Obama, Reverend Wright, Minister Farrakhan, Molester Priests, and Passing Judgment*

March 17, 2008
One thing you have to love about Senator Obama’s campaign is that, like it or not, many (not all) of who have not had to confront this issue of race head on, all of a sudden have to start discussing it. I say “many” because most of us will just hear one statement from Geraldine Ferraro or Obama’s pastor Reverend Wright and go back to our incestuous circles where we only talk to like-minded people who reinforce our ignorance. For those who dwell in those circles, please allow me to make some points on this Reverend Wright issue and American hypocrisy (you’d have to forward them this blog because they only watch 1 or 2 news stations and read the same papers every day).

Before I get to what I think about Reverend Wright’s comments, I must say that the debate over Obama’s relation to the pastor is frivolous at best. Here is why. Let me ask you one simple question: does anyone condemn the churchgoers in Boston who still attend churches run by priests who molested their boys? How many of you reading this still attend religious institutions where you reverend, pastor, minister, imam, or rabbi is abusing women, molesting boys, stealing funds, cheating on their wives, or living in other ways that do not represent their respective higher power? Even the preacher in Tennessee who was murdered by his wife because of alleged abuse still has supporters and so does the wife. Furthermore, some of us still stay with our significant others who are doing one (or more) of the above and I am sure would not want to be judged by their spouse’s actions.

So please America! Stop getting involved in this “holier-than-thou” nonsense. It has now surfaced that Oprah attended Reverend Wright’s church from ’84-’86. Members of her website are now posting blogs saying “shame on you” for attending and calling her racist. Wow! Oprah has to be on the top 5 list of living people who have contributed more to bettering humanity than anyone else. That is undeniable whether you love or hate her. Let me get a little more personal. I have attended speeches by Minister Farrakhan. I have a family member in the Nation of Islam. I even have some CDs of Minister Farrakhan.

But I also have spent the last 15 years of my life (at least) working locally, nationally, and internationally to get our youth to see their greatness, respect each other’s cultures, and work towards building a more peaceful society. My brother-in-law in the Nation of Islam has done more to help end gang violence in Boston than any of his Christian peers in Boston that I know and he does not do his work to get converts. He has helped create more productive Americans. What will be your criteria to judge us? Furthermore, will you judge the students we have mentored based on their relationship to us? Was Bill Clinton a racist for endorsing Minister Farrakhan’s Million Man March?

And that is what the heart of my problem is. Throughout my life, I have found that those who believe in Jesus are among the most judgmental people I know, though one of the basic tenets of the faith is thou shall not judge. Those who get caught up in judging give Christians a bad name. We’re all sinners but when it comes to talking about others, all of a sudden we’re saints. It’s like when teachers become principals and all of a sudden their classrooms were perfect. America and all of Mother Earth—get off your high horse! I have some news for you all—we’re all imperfect people!

So look at yourself in the America. Senator Obama should clearly understand why the comments of his reverend have caused so much controversy. I believe Senator Obama when he said he was not present when those comments were made, but to me it’s obvious that he knew Reverend Wright’s politics having been a member for 20 years. He should not distance himself from his membership but rather state what he disagrees with. While I agree with Reverend Wright’s comments about struggles of a Black man in America, Senator Clinton has also experienced challenges in this country being a woman and that is also important. Thus Reverend Wright’s comments may marginalize some women who may say “I’ve struggled too!” and that’s legitimate. It could also send some women voters away from Obama.

The fact of the matter is we all have close associates, people of faith and family members who say things we don’t agree with. If you do not want to be judged based on them, you should not judge Senator Obama based on Reverend Wright. Those in the media should focus more on analyzing the role of the Black Church in American history and maybe ask why Black nationalism emerged in America in the first place. We must also realize that being pro-Black is not always being anti-White. No one just wakes up in America and says “I have to defend my people”, irrespective of race. That usually emerges from some sort of oppression like maybe Slavery, the Holocaust, Native American persecution, etc. Let’s stop calling each other racist and get real about race.

P.S. How come no one is asking questions about the leaders of the churches of the other two presidential candidates? Hmmm….

*This was written before Senator Obama’s speech. Here is the link to the speech he gave on 3/18/08 in video and transcript form: http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/samgrahamfelsen/gGBbrc

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