Blogs > Cliopatria > Jeremiah

Mar 17, 2008 1:29 am


Mr. Luker, an Atlanta historian, was co-editor of the first two volumes of The Papers of Martin Luther King. He is preparing a critical edition of the Vernon Johns Papers,"The Man Who Started Freedom": The Essays, Sermons and Speeches of Vernon Johns, for publication. He is the founder of the HNN blog, Cliopatria..

The Almighty God himself is not the only, not the, not the God just standing out saying through Hosea,"I love you, Israel." He's also the God that stands up before the nations and said:"Be still and know that I'm God, (Yeah) that if you don't obey me I will break the backbone of your power, (Yeah) and slap you out of the orbits of your international and national relationships." (That's right)

Those words from a jeremiad sound like something by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. He's much quoted this weekend as having said:"God damn America." But the first quotation comes – not from Wright, but from Martin Luther King's first address to the Montgomery Improvement Association on 5 December 1955. Both African American preachers understand prophetic biblical preaching far better than those who feign shock at and condemn Jeremiah Wright's words.

Critics of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright never cared that for 36 years he labored to build a community of redemption on Chicago's Southside. They didn't notice that his congregation had become the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ, a denomination rooted in the traditions of Puritan New England. They wouldn't care that it claimed to be"Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian." Wright's words become significant for them only as a means of damaging Wright's most prominent parishioner, Barack Obama.

But Wright's and Obama's critics are too far removed from biblical study to recognize that Jeremiah Wright is following in the footpath of the biblical prophet, Jeremiah, whose oracles read the sufferings of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah as punishment for their failure to live up to their covenant with God. To be in covenant with God, to be"under God," is to be blessed by the divine when we are faithful. But woe betide us when we have failed"to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God."

Jeremiah Wright would take his first name very seriously. After all, he's the son of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Sr., who was for 62 years the pastor of Philadelphia's Grace Baptist Church. From 1959 to 1961, young Wright attended the Afro-Baptists' Virginia Union University in Richmond. There, he would have known Vernon Johns, who had recently left the pulpit of Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and had been appearing to preach regularly at Virginia Union for thirty years. An anonymous source claims that

The first time I heard of a sermon preached about"G-d Damn America" it was given by Vernon Johns, the preacher at Ebineezer Baptist church just before MLK was hired as their preacher, this was back in the '60s. I suppose old Vernon had every right to preach that sermon back then.

I wish I had a copy of Vernon Johns's"G-d Damn America" sermon. It sounds like him and it would help to flesh out what we know about Vernon Johns.

The prophet, Jeremiah, Vernon Johns, and Jeremiah Wright often spoke truth to power in ways that would be awkward for public relations specialists. Wright's 36 years at Trinity United Church of Christ has been a far more stable career than Vernon Johns ever had. Johns was driven out of every pulpit he ever held and, twice, subsequently rehired into them. But Jeremiah had to resign from the Spiritual Advisory committee of King Josiah. A prophet never sits at ease in Zion.

So, the chicken-hawks at The Corner can cackle and crow about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., all they want. Unlike them, he is a decorated veteran of the United States Marines, with three Presidential Commendations from Lyndon Johnson."G-d damn, America," indeed. It should have more men like him. And, if Vernon Johns and Jeremiah Wright can be dismissed as crazy uncles, who sometimes say things that don't bear scrutiny, let the movement and Barack Obama be judged by their successors. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery hired Martin Luther King, Jr., to replace Vernon Johns. Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has hired Otis Moss, III, to replace Jeremiah Wright. Moss's father was a leader of the youth movement in Atlanta in the late 1950s and, after MLK's death, was co-pastor with Daddy King of the city's Ebenezer Baptist Church.

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Ralph E. Luker - 3/24/2008

but you forgot the part about my kinship to Adolph Hitler, Goebbels, etc., building concentration camps, and being cruel to little children.

Joseph Mutik - 3/24/2008

The writer of the above article used all the known arsenal to defend a racist preacher and a sleazy lawyer who condones the preacher's view. Barak Obama is a brilliant human being and he should have known better!
The author of the article is part of an extremist propaganda machine which has the hatred of Jews as an integral part of it, using anti-Zionism as the new form of hatred but in essence has the same racist meaning, denying the Jewish nation the basic rights every other nation on this earth can have.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2008

You've amused my Jewish friends and relatives quite enough.

