On the one hand, there’s Richard Cohen’s column in today’s Washington Post chastising Obama for belonging to a church that put Louis Farrakhan on its cover last year. It’s guilt by association and smells strongly of Clinton oppo research and doesn’t reflect very well on Cohen–but is reasonably fair game nonetheless. If your church singles out Farrakhan for that kind of acclaim, well, you’ve got to respond. On the other hand, here’s Jonathan Raban’s account of what Obama got in the way of homiletic vision from the pastor of that church, Jeremiah Wright. It”s the opposite of the Farrakhan message of exclusivist black nationalism, stressing the coming together of all humankind. What Raban appears not to recognize is that Wright hardly came up with that millennial ideal himself. In the black church it’s just a recent, impressive
articulation of an African-American civil religious trope that is at least a century old–the most important articulation of which is, of course, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream.”
Update: Greg Sargent of Talking Point memo obtained this unequivocal response from Obama:
I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.
Sargent, along was various other netrootsters, takes Cohen to serious task for tarring Obama with the Farrakhan brush even as he claims not to.