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April 10, 2008
Obameology...The Next Wave...
Filed in: Current Affairs, It feels so wrong so it's gotta be Wright, Politics

The media frenzy has subsided for now - having essentially missed the point. Since the Fourth Estate is so focused on essentialness - is so interested, for example, in exploring the root causes of terrorism - it seems odd that there would be so little focus on the root causes of Jeremiah Wright's explications and the root causes of Barack Obama's participation.

So, we continue to grind this out. I've said that there are some very hard things to say. First, please watch this little mash-up.

It's one thing to write that Jeremiah Wright instructs us to adhere to Cone and to venture into the ambiguous world of Black Liberation Theology where we really cannot tell the difference between faith and policy - it's another thing to see it and hear it in expressions of faith and praxis.

The clip of Jeremiah Wright is from his "Hannity" interview on Fox News roughly a year ago (from this writing). The clip of James Cone is from his Ingersoll Lecture at the Harvard Divinity School (requires Real Media player - about an hour and a half duration) in October 2006 (so it's contemporary), called, reiteratively, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. The Barack Obama clips are from his reading of his book, Dreams from My Father, from a campaign stop in Harlem in 2007, and a debate among the Democratic candidates in late 2007.

Clearly, Cone's theology does not just elevate black experience to primacy, he replaces the very cross of Christ with the lynched black man. And there's no question that he evokes a terrible beauty in the telling, it is just the paucity of reality that speaks louder still.

Lynching is one of those very difficult things to discuss. There is no excuse for vigilante justice. None. And we cannot argue about the value of human life, especially if we embrace Judeo/Christian morality, because each life is of inestimable value. But what we can talk about is perspective.

To avoid intentionalist interpretation about what we mean here - we take lynching to mean "causing the death, typically by hanging, of someone accused of a crime, by a group of people taking the law into their own hands." I realize that the word is loaded with meaning ascribed in the latter part of the 20th century, but that certainly can't be interpreted from Cone's penchant for strange fruit.

Perspective: A Tuskegee Institute study determined that there were 4,730 lynchings between 1880 and 1951. Of those, 3,437 victims of mob violence were African Americans, 1,293 were Caucasians.

Perspective: A brief perusal of homicide statistics demonstrates with little extrapolation that black criminals kill black victims at an annual rate easily more than twice the total number of black lynchings in all of US history. These are not victims that are accused of crimes that might incite the passions of the mob - they are ordinary citizens fully deprived of their lives by people of their own race. This is true for at least the last twenty years, and if past trending is meaningful there were likely many more murders in years past than there are in the present day. Clearly, in the backdrop of life taking by citizens against other citizens, lynching is an aberration, it certainly cannot lay claim to being the scourge of illicit death for black Americans - that long tail lies with black criminals preying on their own identity.

Yet James Cone would have us deify, even comprehend all of American religious meaning through the lynching lens.

It might be tempting to simply view Cone as some sixties cultist - that is until you recall that Cone informs Wright who informs Obama. Some will say that there is some fantastic leap to reach that conclusion. I say pictures and words are worth thousands more.

By the time Barack Obama wrote Dreams from My Father, he was well ensconced in Wright's flock. In an early chapter of the book when he (justifiably) decries miscegenation, he offhandedly displays a stark race baiting cynicism. It is simply not credible to assert that in circa 1960 his father would have been strung up somewhere in the south for looking at his mother the wrong way. Was there racial injustice? Yes. Were their murders, even those motivated by racism? Yes. But there is simply no incident at the time where a black man was hung by a mob in any event - much less by some intentional judgment of the look in that straw man's eye. What could provide Obama with the confidence to assert such an error? Could it be identifying his missing father with the highest religious metaphor available to him?

When Obama complains about "reading about nooses" and the hyperbole of an "epidemic of nooses" he's mainly talking about the events in Jena, Louisiana in the fall of 2007. We won't recount the full story here, but it is clear in hindsight that the claims of the 'black oppressed' criminals, the pandering of the media and black leadership in that situation were proven fraudulent. (While hardly an epidemic, there have also been a number of other "noose" incidents - some hoaxes, some unsolved, which we will visit in a future post.)

But what is most disturbing is the promise of policy. Obama, after ill informed race baiting, pledges action against what amounts to straw men.

Mr. Obama, when your investigators go out to ferret out the hocus pocus around incidents like Jena in the future, will they go out with the religious fervor that elevates black oppression above anything else, including evidence?

And every single day during this campaign we could write a headline that says "Twenty-five black victims murdered by black criminals, Obama continues to campaign." And it would be true.

Barack Obama clearly understands what race baiting is. Yet, he chooses, when it suits him, to do it. I think that can only be explained by his discovery of power - after being long frustrated by his own powerlessness, his inability to achieve real power with education, his inability to achieve it in organizing - that he finds in Black Liberation Theology. Almost no one will argue with an angry black man wielding the theology of the noose. The white intelligentsia of Harvard roll over for Cone, and the Democratic candidates offer not a bleat to the pragmatic fancy of Obama's debate.

It is a fascinating facet, as a backdrop to all of this, that the rhetoric of the theologian and the politician are the same. Perhaps that is why it is so tempting to explain this all away. But this is just one example. We will explore in subsequent posts nearly identical ministerial messages conveyed by each of these men. And we must contemplate with that whether there is a Theocracy coming from a most unexpected place.

UPDATE: Reworked a little based on great input from Karl.

UPDATE2: PW-Lanche!

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People Pulling


I came over here from PW. Excellent post, clear analysis.

Posted by: Cowboy at Apr 11, 2008 3:15:50 AM

Thanks Cowboy!

Posted by: MC at Apr 11, 2008 3:28:44 AM

On NPR's Weekend Edition this past Sunday, Daniel Schorr dealt with this issue by deploying the chickenhawk smear. Bush & Cheney didn't serve in Vietnam, but Rev. Wright was once a Marine, therefore Wright has a standing pass to say whatever he wants.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at Apr 14, 2008 7:30:23 AM

TSI - so Schorr's saying that gives all other marines the right to be bigots? Ohnoes - they must be black marines?

Posted by: MC at Apr 14, 2008 11:42:12 AM

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