Joseph Mutik - 3/23/2008

You are in no position to give me any kind of lessons. Goebbels was a very well educated German who joined the Jew hating crowd of his time you are a very well educated American who joined the Jew hating crowd of our time. Enjoy your extremist propaganda!

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2008

You've made a joke of yourself.

Joseph Mutik - 3/23/2008

Go celebrate your Hitler/Goebbels day and enjoy their heritage!

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2008

You damage your cause with the extremity of your accusations. Zionism needs a better defense that your excess can manage.

Joseph Mutik - 3/23/2008

You are a perversion of human decency and you have the chutzpa to talk about "being a responsible human being".
We are close to Passover so go promote your blood libel, go help the building of the next extermination camps for the Jews!
You are a promoter of racism and hatred and in no position to judge what is good or bad for Judaism.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2008

There are many honorable people who believe that, embodying itself as a nation in the midst of hostile neighbors on all sides, Israel is a form of late colonialism and an abandonment of Judaism's historic witness to the other nations of the earth.

Joseph Mutik - 3/23/2008

If some Americans are anti-Americans it doesn't make anti-Americanism right. Anti-Zionism is the modern form of Anti-Jewish-phobia.
More than 95% of the Jewish nation (from inside and outside Israel) is Zionist.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2008

Anti-Zionism isn't anti-semitism, as many anti-Zionist and non-Zionist Jews have indicated. Does anyone care who you will vote for?

Joseph Mutik - 3/23/2008

Anti-Zionism is HATRED of JEWS. PERIOD(.)
McCain relation with Hagee is strictly a temporary political one not a 20 years quietly condoning Hagee's sermons.
For the record, I'll vote Hillary if she is the candidate and I'll vote McCain if Obama is the candidate.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2008

Wright is an anti-Zionist. That doesn't make him a hater of Jews. Perhaps you prefer John McCain's John Hagree who is pro-Zionist, but believes that Jews must and inevitably will become Christians.

Joseph Mutik - 3/23/2008

All the time the discussion was about Jeremiah Wright. About Obama I said that he condoned Wright message for 20 years. Obama kept quiet for 20 years and only when the politics forced him he said something about his pastor's hateful sermons.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/22/2008

Show me where Barack Obama has endorsed Farrakhan. At most, you've got a guilt by association argument and Obama has repudiated the offensive views of both Jeremiah Wright and Farrakhan. You need to get over it.

Joseph Mutik - 3/22/2008

I wouldn't continue this conversation.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/22/2008

Mr. Mutik, You made a specific accusation -- without offering any evidence. I made no claims about Dafur, about Rwanda, about September 1970. I'm under no obligation to do your research for you. If you make specific accusations, it's *your* obligation to back them with evidence.

Joseph Mutik - 3/22/2008

ZIONISM = the right of the Jewish people to self determination. Anyone who denies the right of the Jews to self determination or the right of the Jews in Israel to defend themselves does it out of hatred of Jews. Wright is one of this kind of haters.
By the way can you offer evidence that Wright protested against the killing of more than 20000 Palestinians in September 1970 by king Hussein of Jordan, or against the genocides in Darfur or Rwanda?

Ralph E. Luker - 3/22/2008

Mr. Mutik, What "hatred of Jews" are you talking about? You offer *no evidence* of it. You assume it. In the absence of evidence, just repeating ad nauseum "hatred of Jews" is foolish and paranoid.

Joseph Mutik - 3/22/2008

The black liberation theology follows the tradition of black preaching before the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Today the black community is still in a disadvantaged social and economic position. A good part of this situation can be be blamed on the white community but it is also caused by rejection of learning and secular education by the black community, as a "white thing". Replacing learning and education with rap culture doesn't seem to be enough.
Now about the Hatred of Jews. This Hatred is a literal interpretation of the primitive Christian tradition stating that Jews killed Jesus. When a group of black middle school visited the Holocaust Museum, in Washington DC, one of the students said that the Holocaust was the result of Jews killing Jesus. It doesn't matter that almost all the white people who helped the civil rights fight were Jews, the feedback for this was the wide spread Hated of Jews in the black community. Even MLK fired the Jew when it was politically required.
Wright covers his hatred with the modern form of Hatred of Jews anti-Zionism and Obama quietly condoned it for 20 years. I guess that the Obama girls go to Sunday school in this rotten atmosphere.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/21/2008

African Americans like Obama love America despite its conflicted history over race. Balancing a legacy of enslavement and disrimination with a legacy of freedom is a burden of love that few whites have ever had to handle.

