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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Religious Guilt By Association Card Being Dealt Unfairly

Joe Reynolds is the dean at Houston’s Christ Church Cathedral, and he’s one of the most courageous individuals I’ve ever met. It would be an understatement to say the Episcopal Church has endured a bit of controversy over the past few years. Before our rather diverse congregation, many of the members quite conservative, Joe has met the controversy head-on. Without mincing words, he has shared and explained his views, and his courage in doing so is what I admire the most.

There are certainly those who would take issue with some of Joe’s positions. However, when I was in politics, I was never once attacked or held personally accountable for any of his statements made either from the pulpit or in his Sunday school class. I can’t even remember anyone ever asking me anything about Joe or, for that matter, my church.

But, of course, I’m white, and part of a mainstream denomination so sedate that Bill Clinton is said to have called us “the frozen chosen.” Not much of a story there and, besides, in this day and age, it seems questions regarding religion are reserved for those who fall outside the mainstream or who attend a predominantly African-American church.

Do you know where George Bush or Bill Clinton attended church before they became president? Do you recall ever reading anything about their pastors? I didn’t think so.

I write all of this because I’m torn. Like a lot of others, I started out being shocked, maybe even a little appalled. On the radio, I heard clips of Jeremiah Wright and they had their intended effect.

I read Barack Obama’s original explanation that he had not heard his pastor make such controversial statements and I questioned the veracity. After all, this is the same man who inspired Obama to join a church. He obviously listened to him closely.

In his first book, “Dreams from My Father,” Obama writes movingly about visiting Trinity for the first time and his reaction after hearing Wright’s sermon, The Audacity to Hope: “… I felt a light touch on the top of my hand. I looked down to see the older of the two boys sitting beside me, his face slightly apprehensive as he handed me a pocket tissue. Beside him, his mother glanced at me with a faint smile before turning back toward the altar. It was only as I thanked the boy that I felt the tears running down my face.”

I’m not going to defend Pastor Wright’s outrageous statements, nor shall I pretend they paint the entire picture. I know a lot of people who have never set foot inside a predominantly African-American church and have no grasp of the culture, context or anything else, now want to sit in judgment and condemn. They should read that whole first sermon that produced Obama’s emotional reaction. It makes everything more confusing.

Pastor Wright’s sermon is every bit as beautiful and touching as the senator proclaims in his book: “… with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God.” It’s quite easy to see how a somewhat confused young man in his 20s would have been inspired by such preaching. It’s quite easy to see how he would grow to love that man, the one who spoke those words.

Why didn’t he leave when the words became so inflammatory? Perhaps the answer lies in his original admiration for the man. I know the feeling.

(Originally published by Examiner Newspaper Group)

Religious guilt by association?

What part of any of this blather actually defends what Wright had to say, such as "God damn America"? Your reference to "cultural" differences in black churches seems to avoid the issue. The fact the Obama's best-selling book draws its title and its inspiration from Dr. Wright, the issue of Obama's proximity to his preacher seems to be of greater significance.

Straw man

Well, I don't think there is an attempt there to "defend what Wright had to say," as Wright's not running. If you're looking for why Obama shouldn't have to be defending statements his pastor makes on the pulpit, that would be paragraph 2.

Bell endorsed Clinton

so this isn't a "let's make excuses for my candidate and his pastor" article. It's a "let's be fair to the other guy" article, someting we need more of (on both sides). Hats off to Chris Bell.

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