Maybe President Obama was the Exception and Jeremiah Wright was the Rule

Matt Lewis thinks the Trump campaign is foolish to use Obamagate against Joe Biden and the previous administration since no one is more popular (especially among African-Americans) than President Obama. But if you read then Senator Obama’s Philadelphia speech about race (in response to inflammatory statements by his United Church of Christ pastor, Jeremiah Wright), the former president’s ideas have not aged well. You might even think he was living in a never-never land about race. Timelines are again important and the 1619 Project has swept away President Obama’s hopes for national unity:

I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who’s been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

…The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

That was 2008. By almost the end of Obama’s second term as POTUS (2015), Jeremiah Wright was still making the rounds and his “static” view of the United States made sense:

Wright is a flawed messenger with a flawed message, but the message feels far more suited to the times in 2015 than it did to 2008. Back then, the prospect of an Obama election set off giddy daydreams of a post-racial America. Today, nearly three out of five Americans say that race relations in the United States are bad. Wright’s argument in those sermons more than a decade ago, that the United States was structurally racist and conceived in white supremacy, are now commonly voiced, by those like my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Lives Matters activists, and white liberals. Another cause he championed back then has come to draw adherents from across the political spectrum—the dangers of mass incarceration. Wright said in 2003:

The United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on the reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of the racist bastions of higher education and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing “God Bless America”

It could be that Obama didn’t really have a chance. The major media outlets and universities had not really agreed with his understanding of the United States. As David Graham added in his story about Wright:

much of it sounded very much like what you might hear from liberal professors in university classrooms across America: the emphasis on structural racism; skepticism of imperialism in many guises; sympathy for Palestinians and even antipathy toward Israel; praise for interdisciplinarity; the plea for multiculturalism and alternative viewpoints. Adding to the professorial vibe, Wright peppered his talk with repeated “assignments” for reading: the pioneering black historian Carter Woodson; C. Vann Woodward’s classic The Strange Career of Jim Crow; A. Leon Higginbotham’s In the Matter of Color: The Colonial Period; academic monographs in various disciplines. (The parallels between Coates and Wright were amusing: an interest in the study of white supremacy; a deep immersion in academic literature; a reverence for Howard University as an intellectual Mecca.)

For confirmation that President Obama did not change the minds of many Democrats and progressives about race, (trigger warning) read Adam Serwer on the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project:

The most radical thread in the 1619 Project is not its contention that slavery’s legacy continues to shape American institutions; it’s the authors’ pessimism that a majority of white people will abandon racism and work with black Americans toward a more perfect union. Every essay tracing racial injustice from slavery to the present day speaks to the endurance of racial caste. And it is this profound pessimism about white America that many of the 1619 Project’s critics find most galling.

Not the hope of 2008 but the despair of 2019/1619 is prevailing.


4 thoughts on “Maybe President Obama was the Exception and Jeremiah Wright was the Rule

  1. If the one and only God either elects or non-elects everyone, without exceptions, then it’s not “natural law” but the one God (who raised Jesus from the evil of death) who makes exceptions. That’s what it means to be sovereign.

    But nevertheless if only Christians could keep “politics” out of the church, Christians could still do whatever they wanted to and at the same time blame the devil and the world for all of it

    What is the motive for those who make it their agenda to not judge non-Christians by Christian standards? (You can kill them but don’t be theonomist about it, not even Calvin did that) . My suggestion is that the 2k motive is most of all about not judging Christians (themselves) by Christ’s example. (No, nobody could be like Jesus, but we can and will be different from THOSE SOCIALISTS who are removing the moral hazards which come with Christian “freedom and rights”)

    Adam Kotsko–“Especially in a country like the US, where religious affiliation is a matter of personal choice, there is bound to be a feedback loop between the two realms, as people will find it difficult to remain in a religious community that defies their political instincts. Hence throughout American history, churches have tended to split according to the political questions of the day: revolution vs. loyalism, abolitionism vs. slavery, and today, liberal vs. conservative. One can almost always point to a conservative and liberal version among the Christian denominations.”

    Adam Kotsko—It’s “only Nixon can go to China.” Only a pagan ruler who knows nothing of the God of Israel—and who was in fact just as happy to finance the building of pagan abominations as part of a general policy of restoring the local religious observances his predecessors had uprooted—can protect the righteous and spiritual remnant….


  2. “ What is the motive for those who make it their agenda to not judge non-Christians by Christian standards?“
    Fidelity to God’s Word.

    9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-
    10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
    11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one.
    12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
    13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13


  3. If we are born in a Christian country, we are all Christians. If you are born in the Abrahamic covenant, you have birthright Christian citizenship unless you choose later to erase your name from the book of life.

    “Now I love being home, in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” Romney told supporters at a campaign rally in Michigan to cheers and laughter. “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate; they know that this is the place that we were born and raised.” If you were raised both Mormon Christian and American, you might need to be baptized (no re to it) but your private religion should have nothing to do with a little public friendly racist joking. Obama joining a church and becoming a Christian was not revivalism—-it was more politically calculating than a baptist getting a reformed upgrade in order to obtain a better job (these things take time)
    Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a Senior Journalism Fellow at Hillsdale College

    Dreher—Christians ought to want Christianizing their culture

    Tom Holland (Dominion) —If you’re a Christian, you think that the entire fabric of the cosmos was ruptured when by this strange singularity with someone who is a God and a man, and if you believe that, it should be possible to dwell on all the other weird stuff that TRADITIONALLY COME AS PART OF THE CHRISTIAN PACKAGE


  4. Mark McM: If we are born in a Christian country, we are all Christians. If you are born in the Abrahamic covenant, you have birthright Christian citizenship unless you choose later to erase your name from the book of life.

    Paul: As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.


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