It is a burden that, apparently, you have never tried to understand.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/18/2008

Well, let's see: Jeremiah Wright isn't my "speaker of truth," the somewhat superficial intellectual relationship to Malcolm X is fairly obvious (I'm glad you cared enough to figure it out), and you completely misunderstood the question. It had *nothing* to do with S.2433.

Grant W Jones - 3/18/2008

Malcolm X said on 1 December 1963:

"I meant that the death of Kennedy was the result of a long line of violent acts, the culmination of hate and suspicion and doubt in this country. You see, Lomax, this country has allowed white people to kill and brutalize those they don't like. The assassination of Kennedy is a result of that way of life and thinking. The chickens came home to roost; that's all there is to it. America—at the death of the President—just reaped what it had been sowing."

Your speaker of "truth," Jeremiah Wright has much in common with Malcolm X. Funny, you didn't mention that.

To answer your question posted on my blog: Obama's proposed S.2433 is not doing "for America," but doing "to America." The basis for this bill is the belief that Americans are guilty for prospering and enjoying what liberty remains to them. Obama, and the other supporters of S.2433, want to force Americans to atone for their guilt of living well on earth. Wright's rants and S.2433 fit hand-in-glove; the first justifies the second. If you weren't lost in your biblical/altruist dogma that demands a wallow in unearned guilt, then you would recognize the connection between theory and practice.

The religious left is as hostile to America's founding principles as the religious right. You will make good bedfellows.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/18/2008

Good to see that you were in class and taking notes this morning, Mr. Maass. It will improve your chances for a passing grade.
Grow up. Do you think that I disagree with anything Obama says in that selected sound bite from a remarkably nuanced speech?

John R. Maass - 3/18/2008

This just in Ralph: "Wright has used "incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike."
Barack Obama, 18 March 2008

Ralph E. Luker - 3/18/2008

Unless you are talking about pre-millenial Bible colleges, you've got a peculiar idea of what "could be heard in any college classroom today." And, although you disclaim having any religious conviction, your interpretation of a Christian endgame simply re-iterates fundamentalist claims, as if fundamentalists speak for Christianity. Very odd. No wonder you rejected Christianity altogether.

R.R. Hamilton - 3/18/2008

First, fair disclosure: I used to live near Pastor Hagee's church; in fact, I probably drove past it most days. But I've not darkened the door of Hagee's or any other church (not for religious reasons, anyway -- I've donated some books to a Lutheran church library, and I've been in a church or two to vote; I also sent one of my kids to a pre-school associated with a Jewish synagogue) for about 15 years. I've never met Pastor Hagee or see him except on TV.

Now, as for Hagee's "anti-Catholicism", it's hard to be Protestant without being "anti-Catholic" -- after all, that was Protestantism's original raison d'etre, wasn't it? But here are all the "anti-Catholic" comments the Catholics have been able to verify:

“The Crusades were a motley mob of thieves, rapists, robbers, and murderers whose sins had been forgiven by the pope in advance of the Crusade.” [Jerusalem Countdown, p. 109]

“When Hitler became a global demonic monster, the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII never, ever slightly criticized him.” [Jerusalem Countdown, p. 115]

Speaking of Hitler, Hagee writes that he “simply enforced policies that had been approved by the church over the course of history and that remained the official policy of the church when the Nazi party came to power.” [In Defense of Israel, p. 25]

“Need we be reminded that the loving theology of the New Testament, as translated by the Roman church fathers, is what sponsored the Crusades, the Inquisition, and ultimately produced the Holocaust?” [In Defense of Israel, p. 158]

Those comments sound like something that could be heard in any college classroom in America today.

As far as Hagee's "affinity for a nuclear holocaust", that's so absurd, it's hard to know how to handle it. Though I am as irreligious as one can be as still be called a Christian, if I recall correctly, MAINSTREAM CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY believes that the "Second Coming of Christ" will be preceded by an awful war. To say that Christians like Hagee "wish for Armageddon because they wish for the Second Coming" is like saying that expecting grandparents wish their daughter to suffer the agonies of childbirth.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 3/17/2008

If we let all those who are proud of America vote for McCain and all those who are not proud of America vote for Obama, I am confident we will get three excellent new justices on the Supreme Court, and perhaps a few less bombings at recruiting stations.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Your idea of civility, I take it, is an ad homonym remark, without any comment on the issue at hand.

