Jewish Journal


May 1, 2008

‘Between the pulpit and pews, a gulf on Obama’s ex-pastor’


LUMBERTON, N.C. — The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., under fire for statements that have embarrassed Senator Barack Obama’s campaign, has found staunch support in the pulpits of black churches around North Carolina. The people in the pews, however, are far less accepting.

In interviews at churches in cities and towns including Charlotte, Greensboro, Lumberton and Goldsboro, ministers expressed the view that Mr. Obama and Mr. Wright had been attacked by a superficial and biased news media. Many said they were teaching Mr. Wright’s sermons in Bible study classes. They are delivering lectures on the roots of Mr. Wright’s style of ministry and preaching against what they see as attempts to make Mr. Wright a divisive figure.

“People get fired up when they see people trying to scapegoat a presidential candidate because of a pastor,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro and the president of the state branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “And No. 2, the fact that you’re beating up on someone that’s very profound and very prophetic.”

But many parishioners are not nearly as sympathetic to Mr. Wright, saying they are disappointed with him for taking a personal dispute public with little concern for the harm it would do to the Obama campaign. (This sentiment is particularly strong among younger voters.) Others call Mr. Wright arrogant and untrustworthy, and still others say he is fighting old fights.

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