Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama’s Church Fires Back

Obama’s Church Fires Back
Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Chicago church attended by Barack Obama is fighting back against media coverage of its controversial pastor, issuing a statement on Sunday, saying reports on the inflammatory remarks by Rev. Jeremiah Wright are an attempt to attack “the history of the African American church.”

“Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe,” the leaders of Trinity United Church of Christ wrote Sunday in a statement distributed to the media.

Claiming that Wright’s 36 years as pastor of the church — the largest United Church of Christ congregation, with 8,000 members — is being demeaned, Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, said, “It saddens me to see news stories reporting such a caricature of a congregation that has been such a blessing to the UCC’s Wider Church mission … It’s time for us to say ‘No’ to these attacks and declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends.”

Neither Wright nor Obama was present at the church on Sunday, but all of talk news has been on the subject of the pastor, whose many sermons have been captured on video and replayed across television and the Internet over the past few weeks.

Some of the more flamboyant sermons have included statements saying that the U.S. created the AIDS virus to kill African Americans and that the United States was asking for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks because it had supported “state-sponsored terrorism” against black South Africans and Palestinian

Obama’s campaign has tried to distance the candidate from his Wright, the man who coined the phrase “the audacity of hope” that became the title of Obama’s bestselling book.

Speaking in a conference call on Sunday, Obama’s advisers acknowledged that the pastor was supposed to appear at the announcement of Obama’s presidential campaign last year, but was cut from the program in part because they knew he was controversial and didn’t want him to become a target or distraction, both of which he nows appears to be.

But even as attention is focused on Obama, Hillary Clinton’s supporters have refrained from pouncing on the opportunity to link Obama to his 20-year-long spiritual adviser.

“I mean, as you know, I prefer Senator Clinton for a whole lot of reasons, but I don’t cast aspersions on Senator Obama for what somebody else said,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told “FOX News Sunday.”

Calling Trinity’s social justice and outreach programs “inclusive and global” Moss added that not much has changed since the era of Martin Luther King’s sermons for equality. He claimed that African American churches, “born out of the crucible of slavery and the legacy of prophetic African American preachers since slavery” continue to treat marginalized victims of social and economic injustices in the face of prejudice.

“This is an attack on the legacy of the African American Church which led and continues to lead the fight for human rights in America and around the world,” he said, adding “The African American Church community continues to face bomb threats, death threats, and their ministers’ characters are assassinated because they teach and preach prophetic social concerns for social justice. Sunday is still the most segregated hour in America.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Slowly, United Church of Christ President John Thomas is realizing that he was just plain wrong on Jeremiah Wright. From Fox 8 News in Cleveland:

The UCC General Minister and President, Rev. John Thomas says some members found language Wright used, as highlighted in recent news accounts -- disturbing. But in context, Thomas says Wright was "very much in the tradition of biblical prophets challenging the nation to greater faithfulness."

He says it's not up to a central administration to censure the pastor but totally up to a pastor's individual congregation if members feel it's warranted. A regional church body comprised of ministers and lay activists can become involved in cases of misconduct or illegal activities.

The word "some" should be "most". Except for the die hard UCC cheerleaders, it's tough to find someone that will stand by Wright's comments. Conference Ministers across the UCC compounded the problem by scrambling to get the talking points out to local ministers so they would be prepared for questions about Wright this past Sunday. At least "some" saw through the spin.

It is a little surprising that Thomas would fall back on denominational polity to try and keep his hands clean of Wright, especially after his strong words of support just a few days ago. As I mentioned last week, Thomas has not had a problem chastizing other churches in the UCC that haven't marched in step with the national office.

It's quite possible that Thomas is realizing that the folks in the pews are finally taking notice to what our national leaders are doing and saying. With an ego the size of Ohio and an arrogance to match, Thomas likes to paint himself as both prophet and martyr. Genuine prophets and martyrs usually don't claim such status for themselves, it is placed on them by their followers. In the last couple of weeks, Thomas has proved to the members of the UCC and the public that he is neither... and no amount of talking points will fix that.