John R. Maass - 3/17/2008

Is one of the central teachings of blt that the US government got blacks addicted to drugs, as Wright proclaims?

John R. Maass - 3/17/2008

You're not only rude, your dense!

David T. Beito - 3/17/2008

McCain may not be a member of Hagee's church but he actively campaigned for his support. Here is more on Hagee who is not only an anti-Catholic crusader but, as Ralph indicates, almost rejoices at the prospect of an Armageddon (which would also mean the decimation of the world's Jewish population):

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Um, I'd say that those who look forward to a history-ending war in the Middle East are "scarier."

R.R. Hamilton - 3/17/2008

First, I would note that Sen. McCain hasn't been a 20-year (or even 1-day) member of Hagee's church. But more importantly, how is John Hagee "scarier"?

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Well, as a matter of fact, Jeff, Oprah apparently hasn't attended Trinity UCC in eight years or so; nor would she and Obama be characteristic members of Trinity's congregation. I'm quite confident that you'd find jeremiads directed at the African American community itself if you cared to look for them. But, like most of Wright's critics, you're not interested in looking to see whether they're there. The damaging YouTubes apparently tell you what you prefer to think. Do you think Kaus or the wingers at The Corner are going to feature them? I'm sure they're there because I know the tradition. Preachers like Wright and Vernon Johns were hard on the white folk and harder, still, on the black folk. When they do the latter, it just doesn't serve the purposes of those who want to injure Obama's candidacy. And, since Obama's specifically repudiated Wright's more dubious excesses, I don't know why Wright's jeremiads distress you.

Jeff Vanke - 3/17/2008

Ralph, We're starting to talk past each other. I'll clarify a couple of things, rather than start repeating our conversation.

Michelle Obama is relevant because she's the link btn Wright and Obama, as well as an example of Wright's kind of reasoning.

If a Tutsi-only organization denounces an all-Hutu government as such, or vice versa, or Bosniacs-and-Serbs in Bosnia, that's not a jeremiad, that's rallying your forces in accusing someone else's forces.

You said Jeremiah Wright shouldn't be called the pinnacle of anything since he's on the South Side. That's where Oprah, the lawyers Obama, the shiny church, and Wright's living standards are relevant.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Let's see: I know James Cone and Dwight Hopkins. I know them to be interpreters of black liberation theology. I know Wright to be a spokesman for it. Do you find this to be a problem? The facts are that Barack Obama belongs to a congregation of which Wright is a former pastor and that Obama has explicitly said that he doesn't share Wright's perspective. What is the problem?

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Ah, Jeff, the piece I wrote wasn't about Michelle Obama and I made any claims about her as a Jeremimah.
The piece that I wrote -- if you even *bothered* to read it -- doesn't pretend to defend everything that Jeremiah Wright has said. It simply notes that Jeremiah Wright's rants are in a long tradition of the jeremiad -- some of which are in sacred literature. I don't make any claims in the piece about Obama's or Oprah's social class -- so that's way off topic.
I'm quite confidant that you'd find many passages in what Wright says that hold African Americans accountable for their condition. You've just been fed the inflammatory stuff and you've bought every word of it.
Mickey Kaus, like the ideologues at The Corner, are only looking for inflammatory stuff. They don't really care enough about Wright's work to read it. They're just looking for a knock-out punch.

James Draper - 3/17/2008

What about Jeremiah Wright's comments about James Cone and Dwight Hopkins? -

David T. Beito - 3/17/2008

Interesting piece. It is worthy of note, of course, that the media has been comparatively silent about the partnership between McCain and the far scarier, John Hagee.

Jeff Vanke - 3/17/2008

When Wright is blaming the world's ills on America's "white arrogance," he is disassociating himself from white America -- he's not condemning himself or his parishioners or his African-American people.

When Michele Obama says, "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country," she's not recanting her personal adult life. She's condemning another people.

They have every right to say such things. But I wouldn't call them latter-day Jeremiahs. There's no personal suffering on the speaker's part. They're not even trying to make church members "uncomfortable" -- in fact, this message is comforting to the listeners -- listen to the background track on that video.

