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In response to the YouTube clips of Jeremiah Wright, Barrack Obama has now published an essay on the Huffington Post. He begins with the inevitable “rejecting and denouncing” that has now becoming routine in this campaign for everyone except John McCain.
Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.
But what strikes me as trend-setting is that he then goes beyond the boilerplate rejection to offer a full explanation of his relationship to the man who coined the term the “audacity of hope” and who has been Obama’s mentor for many years.
As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It’s a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.
Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he’s been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.
Interesting, and smart, I’d say. Unlikely to quell the firestorm on the right, but deft politics. It’s also another mark of the impact of the blogosphere on the process that he published this online on a Friday afternoon rather than in, say, the NYT on Sunday. Get it out now, and get it out in forwardable form. Will this type of apology become the Full Obama in the apologyful election of 2008?