Monday, March 24, 2008

Words, Anit-Americanism, Bigotry, and The Ordained Ministers Who Brought Them To You

Why was there such an uproar over Jeremiah Wright's statements? Not that they weren't offensive, rude, shortsighted, and unproductive; they were all of those things and more.

But still, why was there such an uproar to the point where it became a potential deal-breaker in presidential politics? Obama didn't say those things, his pastor did. To suggest that someone should leave a long attended church because of some words the pastor said seems a little hasty to me. Have I agreed with everything every pastor of mine said? Of course not. Were I to run for president one day, would my opponents run through the old sermons of all my pastors and comb them over to see if there was anything controversial? Do I need to go back and double check just to make sure (DMS nation would love nothing more than a DMS run at the White House)?

So again, what exactly was it?

Certainly Wright's words were ill-chosen at best, ignorant and insensitive at worst. But I didn't hear stunned silence after he said them, I heard a lot of "Amens!" and clapping. There's something there, but that's not really the point of this post.

The point is to ask: why did this pastor's words, above all other issues and problems going on today, take front and center stage in a Presidential contest? Why would or should someone even think about Jeremiah Wright's words when deciding to vote for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or John McCain?

John Hagee, who recently endorsed John McCain suggested that Hurricane Katrina was the result of rampant homosexuality and Palestine. John Hagee said Catholicism was the "whore of Babylon." Sure, there was some murmuring here and there, but to me, the speech of Hagee is as unfounded, ridiculous, and hateful as anything Wright said. But that doesn't mean I'll consider what John Hagee said when I consider voting for him in the Fall.

Pat Robertson advocated the assassination of a sovereign leader, though corrupt and dictatorial he may be. That's more incendiary than most anything that Jeremiah Wright said, but I don't think it discludes everyone who has ever heard Robertson preach.

Mrs. Supercomputer and I were once confronted with a similar situation as Barack Obama. In Fort Worth we attended a church that we very much liked after a few visits. We talked to the pastor and went to some of their ministries to check it out. It looked great. Then the pastor one Sunday morning, in the heat of the moment, began spouting what Mrs. Supercomputer and I considered anti-immigrant rhetoric. While I don't remember exactly what he said (and it won't be on youtube until I run for President), it was something along the lines of "you weren't born here, so get on a plane and go back to your own country where you can't bomb us!"

Mrs. Supercomputer and I looked at each other right after he said it. The look in our faces allowed us to communicate our horror at that statement. We got up and walked out of the service less than a minute later. We never returned to that church, despite a home visit by the pastor trying to re-recruit us.

So in a sense, we did the opposite of what Obama did, and what many people are claiming he should have done: leave the church and don't come back.

However, there's a monumental difference: we had gone to the church a few times, whereas Obama had been going there for years, had roots there, was married by Wright and involved with the surrounding community. To put it in context, had one of my other pastors made such a controversial statement (like the one that married the Supercomputers) I would have stuck by him and continued to enjoy his services. If the pastor who married us said "God damn America" I would have stayed. I would have continued to be friends with him. Three words are never enough to damage a relationship to the point that one side should walk out and give up, never to return. And three words from a pastor should never be enough to make someone want to leave a church that has been their home for years. I wouldn't leave my wife if she said some ugly statements, and nor should someone leave the church for the same reason.

But still, there's the question of "why did this cause such an uproar?" I've addressed why Obama shouldn't have left his church even if he had heard such statements. I've shared examples that are similar and applicable to other candidates. But I still haven't found an answer to why this caused such an uproar on the talk shows.

My guess is simply this: they finally found something. I don't know if "they" is the Clinton campaign or Republicans, but "they" finally found something that could drive voters away from the Obama camp. And so they're shouting it from the rooftops, just like when the Clinton campaign thought they had struck gold with that "3 AM" bullshit and they started using the phrase "3 AM" like we should all be not sleeping at night because "3 AM" is the time when terrorists attack us. But instead of "3 AM," it's "God damn America."

To be sure, it appears as if those "3 AM" ads worked to some extent. And it's a shame too because as Bill Clinton said, you should always vote for the candidate who appeals to your hopes and dreams than the one who appeals to your fears. It would be even more of a shame if voters were frightened away from Obama by the words of a pastor. And it begs (and possibly answers) the question, "why would someone use Wright's words as an excuse not to vote for Obama, meanwhile neglecting Hagee's equally offensive comments?"

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