Obama, Wright and wrong

By Simon Barrow
May 7, 2008

The Democratic presidential contest has been getting ugly. And Barack Obama's church ties have become both a boon and a bane.

The problem, as is well documented, stems from controversial comments emanating from Obama's pastor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright.

Christina Patterson, writing in The Independent, says: "In a country where you can't become a cheerleader (let alone a President) without being born again, Barack managed to sign up to the wrong brand of Protestant Christianity, the one in which the belief that racism exists and that aggressive foreign policy has consequences is, apparently, profoundly offensive to the oh-so-moral majority which knows that God loves apple pie, white picket fences and white Republican presidents."

On the other hand, Sunny Hundal, in a very thoughtful and nuanced piece in The Guardian, notes:

"Racism emasculates people - it makes them feel belittled. Black churches and other such "safe spaces" fulfil a vital role by trying to convert that feel of emasculation and anger into empowerment, which may involve criticising the establishment heavily. The establishment is, after all, the main reason why inequality persists. [...]

"According to the Washington Post, Wright said the black church tradition was neither bombastic nor controversial but misunderstood by the "dominant culture" in the US. Maybe, but that is neither here nor there. The problem, as it became apparent over the weekend, is that Wright was only interested in preaching to his flock. Obama meanwhile is trying to straddle two different worlds and speak to a wider audience. And therein lies the conflict and what makes this dialogue so difficult."


None of this has made much difference in North Carolina. But the national election may be a different story.

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