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Obama and Wright: How Far Apart Are They?

As Paul noted earlier, Barack Obama denounced Jeremiah Wright today. While political realities no doubt contributed to Obama’s decision to break with Wright, I don’t doubt that most of what he said was sincere.

Obama’s purpose, of course, was to make clear that Wright’s outrageous rants “don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs.” In support of this statement, Obama appealed to the evidence of his own writings:

And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign is about, I think, will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Again:

It contradicts what I’ve said in my books.

The problem for Obama is that his books do not, in fact, support the conclusion that he is entirely out of sympathy with what we now know to be Jeremiah Wright’s noxious views. To be sure, Obama has never suggested that the federal government developed the AIDS virus. But Obama’s own account of his first encounter with Wright’s preaching, as related in his book Dreams From My Father, reveals that Obama knew of Wright’s virulent racism from the beginning, and that it was a racist screed by Wright that initially drew Obama to his church. Listen to Obama himself tell the story in the audio book of Dreams From My Father, by clicking here.

It is hard to see how a candidate who finds inspirational the claim that “white folks’ greed runs a world in need” can fully distance himself from Wright’s anti-white racism.

PAUL adds: As I’ve written before, the common thread that ties Obama’s views to Wright’s is black liberation theology, which sees the Christian mission as bringing justice to oppressed people through political activism, and emphasizes the racial aspect of oppression. In effect, it is an amalgam of Christianity, radical left-wing ideology, and black militancy. Obama’s autobiography supports my view that, in all likelihood, “only this brand [of Christianity] could [have brought] a left-wing political activist like Obama to Jesus.”

The existence of this common thread does not mean that Obama subscribes to the worst of Wright’s views, and I’m confident he does not. But I believe it helps explain why Obama found so many of these views merely “controversial,” not deplorable. As I put it:

An oppressor will go to great lengths to oppress, and it is an open question just how far that imperative extends. Wright offers one possible answer to that question: there are virtually no limits. If that answer were beyond the pale of the black liberation theology of his congregation, Wright would not have survived and prospered there.

By the way, in a few days National Review will publish a lengthy analysis of black liberation theology by the estimable Stanley Kurtz. Keep an eye out for it.

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