On Monday April 29, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the very prominent yet controversial pastor of presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, delivered a defiant speech at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
His fiery speech left him in hot water with the senator and has thrown Obama’s presidential campaign back into damage-control mode.
The pastor’s unrepentant, militant remarks certainly surprised and disappointed many of the Chicago-area clergy that I was privileged to speak with. I, for one, was personally befuddled to no end that a bright, intelligent and visionary man such as Pastor Wright would have such a serious lapse in judgment.
He allowed a less than 30-minute press conference to impair and undermine the prolific 20-year pastor/parishioner relationship he shared with Sen. Obama.
I have heard two schools of thought as for the justification of Wright’s implosion at the National Press Club on Monday. One school of thought says that he was being very self-serving and was capitalizing on the heightened level of publicity he has been garnering-that he is merely laying the groundwork for a potential book deal.
The other school of thought is that Rev. Wright is very militant and is radically committed to his liberation theology-that he took advantage of the big stage to speak his convictions to a national audience.
It is indeed quite possible that Rev. Wright-the maverick-was merely trying to be an advocate for the community he has served for 40 years. He may have simply felt compelled to speak to issues such as race relations, United States terrorism, and the “AIDS conspiracy theory.” He may have convinced himself that not speaking would have been cowardice and hypocritical.
I have been a pastor for more than 18 years. As one who has stood in the pulpit, it hurts me immensely to see the very public fallout between an influential pastor and his very famous and hugely successful parishioner.
From my own personal experience, I know that it does happen and can be very painful for everyone involved. In the end, both parties feel violated-everyone loses.
I am hopeful that the “Pastor Wright episode” is behind us. I’m hopeful that, ultimately, he and Sen. Obama, in time, can have some authentic reconciliation. Because it is a fact that whatever the senator becomes, he owes Wright for his 20-year pastoral investment in the lives of the Obama family.
For many years, Wright has been a beacon of light in the African-American community; a model minister and an inspiration to aspiring young pastors. Unfortunately, however, his latest actions have not only had the effect of throwing Obama under the bus, as he scrambles to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination. To a larger extent, Pastor Wright threw himself under the bus as well. With the great work that he has done, and the great church that he has built in our city, it would be a travesty for his performance at the National Press Club to define his legacy.
Let’s hope that Obama’s campaign can regain its momentum real soon. If it does not, it’s going to start getting real crowded under that bus. In the eyes of many, the black preacher is already under it.
If Obama loses this nomination, our whole community will be under it.