Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

obama25.jpgIt’s no suprise that Barack Obama’s speech today from Philadelphia, billed as a major address on race and politics, was really a lot more about church and faith. Obama struck a middle course with the speech, refusing to totally disavow Rev. Jeremiah Wright–“As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me”–but reinforcing his disapproval of Wright’s most incendiary sermons. What struck God-o-Meter is that the first applause line of the speech followed a line in which Obama embraced the controversy by welcoming a conversation about racial division:

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

For a while last week, it seemed like Obama was hoping the Wright controversy would simply pass in a matter of days. But by embracing it this way, as a necessary and long overdue national conversation about race in America, Obama regains a fair deal of control over the flap. The next day or two will show whether the news media and Wright’s critics will let him battle this controversy on his own terms.


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