They are condemning outsiders, not their "own people," as you put it. Wright expresses solidarity with Middle Eastern "people of color," in explicit contrast to white Americans.

I'm saying Wright is at a pinnacle within his socio-psychological network, even within his broadest "we-group" of the global community of people of color. No, the South Side is no dreamland. But Trinity UCC is not a poor church, nor are all of its current or former congregants poor, and I'm guessing Wright is no pauper.

Even Oprah billion-dollar Winfrey used to go there. Note that verb tense. Wright got to be too much for her. But if Michelle Obama liked it, then Barack Obama had to keep with it; or to put it in other terms, he had very strong personal reasons to choose to keep with it.

No one should be guilty by personal association. But some people should be guilty by institutional association (member of a discriminatory country club, etc.). I'll still take Obama over Clinton. But he's not off my hook for acting and saying, "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial."

That quotation, by the way, is via middler Mickey Kaus, not via the wingers.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Mr. Nolan, You're old enough to know, by now, that simply interchanging "white" and "black" in hyperbolic statements about a society structured as ours is just doesn't compute. In large part, white people hold and exercise power. In large part, African Americans are marginalized. If you want to pretend it is and has been otherwise, you're welcome to the pretense.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Mr. Maass, There's not a 'racist' word in the statement you quote. In fact, except for the piece blaming the government for 'giving them the drugs,' there's nothing in it except empirical fact and jeremiadic hyperbole. What's your problem?

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Mr. Maass, There's not a 'racist' word in the statement you quote. In fact, except for the piece blaming the government for 'giving them the drugs,' there's nothing in it except empirical fact and jeremiadic hyperbole. What's your problem?

Dennis R. Nolan - 3/17/2008

I guess it's not that I wasn't clear, it's that you don't want to answer the question I asked twice. This language is equally offensive whether it comes from a black preacher speaking about whites or a white preacher speaking about blacks. You'd condemn it (and any candidate who tolerated it for nearly 20 years) if it came from a white preacher. Why then do you give Wright and Obama a pass?

Sure, preachers are supposed to afflict the comfortable. Fine. Many have done so within my hearing over my lifetime. I suppose that's one reason we go to church. None of them, however, has done so using racist language or shouting "God damn America." That's not afflicting the comfortable, that's insulting their intelligence. Your model, Dr. King, never found it necessary to go down that road. Neither should Wright.

John R. Maass - 3/17/2008

This is the problem, not the "jeremiad" you like to call it in order to disguise it's tone:

It certainly could be the case that Obama personally didn’t hear Wright’s 2003 sermon when he proclaimed: “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, not God bless America, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. ... God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human.”

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

I never took my historian's hat off. It's no surprise that you find Wright's jeremiads offensive. Jeremiah's people found his statements offensive. Those statements also became sacred texts -- not only for his people, but for hundreds of millions of people around the world. I doubt that Wright's statements will become sacred texts and they are *meant* to give offense. Like Jeremiah's, they *aren't meant* to comfort comfortable people. They're meant to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. In railing about them, you pretty much declare yourself among the comfortable.

Dennis R. Nolan - 3/17/2008

I must not have been clear. (A) The criticisms aren't about Wright as a former Marine, they're about his statements since Obama has been with him. It's possible to be a decorated Marine and still say stupid, offensive things. The latter should be condemned, regardless of the former. (B)Yes, he has resigned --- precisely because of the damage his statements caused to the campaign. That just shows that the public exposure worked, not that it wasn't needed. (C) The crazy-uncle theory doesn't work. We don't pick our crazy uncles. We do pick our pastors. Obama picked this guy and stuck with him for nearly 20 years while he's been saying these things.

Obama's attempted evasion, that he just never heard Wright say things like that, is unconvincing. Wright's race-centered politics shows up (or at least did before this flap) on the church's website, in its publications, in its honoring of Louis Farakhan, and in many of Wright's sermons and speeches. There's no way Obama could have missed all that.

Put on your historian's hat, Ralph, and look at the evidence. You wouldn't cut any other candidate so much slack for hanging around with a race-baiter. Why do so for Obama?

