It Is About White Racism: The Reaction to Obama’s Former Pastor

In an interesting commentary yesterday on huffingtonpost, Frank Schaeffer made some excellent points about religion and race, and US politics, that show that the recent attacks on Senator Obama’s former pastor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, are very discriminatory in their framing and probably racist in intent:

When Senator Obama’s preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father — Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer — denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

The religious/political language was, and still is, much stronger from many conservative white ministers and pastors, including those associated with conservative political figures, but no great political uproar has yet arisen. He continues:

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers . . . rail against America’s sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the “murder of the unborn,” has become “Sodom” by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, “under the judgment of God.” They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama’s minister’s shouted “controversial” comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.

Later he points out just how influential his father and other ministers got/get:

When Mike Huckabee was recently asked by Katie Couric to name one book he’d take with him to a desert island, besides the Bible, he named Dad’s Whatever Happened to the Human Race? a book where Dad also compared America to Hitler’s Germany.

Thus, a leading Republican presidential candidate admires such a minister, but not one article critiques such extreme rhetoric. Indeed, can anyone reading this have named this minister in advance? He then adds how his father was treated like royalty:

Was any conservative political leader associated with Dad running for cover? Far from it. Dad was a frequent guest of the Kemps, had lunch with the Fords, stayed in the White House as their guest, he met with Reagan, helped Dr. C. Everett Koop become Surgeon General. . . . Dad became a hero to the evangelical community and a leading political instigator. When Dad died in 1984 everyone from Reagan to Kemp to Billy Graham lamented his passing publicly as the loss of a great American. Not one Republican leader was ever asked to denounce my dad or distanced himself from Dad’s statements.

In a country with such deep and systemic racism, and white racial framing that rationalizes it, we should expect such a double standard, where black ministers are evaluated by a different, and racialized standard, and white ministers dine with presidents and the elite.


  1. Nonsense.

    First, Obama’s pastor was not examined until now and Obama has been the front-runner/near-certain Democrat nominee for a long time. The reason Huckabee never got such treatment was he was never more than a fringe candidate.

    Second, it is very likely that the information on Wright was dug up and promoted by Clinton partisans. If Clinton was not waging war on Obama, we still wouldn’t know anything about his church.

    Yes, there probably are offensive racist white preachers but as long as they are a mere fringe element, they will likely be ignored just as other fringe groups, such as nazis, anarchists, trotskyites, etc., are ignored. In the same way, Rev. Wright had been ignored until he became spiritual adviser to the man very likely to be our next president.

  2. Joe Author

    First, the attack on Wright has been on the far right white supremacist websites, in detail, for several months, and the networks likely got it from there, not from the Clinton campaign. Anyone search for Obama could find that easily on the web.

    Second, there are many extreme statements coming from white pastors, as Schaeffer shows. His father was advisor to very famous presidents such as Ford and Reagan, and never got called out for statements stronger than Wright’s.

  3. Seattle in Texas

    Religious persecution (and persecution against the non-religious) really makes me sad, just as racism does. I was raised to value and protect the First Amendment—plain and simple. Holding the understanding relative to my home state, my upbringing, and socialization (here, most generally the collective is magnified and the individual minimized), I cannot even begin to describe what I am seeing here with this smear on both Obama and his Church or where to begin. It’s truly vile.

    But John, I don’t know if Clinton had anything to do with it and maybe she did not as stated above, but one thing is clear—she is certainly taking advantage of, and trying to benefit from it, which is shown through her lack of action to speak out against it (I find this some what hypocritical when she earlier she tried to play up her “Civil Rights” involvement, etc.—but this is not just limited to her, rather many who claim the same and did live during those times—where are their voices now?…yeah, America has really come a long way…right…). Well, and I won’t even speak of the Right as I think their role, intentions, and action and lack of action is obvious.

    But, you say Huckabee would have undergone the same experience had he come close to being elected as the Republican candidate, why has not McCain (who is now the candidate) or Clinton (who is close also) undergone this persecution? I know they go to church sometimes…at least on MLK day they did…. Wow, have television crews at churches so you can be seen to enter a church on that particular day, then afterwards, either attack or allow an attack and persecution on an African American church that holds firm to its own history and Civil Rights spirit. Why aren’t the white churches most generally outraged with this? And, why aren’t other religious traditions sickened by this treatment and speaking out also? I am aware of a couple of non-Christian groups who actually are speaking out against it…but the lack of voice and action most generally from many different groups brings great concern. It’s the other side of White Supremacy at its best—White Supremacy is not limited to the Radical Right…it’s so much bigger and deeper.

    I do appreciate the piece above as is demonstrates the hypocrisy of politics in general and how white presidents and their churches can say worse, and get rewarded for it. This type of stuff should be channeled through the media as well….

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