I was struck by Barack Obama’s blaming the press for identifying Reverend Wright as his spiritual mentor or spiritual adviser:
OBAMA: I know that one thing that [Wright] said was true, was that he wasn't — you know, he was never my, quote-unquote, "spiritual adviser."
He was never my "spiritual mentor." He was — he was my pastor. And so to some extent, how, you know, the — the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think, wasn't accurate.
I had always thought that this notion came from Obama himself. A LEXIS search of news articles tends to indicate that it was Barack himself who so identified Wright, at least initially. But then, of course, perhaps the press repeatedly misreported what Obama told various reporters over the last four years.
Here are some of the news stories I found (all except the last are over a year old):
'I HAVE A DEEP FAITH,' Chicago Sun-Times, April 5, 2004
These days, [Obama] says, he attends the 11 a.m. Sunday service at Trinity in the Brainerd neighborhood every week — or at least as many weeks as he is able. His pastor, Wright, has become a close confidant.
Race Against History, The New Republic, May 31, 2004
Shortly before leaving Chicago for Harvard, he had a meeting with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the charismatic black pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, one of the most socioeconomically diverse all-black congregations in Chicago. Obama was taken with Wright's worldview, perhaps best encapsulated by a Trinity brochure proclaiming that, "while it is permissible to chase `middleincomeness' with all our might," ambitious African Americans must beware the "psychological entrapment of black `middleclassness' that hypnotizes the successful brother or sister into believing they are better than the rest of US."
Sen. Barack Obama's Pastor Frames Progressive Issues Through Lens of Faith, Religion News Service, March 10, 2005
But when talking about how religious conservatives have pushed issues such as gay rights and stem cell research into the forefront, [Wright’s] voice becomes taut and his rebuke direct.
Those who focus on these issues are building themselves up at the expense of others and, while the Bible has many references to right and wrong, Jesus only spoke against people who judged others, Wright says.
"Are you following Jesus when you are vilifying people?" Wright asks. "The answer to that question is no."
It's no coincidence that Wright's response to these issues is similar to that of Obama, Illinois' newest senator and one of the Democratic Party's leading lights in trying to frame traditional liberal issues as moral and religious imperatives.
Obama met Wright 20 years ago in the process of trying to get Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ involved in some community organizing he was doing. Ever since, Obama has been a devoted member of Wright's church. Obama says that Wright is not only his pastor, but he also is his friend and mentor. And Wright is one of the people to whom he turns [to] help him explain how his liberal positions jibe with his faith.
The fact that Obama chose Trinity is no accident. In a sea of conservative black churches, Trinity stands out in that it has welcomed in gay members, done outreach to people living with AIDS and advocated progressive positions on many social issues. . . .
Today, Wright is quick to call those who voted for President Bush "stupid" and chastise the public for letting issues like housing for the poor "fall off the radar screen." . . .
Obama says one of the things he has learned from Wright is that the Bible is full of references to poor people and how they should be treated. This, Obama says, is one of the points he would like Democrats to point out when Republicans try to take the religious high ground with talk of moral values.
Wright is there to give further guidance.
First, he says Democratic leaders need to understand why so many people feel threatened by gay people.
"Is it that people have linked homosexuals with pedophiles?" Wright asks. "Was it that they were molested as a kid? There are all kinds of emotional stuff that come up. We have to stick with it and hear each other."
Keeping the Faith, In These Times, February 28, 2005
Wright and Obama developed a close relationship in the intervening years, and Obama counts the Reverend among his spiritual advisers. When a reporter asked Wright what advice he would give Obama upon election to the Senate, Wright said, "My advice to him: Please stay the same as you've been ever since I've known you."
'Personal relationship with Jesus Christ' dates to '88, Chicago Sun Times, June 29, 2006
When [Obama] is in Chicago, he attends the 11 a.m. Sunday service at Trinity in the working-class Brainerd neighborhood every week — or at least as many weeks as he is able.
Obama's Real Faith, Investor's Business Daily, January 23, 2007
Obama, meanwhile, has been getting in touch with his African roots. . . .
