In recent years, Democrats have been depicted as the party lacking in spiritual principles. This was done even while Ronald Reagan, who did not attend church regularly, was in office. The irony is that this year, when both Democratic candidates freely talk about God – they even participated in a forum in Pennsylvania Sunday on the subject – their religious beliefs get marred in political mudslinging.
Last week in this space, I showed how several of the most inflammatory sound bites of Rev. Jeremiah Wright were taken out of context (the column is posted on my Web site, www.georgecurry .com).
Even after Obama denounced some of the rhetoric of his former minister, while not denouncing the man, "Slick Hillary" continues her attempt to use Wright's words for political gain.
"He would not have been my pastor," Clinton recently told reporters. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."
In the brouhaha over Wright, one central point keeps getting lost – Obama credits Rev. Wright with leading him to Jesus Christ. The sideshow over invective language amounts to, as Jesse Jackson likes to say, majoring in the minor.
Increasingly, Black pastors are defending Wright and the prophetic tradition. Strong columns have appeared in the daily press in Dallas and Seattle. It's encouraging that more and more White ministers are also stepping up and taking on Wright's critics.
Dean J. Snyder is the senior minister at the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C., where the Clintons worshipped during the White House years. Snyder issued the following statement:
"The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is an outstanding church leader whom I have heard speak a number of times. He has served for decades as a profound voice for justice and inclusion in our society. He has been a vocal critic of the racism, sexism and homophobia which still tarnish the American dream. To evaluate his dynamic ministry on the basis of two or three sound bites does a grave injustice to Dr. Wright, the members of his congregation, and the African American church which has been the spiritual refuge of a people that has suffered from discrimination, disadvantage, and violence.
"Dr. Wright, a member of an integrated denomination, has been an agent of racial reconciliation while proclaiming perceptions and truths uncomfortable for some white people to hear. Those of us who are White Americans would do well to listen carefully to Dr. Wright rather than to use a few of his quotes to polarize. This is a critical time in America's history as we seek to repent of our racism. No matter which candidate prevails, let us use this time to listen again to one another and not to distort one another's truth."
On the other side, the Internet is carrying stories that a former pastor of the Clintons has been convicted of first-degree sexual abuse for touching a 7-year-old girl in the wrong place. Actually, the minister in question, Rev. William Procanick, 54, is a former pastor of Resurrection Assembly of God Church in Clinton, N.Y. Thus, the confusion over his being "a former Clinton pastor." Hillary is a Methodist and not a member of the Assembly of God denomination.
Inasmuch as Slick Hillary could pick her pastor, but not her relatives, what does her pastor say?
The New York Sun contacted Rev. Edward Matthews, the former pastor of First United Methodist Church in Little Rock who served as the Clintons' pastor in Arkansas during the last two years of his governorship. Hillary still maintains a membership there although she has not lived in Arkansas in 16 years.
"We preachers get pretty irresponsible," he said, referring to Wright's most quoted sound bites. "...If we had it so say over again we probably wouldn't say it the same way." Even so, he said in the interview, Wight's sermon in which he said "God Damn America" was "a totally different animal when you look at its full context."
He added, "I've come pretty close to saying in some sermons, I guess, what Jeremiah Wright did." Matthews noted that his anti-war sermons during the Vietnam era and those of Wright today share the common theme "that America's going to have to get its act together, you know, that if we're going to be a leaders, we can't just say, 'America right or wrong.'"
Rev. Matthews said he heard Rev. Wright deliver a sermon in Arkansas during Black History Month.
"If you are very close-minded, you would have gotten up and walked out of that. But I appreciated what he was saying." Rev. Matthews said. "I wouldn't have said it that way. I wouldn't have been so animated."
He noted that he favors same-sex marriages and opposes the death penalty – positions that Clinton oppose.
He said, "She's disagreed with me on several things, but she remained a member of the church."
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. (NNPA)