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The Republican/Media Smearing of Reverend Wright

Everyone should watch Bill Moyers’ Journal interview of Jeremiah Wright, including extended excerpts of the sermons whose out of context snippets have been played relentlessly on our televisions.

America’s media, and especially Fox News, MSNBC’s morning joes and others, have outrageously defamed a highly regarded theologian and righteous man. And by association, they’ve defamed an entire congregation — an "attack on the Black Church," as Reverend Wright said this morning — and a respected branch of Christian theology, all because the Republican right wing wants to smear a Democratic candidate for President. It’s time for what’s left of the responsible media to condemn the smears and apologize for this journalistic travesty.

Some of the most controversial sound bites are snippets from Wright’s sermon on the Sunday after 9/11, when every religious leader in the country struggled to help their congregations deal with the evil that had just occurred. How could they make sense of such evil?

Reverend Wright chose his text from Psalms Chapter 137, a lament from the Old Testament written thousands of years ago by those who understood the meaning of suffering, of the horrors of war and the struggle for liberation from oppression and slavery.

Others more qualified can interpret Psalm 137, but part of the sermon discussed how perceptions of God depend on whether you’re the victor or the vanquished. The God of the attacker is not the God of the victims, any more than the God of the slave owner is the God of the slaves.

Using Psalm 137, Wright described how the desire for revenge affects us, allowing wars that begin with attacks on the enemy’s soldiers to degrade into attacks against the innocent . . . even to the point where we proclaim,

Happy are those who seize your children and smash them against a rock.

Wright, a Marine veteran, was warning about the nature of war, about the consequences of seeking revenge and of viewing one’s nation as morally infallible. It was a sermon that might have been preached in a thousand churches and synagogues that Sunday. Wars can become a slaughter of innocents, and the belligerents accept it. That is what Wright saw coming after 9/11; it’s what happened in Psalm 137; it is where we are today.

Yesterday’s New York Times reported the anger of Afghanistan President Karzai, who has repeatedly pleaded with US and British forces to end operations that inevitably kill innocents in his country. It has happened over and over. In Wright’s sermon, Psalm 137 predicts such outcomes. And he could have easily been talking about citizens in Gaza or Israel, or the Green Zone and Sadr City. Armies inevitably kill innocents, and each side excuses their own.

President Bush, a self-proclaimed Christian, had a predictably un-Christian response to 9/11 when he grabbed the bullhorn to boast that those who did this "will soon hear from us." His approval ratings soared. Now they are as low as any President’s. Yet despite hundreds of thousands of Iraqi/Afghani/US deaths and millions displaced, and despite the catastrophic failure of Bush’s war policies, that initial response still defines American foreign policy and constrains our political discourse. It afflicts both parties.

It remains politically unacceptable to suggest that America’s response should be anything other than a relentless "war" against terrorism. But for some the enemy includes anyone we can even remotely (or dishonestly) associate with the terrorists who attacked us.

Just like Bush, John McCain and his Republican Party, with help from a complicit media, dishonestly expanded "associate with terrorists" to include anyone who opposes their aggressive wars. In labeling Obama the "Hamas candidate," McCain is not just defaming Obama and distorting what Wright or Obama said; he’s trying to rule out of bounds any discussion of alternatives to 100 years of war in responding to terrorism.

In McCain’s view, Barack Obama associates with terrorism merely by living in a neighborhood with those with radical histories, or by attending a Christian Church where ministers point out the evils of war, even though Wright’s sermons that were quoted out of context unequivocally condemn terrorism in all forms, and even though the insinuation that Barack Obama holds terrorist sympathies is a preposterous lie.

Our media know these are preposterous lies. A responsible media would immediately condemn the lies and the liars. These outrageous smears reveal how dishonest and unethical McCain and his party are, and thus how unqualified he and they are to hold the Presidency.


For more on the Moyer’s interview and Wright’s sermons, see Pastor Dan. I expect others at Firedoglake will return to this as well. Also note that Bill O’Reilly thinks we should "hang" Bill Moyers over this interview. See dmac comment for links to sermons.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley