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Church and State: Whither the Black Minister?

It's hard to forget the image of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Rev. Otis Moss III kneeling and praying with their families and others at D.C.'s Shiloh Baptist Church.

Monday had been a tough day. For Wright, what was supposed to be a brief moment to answer questions after delivering a well-prepared speech at the National Press Club, had turned into a question and answer period in which Wright's words sparked a media storm. Many now fear the event threatens Sen. Barack Obama's chances for the White House.

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Wright and others, including Obama's current pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, came to Washington for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, a gathering of theologians who preach a fiery gospel that challenges the rich, elevates the poor and

encourages the disenfranchised to believe Jesus wants everyone to have a place at the table of opportunity.

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr. is also a liberation theologian. The Cleveland pastor is not only the father of Obama's new young pastor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, but was a civil rights activist and close associate to Martin Luther King Jr. Moss came from an era when more ministers were given a blank check by their followers to say what they wanted. (Though there certainly were those who were critical of activist ministers like himself and King.)

"Dr. King said it best, 'The church shouldn't be the servant of the state or the master of the state," said Moss.

But after Wright's appearance Monday, many of his critics, black and white, Democrat and Republican, preachers and laypeople, believe that the old preacher doesn't deserve a pass. In addition, some believe the event was orchestrated by a person they are calling a Clinton surrogate, Barbara Reynolds, the former USA columnist and author who now preaches at a District church. Reynolds denies such claims.

The debate over Wright and Reynolds and Obama has some leaders such as civil rights activist Lawrence Guyot worried. He, along with ministers such as Shiloh's Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, want people to move on and to realize that both the politician and the preacher have a place in society. Guyot fears what the fallout could mean for delegates and superdelegates at the Democratic convention this summer.

"Now is the time for all us to unite on getting the unpledged delegates to cast their votes for Obama and not risk having a political bloody Democratic convention this summer. 1964 should have taught us a lesson," said Guyot, the former head of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party who was jailed for trying to integrate the Mississippi Democratic Party in 1964.

Said Smith, "Dr Wright has been villified for something that happens routinely in the black church. On a recent Sunday I said something that needed to be said that could have been taken the wrong way."

But the talk radio waves have continued to burn as people weigh in on the contro-versy. And what happens if Obama doesn't make it to the White House? Will the Wright episode have somehow diminished the role of the black minister?

Hamil R. Harris

By editors  |  May 4, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Presidential Race  
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From Head of State

"Sunday, May 04, 2008
Hillary Says That Regarding Rev. Wright, "We Should Move On"

Today, during a Town Hall meeting presented by "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", an extremely poised and articulate Indianapolis voter, Michelle Skinner, a Republican, posed a beautifully targeted question to Clinton:

"Sen. Clinton, my question is: Do you think the discourse, the controversy going on with Rev. Wright, do you think this is relevant to Obama and his policy? Do you think this has accomplished anything or should we drop it, should we move on?"

Clinton: (trapped): "Well, we should definitely move on."

In this case--let's take her at her word.

Head of State

Posted by: Robert Hewson | May 4, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

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