"I believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change," he recently asserted. He said his faith has also led him to question "the idolatry of the free market." This reflects Trinity church doctrine that no African-American can really rise to the top echelons of a "racist, competitive" white society on merit.
Obama, in turn, calls the dashiki-wearing minister of this militantly black church his "spiritual adviser" and mentor. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright said of Obama and his other congregants: "We are an African people, and remain true to our native land, the mother continent." He wants health care for all and more housing for the poor, and calls those who voted for President Bush (and his tax cuts) stupid.
Barack Obama, Candidate for President, is 'UCC,' PR Newswire US, February 9, 2007
In November 2004, during his acceptance speech following his election to the Senate, Obama expressed appreciation for the support of Trinity UCC's members. The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Trinity UCC, is one of Obama's close spiritual advisors and is credited with giving inspiration to the title of Obama's bestselling book, "The Audacity of Hope." Obama says he first heard Wright use the phrase in one of his stirring sermons.
"Trinity UCC has been a true community to me — a place in which the mind, heart and soul come together to celebrate God's goodness," Obama told United Church News in 2004.
Black power sermons test Democrats' faith in presidential hopeful, The Sunday Telegraph (LONDON), February 11, 2007
The senator, 45, who describes the Rev Mr Wright as a mentor and spiritual adviser, acknowledged that he too was struck by the call to disavow "middleclassness'' when he first visited the church 20 years ago as a community activist who had just moved to Chicago.
"As I read it at least, it was a very simple argument taken directly from the Scripture: 'To whom much is given, much is required','' he told the Chicago Tribune. More generally, he argued, the document "espouses profoundly conservative values of self-reliance and self-help'' for black advancement.
Disinvitation By Obama Is Criticized, The New York Times, March 6, 2007
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., senior pastor of the popular Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and spiritual mentor to Senator Barack Obama, thought he knew what he would be doing on Feb. 10, the day of Senator Obama's presidential announcement.
After all, back in January, Mr. Obama had asked Mr. Wright if he would begin the event by delivering a public invocation.
But Mr. Wright said Mr. Obama called him the night before the Feb. 10 announcement and rescinded the invitation to give the invocation. . . .
Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said the campaign disinvited Mr. Wright because it did not want the church to face negative attention. Mr. Wright did however, attend the announcement and prayed with Mr. Obama beforehand.
''Senator Obama is proud of his pastor and his church, but because of the type of attention it was receiving on blogs and conservative talk shows, he decided to avoid having statements and beliefs being used out of context and forcing the entire church to defend itself,'' Mr. Burton said.
Instead, Mr. Obama asked Mr. Wright's successor as pastor at Trinity, the Rev. Otis Moss III, to speak. Mr. Moss declined. . . .
In Monday's interview, Mr. Wright expressed disappointment but no surprise that Mr. Obama might try to play down their connection.
''When his enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli'' to visit Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Mr. Wright recalled, ''with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell.'' Mr. Wright added that his trip implied no endorsement of either Louis Farrakhan's views or Qaddafi's.
Mr. Wright said that in the phone conversation in which Mr. Obama disinvited him from a role in the announcement, Mr. Obama cited an article in Rolling Stone, ''The Radical Roots of Barack Obama.''
According to the pastor, Mr. Obama then told him, ''You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we've decided is that it's best for you not to be out there in public.''
IS OBAMA BLACK ENOUGH? Why do you ask?, Chicago Tribune, March 11, 2007
Obama had come under fire for being a member of Trinity United Church of Christ, whose tenets are based on what it calls the Black Value System. Conservatives said the church was separatist, anti-middle-class and too Afrocentric for a candidate who speaks eloquently of constructing bridges along race and class lines. Obama has defended his church, saying it promotes self-reliance and self-help and should be a conservative's dream. . . .
For some, the idea of Obama distancing himself from the man he has called his mentor and spiritual adviser is anathema and is looked on as the candidate selling out.
Ethnic identity isn't black and white, Chicago Sun Times, March 25, 2007
[A]t the last minute, Obama disinvited Wright to speak last month when he officially announced his presidential candidacy. Wright says that Obama now realizes that his political handlers gave him bad advice and that all is well between him and the senator.
New York Times (transcript), March 18, 2008
OBAMA: And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me.