a man’s entire career – and worse, the character of one of his congregants – based on a few sound bites that have been taken out of context?

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