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I can understand why Rick Howell believes that the national news media is obsessed with Jeremiah Wright and that this obsession is absurd. Mr. Howell is a member of the Roanoke City "Democratic" Committee and Barack Obama is the likely "Democratic" presidential nominee.
He made an apples-and-oranges comparison which contrasted news coverage of the Rev. Wright's connection to Obama with John Hagee's endorsement of John McCain. There is no comparison.
Hagee is not the pastor of McCain's church. I doubt that McCain listens to Hagee's TV broadcasts, and was probably unaware of the man's teaching on the Roman Catholic Church. As soon as this made the news, McCain correctly responded, making it clear that he doesn't share Hagee's views on that subject. It was appropriate for this to cease to be news at that point.
Wright's connection with Obama is different. He has been Obama's pastor for 20 years and it's obvious that the examples of Wright's mean rhetoric weren't taken out of context. Wright had the chance to put them in context when he spoke before the National Press Club and he did so by defending those outrageous comments.
Mr. Howell's contention that preachers routinely make statements that many of their parishioners disagree with is simply not true. I've sat in pews for 40 years now, under the ministry of six different pastors in four different churches in three different cities. There have been some occasions when I heard something from the pulpit that I thought was wrong, but I can count those on my fingers.
If I were attending a church and found that I routinely strongly disagreed with what the pastor was preaching, I would have a talk with the man. Then, I start attending a different church. Most other folks would do the same. If the majority of the folks in the pews strongly disagree with what the preacher says, he would be looking for another job. Churches organized on a congregational level, such as Baptist Churches, would oust him. Churches organized under other systems of church government can also find ways to get rid of a serious problem in the pulpit. If the vestry of an Anglican church, for example, decided the rector needed to go, they could encourage him to leave by zeroing out the rector's salary in the church budget.
The fact that Jeremiah Wright built up his Chicago church from less than 100 to more than 2,000 indicates that he assembled a congregation of like-minded people. They apparently agree with most of the hate-filled, racist stuff that obviously spewed from his pulpit from time to time. At the very least, these folks had no problems with it.
This would also be true of Obama. It's impossible to believe that Obama sat in a pew in Wright's church for 20 years without knowing about his pastor's penchant for the crazy talk that, along with his connection to a presidential hopeful, made him newsworthy. It's clear that Obama either substantially agrees with Wright, or at the very least was not troubled by what his pastor preached until it threatened to hurt his presidential bid.
An attack on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, by the way, does not constitute an attack on the black church because the Rev. Wright is not representative of the black church. The Rev. Wright is part of the United Church of Christ, a denomination which denies Scriptural inerrancy. The Rev. Wright, like any United Church of Christ pastor, feels he can disregard any passage in Scripture that he thinks is wrong. A commentary in last week's edition of The Economist notes that homosexual couples can be seen holding hands in Sunday morning worship in Wright's church. This is <*I>not<*P> representative of the black church.
I think it's safe to say that no black church in this area would sanction such behavior. The vast majority of black churches hold the theologically orthodox doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy. But, that's a subject for another column.