Opinion: Barack Obama talks about his church, the Rev. Wright and his mom


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Barack Obama stood by his church today (especially its choir).

And, although he was not directly questioned about him, he also had some comments about his longtime (though now retired) minister, Jeremiah Wright.

At a forum in Greensboro, N.C. -- his one event after a brief R&R trip with his family to the Caribbean -- Obama was asked by a student from a nearby Christian college to discuss the role Jesus Christ plays in his life.

As part of his lengthy response, the Democratic presidential candidate broached the topic that no doubt had made a vacation all the more tempting for him -- the spotlight cast upon Wright’s inflammatory remarks about racial relations and America.

Obama said the pastor had said some ‘very objectionable things when I wasn’t in church on those particular days.’


But he also stressed that Wright gave at least three sermons a week for 30 years, and that people opposed to Obama’s candidacy had found ‘five or six of his most offensive statements’ and boiled them down to play over and over, mainly on YouTube.

‘I hope people don’t get distracted by that,’ he said.

Before those comments, Obama said that Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, where Wright had presided, ‘is a wonderful, welcoming church. If you were there on any given Sunday, folks would be doing the same things in church at Trinity as they do everywhere else. They’re praising Jesus. They’ve got a choir singing. It’s a very good choir. And the pastor is trying to teach a lesson to connect Scripture to our everyday lives.’

And before that, in addressing more directly the query about Jesus, he said he believes in a Gospel ...

of both words and deeds.

‘I believe in doing right here on Earth and treating people with the dignity and respect that is inherent in them as children of God,’ he said.

Obama also then spoke about his deceased mother (subject of this recent profile), noting that she was ‘not a believer.’

He went on: ‘But she was the kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known,’ he said. ‘I’m sure she is in heaven, even though she may not have subscribed to everything that I subscribe to.’


The event’s stagecraft signaled that Obama and his aides know that the controversy over Wright and his remarks have taken a toll, and that repair work is required.

The campaign continued its relatively new use of prayer before his appearances. ‘Thank you for this time of excitement and enthusiasm,’ a local minister intoned. ‘I pray a special blessing, oh God, a special blessing, on Barack Obama.’

The audience was then led in the Pledge of Allegiance.

-- John McCormick and Don Frederick

John McCormick writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune’s Washington bureau.