Yesterday, fresh from an appearance before the NAACP in which he said black people’s brains work differently from those of whites, Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, held forth at the National Press Club. He was on his best behavior, but the anti-white animus that drives him was not far below the surface, and the mere fact of his return to the public eye says a great deal about how blacks view the world.
Mr. Wright no doubt thought he would make a good impression by explaining that the ultimate goal of Christianity was “the nonnegotiable doctrine of reconciliation,” which means accepting differences without passing judgment. One of the examples he gave of such differences was not likely to reassure the there’s-no-such-thing-as-race crowd: “Black learning styles are different from European and European-American learning styles. They are not deficient; they are just different.”
Mr. Wright explained that he is within the mainstream of the black church, and, indeed, there has hardly been a single black preacher who has condemned him as anti-white or anti-American. He explained why it was essential to have a distinctly black Christianity:
“If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means ‘God with us,’ if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens. My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens. And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior.
“And I order my society where I can worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and kill others on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe. I can have laws which favor whites over blacks in America or South Africa. I can construct a theology of apartheid in the Afrikaner church and a theology of white supremacy in the North American or Germanic church.”
Since the black church is a vital institution and he is its representative, he explained that any criticism of him “is an attack on the black church.”
After his prepared remarks, Mr. Wright answered questions from Donna Leinwand, a white woman who writes for USA Today and is vice president of the National Press Club. He dodged questions shamelessly and taunted her about whether she had read his entire sermons. When asked whether he owed Americans an apology for saying blacks should damn American rather than bless it, he refused to back down, quoting Jesus, who called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers.” He then spoke directly to Miss Leinwand:
“Britain has apologized to Africans, but this country’s leaders have refused to apologize. So until that apology comes, I’m not going to keep stepping on your foot and asking you, ‘Does this hurt? Do you forgive me for stepping on your foot?’ if I’m still stepping on your foot. Understand that? Capiche?”
Miss Leinwand let Mr. Wright walk on her repeatedly.
Mr. Obama’s pastor did not back away from his position that the government invented AIDS in order to exterminate blacks: “[B]ased on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”
After all, we are talking about “the injustice that was done to a people, as we raped the continent, brought those people here, built our country, and then defined them as less than human.”
Nor would he distance himself from Louis Farrakhan. “How many other African-Americans or European-Americans do you know that can get one million people together on the mall?” he asked. “He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. That’s what I think about him.” He quoted Nelson Mandela’s reply when Ted Koppel asked him to denounce Fidel Castro: “You don’t tell me who my enemies are. You don’t tell me who my friends are.” As for Louis Farrakhan, “he did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didn’t make me this color.” In other words, he is not white so why should Mr. Wright disown him?
Mr. Wright went on to offer himself as a vice presidential candidate. When he first said this, it appeared to be a joke, and that is how the press has reported it, but later he made the same offer again. Mr. Wright thinks highly of himself, and no doubt believes he would make a fine vice president. Whatever happens, he said that if Mr. Obama is elected president he can count on seeing quite a lot of his pastor:
“I said to Barack Obama, last year, ‘If you get elected, November the 5th, I’m coming after you, because you’ll be representing a government whose policies grind under people. All right?’”
The most important thing Mr. Wright said, however, has gone unreported in the press and no doubt went over the heads of most whites:
“In the late 1960s, when Dr. James Cone’s powerful books burst onto the scene, the term ‘black liberation theology’ began to be used. I do not in any way disagree with Dr. Cone, nor do I in any way diminish the inimitable and incomparable contributions that he has made and that he continues to make to the field of theology. Jim, incidentally, is a personal friend of mine.”
Dr. Cone is a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York. What are some of his “inimitable and incomparable contributions” with which Mr. Wright does “not in any way disagree”?
“Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him.”
“All white men are responsible for white oppression. It is much too easy to say, ‘Racism is not my fault,’ . . . Racism is possible because whites are indifferent to suffering and patient with cruelty.”
“To be Christian is to be one of those whom God has chosen. God has chosen black people!”
“The demonic forces of racism are real for the black man. Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man ‘the devil.’ The white structure of this American society, personified in every racist, must be at least part of what the New Testament meant by the demonic forces.”
“Black hatred is the black man’s strong aversion to white society. No black man living in white America can escape it.”
Finally, Dr. Cone wants to put God in harness to do his bidding:
“Living in a world of white oppressors, blacks have no time for a neutral God. The brutalities are too great and the pain too severe, and this means we must know where God is and what God is doing in the revolution. There is no use for a God who loves white oppressors the same as oppressed blacks. . . . What we need is the divine love as expressed in black power, which is the power of blacks to destroy their oppressors, here and now, by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject God’s love.”
This is not Christianity as most Christians see it; it is God in the service of black power and black hatred.
Mr. Wright’s recent return to the headlines has put Barack Obama back on the defensive. Today, at a press conference he claims that after nearly 20 years he has finally tumbled to just what an awful guy his pastor is, and he pronounced himself appalled and outraged. He said Mr. Wright’s admiration for Louis Farrakhan and his insistence that the feds loosed AIDS on blacks have finally convinced him that Mr. Wright “was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for.” I suppose we all fall asleep in the pew from time to time.
Now that Mr. Obama has given his pastor a very public spanking, it will be interesting to see how Mr. Wright reacts. Will he pull in his horns and give Mr. Obama a little peace? My money says he will he come out of his corner swinging.
What are blacks thinking?
Mr. Wright has now made three major speeches in four days and has, with a flourish, reestablished himself as the major obstacle to an Obama nomination. What’s going on? For several weeks after Mr. Wright first hit the headlines, he kept quiet. He went on vacation, turned down invitations, and made no public appearances. This was the best thing he could do for the Obama campaign, which would have been delighted to see him disappear until November. Why has Mr. Wright roared back into the limelight?
Surely blacks want Mr. Obama to be elected president. Eighty-five to 90 percent of them have been voting for him in the primaries. Surely, the NAACP wants him to be president. Why, then, did the NAACP invite Mr. Wright to speak at its Fight for Freedom dinner, one of its most high-profile events, which attracts as many as 10,000 people and is billed as the largest annual sit-down dinner in the country? It made no difference what Mr. Wright was going to say. Even without his left-brain-right-brain jabber about how blacks and whites are different, simply putting him on stage made it certain the networks would dust off their clips of Mr. Obama’s pastor telling blacks to “God damn America!” If the NAACP were smart about wanting a black president—and this is entirely different simply from wanting a black president—they would give Mr. Wright the cold shoulder.
Why don’t they? It can only be that because they find what Mr. Wright says so routine, so conventional, so obvious, they cannot bring themselves to believe it shocks whites. Blacks are so blinded by racial grievance that they do not realize that by making a hero of Mr. Wright they are damaging Mr. Obama’s chances of getting the nomination, much less the presidency.
Jeremiah Wright lives in a world in which everything is colored by white wickedness and black resentment. Most whites think he is a deluded oddball. It’s about time they realized he is a typical black preacher with a powerful appeal to the typical black.
[Editor’s Note: See an earlier article about Dr. James Cone here.]