Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reverend Noisemaker

It's for statements such as the following that I would reject "Reverend" Jeremiah Wright more than I would ever think to reject my white grandmother:

Jesus said, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.
Yes, the Bible does say odious things like that, and they are not only divisive and bombastic but simplistic and equivocal to the point of moral absurdity. What does he mean by doing terrorism on other people? Who, precisely, is you? Does the you deployed here have a constant referent? Claims like this are counterproductive slapdash if the critical terms go undefined.

I had the chance to watch as "Reverend" Wright made these and other equally insipid remarks before the National Press Club yesterday, and marveled at how blithely he assumed all these open questions away --- aided by a chorus of people located out of camera range who apparently share his assumptions, clapping and hooting for every lazy applause line. It goes to illustrate Christopher Hitchens' debating point that you can attach the word "Reverend" to your name and get away with saying the most indefensible things.

I didn't hate everything he said -- he noted, for example, that his claims to patriotism are buttressed by six years of service in the Marines, contrasted with Cheney's zero and Bush's Vietnam-era assignment defending the Gulf Coast from its oversupplies of cocaine and whiskey -- but I am not in the "Reverend's" amen chorus. I am not impressed with a "Reverend" title; and I am even less impressed with the application of Biblical logic (such as it is) to questions of collective punishment. The political enemy of my political enemies is not my friend.

Barack Obama should not count himself in that chorus if he hopes to be president. He has stated he does not share Wright's outlook on a wide variety of matters, and that's great. He needs to get more specific with the rejections.

Short of that, Obama's godly entanglements will give us a third Bush term -- talk about your collective punishments. Religion poisons everything indeed.


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