From RCP (originally posted at HuffPost), here’s Barack’s answer to those who question his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He’s drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.
Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.
Because these particular statements by Rev. Wright are so contrary to my own life and beliefs, a number of people have legitimately raised questions about the nature of my relationship with Rev. Wright and my membership in the church. Let me therefore provide some context.
As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It’s a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.
Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he’s been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.Let me repeat what I’ve said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.
With Rev. Wright’s retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright’s statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.
I don’t understand how a person could continue to go to a church whose pastor does not share his or her values. And we aren’t talking about differing views on communion or what kind of music to use for the worship service. If Barack Obama did not agree with the hate that his pastor was preaching, he should have left the church. There’s no good reason why he didn’t do this. I also don’t buy that he was unaware of all the inflammatory things his pastor was saying. It’s great that Obama is condemning these statements now, but he should have been condemning them all along, and he should have taken the time to address this privately with Rev. Wright if he had all these serious objections.
We don’t know much about his values, but it is fair to question his judgment. Obama has admitted mistakes with his dealings with Tony Rezko, and his close ties to this minister who preaches hate from the pulpit also raises some serious questions about his ability to tell the good guys from the bad guys. That’s not an acceptable weakness for a future Commander-in-Chief. Reading souls should not be a prereq for the presidency, but a president should have more discretion on who to trust and who not to trust. I don’t have confidence that Barack Obama has the ability to discern this. Maybe he can learn it after he gets elected. But suddenly…that’s not as much of a sure thing as the Democrats believe that it is.