Candidate Obama tried to dismiss his support for Wright, telling Charlie Gibson of ABC News, "It's as if we took the five dumbest things that I ever said or you ever said…in our lives and compressed them, and put them out there, you know, I think that people's reaction, would be understandably upset." And rightly so. In sermon after sermon, Wright's radical black nationalist ideas were clearly and emphatically stated. They were not an aberration, but the focal point of Pastor Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Obama was an active member for 20 years.
Nor has Wright renounced any of his anti-Americanism. In a sermon last September 16 marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11 entitled, "The Day of Jerusalem's Fall," Wright seemed to celebrate white America's comeuppance. "We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki. And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon--and we never batted an eye!" Wright preached. "We supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black south Africans and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards." He closed, invoking Malcolm X's statement about the assassination of J.F.K, "America's chickens! Coming home! To roost!" White America, he was saying, had gotten its just deserts.
Candidate Obama tried to distance himself from Wright's more damning comments. But, crucially, he didn't disown the pastor himself. In fact, in his rise to political fame, he had made Wright's sermons his own, drawing on Wright's "Audacity to Hope" sermon and appropriating its theme for his political coming-out speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. He even borrowed the sermon's title for his second autobiography, The Audacity of Hope, in a bid to get Wright and other black churches to support his candidacy.
The question is why Barack Obama, raised without any faith at all, chose one of the most incendiary preachers in Black America to preach the word of God to him. Wright became, in Obama's words, "like family to me. [Wright] strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children." Obama told a group of ministers in June 2007 that Wright helped "introduce me to my Christian faith." But what, exactly, is Barack Obama's faith? Just as important, what is Jeremiah Wright's?