wright & wrong

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 03, 2008

In his 1956 presidential campaign against Eisenhower, taxed with criticism from Rev. Norman Vincent Peale (the "Evangelist of Optimism"), Adlai Stevenson retorted: "Speaking as a Christian, I find the apostle Paul appealing and the apostle Peale appalling."

Stevenson's quip deserves to be remembered because it marks its author as the last Democratic presidential candidate to display accurate and unscripted acquaintance with a biblical author. He knew that Paul wasn't a Pollyanna.

In saying this I find myself in the unfamiliar position of agreeing with Lefties -- at least with those who argue that the flap concerning Senator Obama's preposterous "pastor" is captious and overblown. Like Hillary, Obama is an Ivy law grad. Like Hillary, Obama is a national-level Democratic pol. Of course they don't know what their parsons believe. How could they be expected to? Why would they care?

During the 2004 election cycle there was a mini-flap when candidate Howard Dean revealed that he left the Episcopal Church over a dispute about a bicycle path (he also maintained that the New Testament character he most admired was Job). And back in the early 1990s, Hillary herself -- after circumstances made it advantageous for her to remember she'd been a life-long Methodist -- told us that her favorite book of the bible was The Beatitudes. Embarrassing, briefly, but everyone understood the gambit. Her adopting a faith-life was a move no more momentous than her dumping the Cubs and donning a Yankees ball-cap prior to her New York senate run.

These are Democrats. They view Christians as nature's gammas. At their best, some ministers of religion may be regarded as useful idiots, beneficial for neutralizing the "values vote." To suggest that a Methodist clergyman had concrete influence on Hillary's political beliefs would be as ludicrous as claiming that Ernie Banks shaped her theology. By the same token, the contention that Senator Obama and the Reverend Wright share an interest beyond the politically advantageous disbursement of government monies is itself an exercise in cynicism.

For obvious reasons, Obama's political opponents are making maximum capital out of the wild pitches of his pastor-of-record. Detesting his positions as I do, I hardly regret the damage done to the momentum of Obama's campaign. But it's a mistake to confuse political expedience with the facts of the case. You want to know what a progressive Democrat believes as a matter of spiritual conviction? Find out what pop music he listened to in high school.

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  • Posted by: - May. 06, 2008 6:17 AM ET USA

    Obama claims pastor Wright brought him to Christ and calls hiim a "mentor" -NOT a casual, invented relationship!

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2008 12:44 AM ET USA

    Here is the good thing about "Pastor Wright" (or whatever his name is.) He is doing what a pastor should do, and what many more Catholic Bishops need to do. He is being challenging, controversial, and counter-cultural. That is what we need more of out pastors to do. No cleric was ever canonized for saying that everything is great - canonization (and martyrdom) come with saying thing that make people uncomfortable. That is what we need more of.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2008 10:52 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, you swung and missed on this one. Yes, Dean, Clinton and a plethora of other Dems use religion as a mask and don't have a significant relationship with their pastor, Obama clearly has had far more than a one-time share the podium relationship with Wright. While I'm willing to concede Obama may have started with Wright's church to get street cred in Chicago, he did develop significant ties to Wright. He can't get off this hook easily.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2008 10:22 PM ET USA

    He was a member of that congregation for 20 years. It wasn't something he just came up with on the fly last year. But I understand your point.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2008 5:19 PM ET USA

    Whoa! Senator Obama was a member of this church and attended regularly.He put the pastor on his campaign staff as an adviser. Sen O never ever disavowed all the hateful things this pastor espouses until recently.The hatred by the way is not just a few taken out of context clips. It is a barrage of hatred for this country-A hatred, by the way, that Mrs. Obama shares. Combined with the endorsements of Chavez, Castro and Hamas and you have a pattern.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2008 4:04 PM ET USA

    It's more than a line of a form, I fear. He did attend the Wright church at least from time to time over 20 years. He was married there and had his children baptized there. And he did donate $22,500 last year. And he is the one who described the Rev. as his spritual advisor.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2008 10:59 AM ET USA

    Everything you say is on the money. And the next topic in the thin essay entitled "The Religious Beliefs of Democrats" should contain one sentence on Catholics and Democratic candidates- no Catholic can in good conscience vote for either of these candidates. Nonetheless we get daily polls on which one Catholics are voting for! Can anyone explain this to me? Does this have something to do with the liturgical music Catholics did not hear in high school?