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Not at all, Dennis. A) Wright held no "leadership position" in Obama's campaign. He's resigned from an honorific position on the campaign's "Spiritual Advisory Committee." Do you imagine that it convenes nightly to parse the latest polls out of Pennsylvania? Hardly. B) Jeff -- and, more authoritatively, Dred Scott before him -- just illustrated how someone like Wright can say something like "the United States of white America". How long will it be possible for us to speak *as if* African Americans are not, by definition, Americans?
As I said, Jeremiah Wright is a decorated American Marine veteran. That's more than most of his right-wing critics can say of themselves. Sure, he's your crazy-uncle who says things that *don't hold* "bilge-water" but he's got an honorable record of service to his country, his church, and his ethnic community. That's more than most of us can say about ourselves.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

Jeff, I don't defend all of Obama's decisions/statements, much less all of Wright's. I certainly do object to the winger's guilting Obama by association with Wright. When and where did Obama say "God damn America"? but to hear the wingers tell it, you'd be sure that he did.
What I'm saying is that Wright is given to preaching jeremiads that have a very long tradition, stretching back into the biblical texts, themselves. Last time I heard, those texts are considered "sacred". They're not meant to give comfort to the comfortable. MLK occasionally preached in the jeremiad tradition.
When Wright says "God damn America," is he not preaching God's judgment on his own people? Or, does Dred Scott still mean that, by definition, African Americans cannot be Americans?
If you'd check on it, Trinity UCC welcomes white people, gay people, etc to membership. I'm sure that Wright would be happy for you to explain to him how being black on Chicago's Southside is some comfortable pinnacle from which he condescends.
You've been reading too many right-wing jeremiads flung at Obama, with Wright as the excuse. I don't remember the last time *all* of my crazy-uncle pastor's statements were assigned to me *nor* must I resign from the church because of them.

Dennis R. Nolan - 3/17/2008

The statement you quote isn't racist, it's just plain offensive. Wright's racist statements include "the United States of White America" and "the US of KKK-A." Much of the rest is race-baiting if not outright racist.

Here's a simple test, Ralph: Imagine a white preacher who uttered Wright's statements but used "white" where Wright used "black" and vice versa. Could you avoid the conclusion that the white preacher was racist?

Then imagine that Hillary or McCain had belonged to this guy's church for a couple of decades, referred to him as a mentor, devoted pages of an autobiography to him, and appointed him to a leadership position in the campaign. No doubt the white candidate and the white preacher would get as much criticism as Obama/Wright, and rightly so. I'd expect you to join in.

It's simply no use to justify this stinking bilge water as black liberation theology or jeremiads. Call it what it is, racist and America-hating. Perhaps pro-Obama academics can delude themselves with some other explanation. For normal votes, however, seeing Wright in action is enough to show that he is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Any candidate who would tolerate him for nearly two decades demonstrates tacit approval and remarkably bad judgment.

Jeff Vanke - 3/17/2008

Ralph, I don't imagine you think that MLK would have given, or even endorsed, the worst of Wright. If you do think that, please correct me.

Neither Wright nor Robertson-Falwell act (or acted) in the tradition of Jeremiah. Jeremiah condemned his *own* people, and he suffered individual isolation and persecution for it. These guys, though, speak against *other* people, from social pinnacles among their own, self-described righteous people (black versus white, evangelical versus the homosexual-tolerant, etc.).

Wright, and more so Michelle Obama herself, would be serious limitations on KC's and others' and sometimes my hopes for Barack Obama's potential as a unifying leader.

Don't let public petition signatures get yourselves into the position of defending all of Obama's choices.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

You may not like the statement "God damn America," but explain to me how it is a "racist" statement.

John R. Maass - 3/17/2008

This is a ridiculous excuse for racism. David Duke said equally wacky things about race and (correctly) was lambasted. Wright should be as well.

Lorraine Paul - 3/17/2008

As an outsider, it seems to me that Reverend Wright is only saying aloud what most of the rest of the world knows!

Christianity is definitely not practiced by the "Christians" in power in the US.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/17/2008

I think you're correct. My sense is that the recent attacks on Wright and Obama, because of Wright, really have come from what I'd call "the secular right," which is as unfamiliar with the biblical jeremiad as the secular left often is -- even as it sometimes practices the form!

Jonathan Dresner - 3/17/2008

You're absolutely right about the tradition of prophetic preaching.

What's odd, honestly, about the attacks on Wright and Obama is that the Jeremiad tradition is at least as strong among the religious leaders on the right: calling Katrina a scourge of the Lord, and other theodicy moments. There's no shortage of pulpits from which God has turned his back on our once-blessed nation, etc., etc.