Reverend’s remarks break taboos

Prof C Explains
4 min readMar 18, 2008

by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist

During the past weekend, radio and television shows have been playing clips of Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Barack Obama’s church in Chicago. In the clips, some from more than seven years ago, Wright is seen making several long rants about current affairs, politics, history, race in America and our country’s actions abroad. In the most shocking, Wright condemns America for its treatment of blacks.

Sen. Obama has said such tirades were not the usual Sunday fare when Wright was leading the congregation at Trinity United Church of Christ. Obama has issued several condemnations and denunciations of Wright’s comments in the past few days, including an essay on the Huffington Post, in which he says: “I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.”

But Wright’s comments are not going to go away quickly. By breaking several taboos in American politics — and doing so in a manner that makes Howard Dean’s scream sound like a whisper — Wright’s words have become a weapon that will be used against Obama in the coming contests for the Democratic nomination and the presidency.

The first taboo Wright breaks is calling into question the motivations of both the terrorists of Sept. 11, 2001, and our leaders. Right after Sept. 11, Wright concluded one rant with “we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. … America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

One simply cannot question the motivation of either the terrorists or our government — because we already know that everything al-Qaida does is because they are evil people and everything the United States does is because we are good people.

Wright’s implication that it was our imperfect foreign policy that led al-Qaida to target us calls into question the actions and motivations of every president going back to Harry Truman. That is simply not the type of introspection that we can collectively handle. And it is certainly not a line of thought with which any candidate for…



Prof C Explains

J Scott Christianson: UM Teaching Prof, Technologist & Entrepreneur. Connect with me here: