American politics can be an ugly arena. It's difficult to imagine that any elected official can go through a major election campaign and remain unscathed. That being said, I believe that Barack Obama has eloquently addressed the issue that has been in the news of late, about a message his former pastor and long-time friend and spiritual advisor made some years ago.
There are those in politics and the media who tell us that we are to judge a potential presidential candidate by the thoughts and words of his/her friends. I would hope that common sense prevails in this issue. Who of us agrees with every word or thought uttered by our friends or family members? If we threw away meaningful relationships with everyone with whom we disagreed, we'd each be isolated people. Being a friend means we care for someone in spite of their flaws.
I would be sorely disappointed if Obama had denounced his friendship with Rev. Wright. That would make him a far smaller person in my eyes. Anyone who would end a friendship for political gain is not a person I would respect.
In these words below, Obama explains his thoughts on what Rev. Wright said, and his thoughts on the man and their longstanding friendship: I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America, a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam. As such, Rev. Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems -- two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all. Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Rev. Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Rev. Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and YouTube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine, who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth -- by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS. To read the entire transcript of Barack Obama's March 18 ,2008 speech, click on the title link.