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Obama: The Unknowns


As I said in today’s “Left in Church” piece, the full story of Barack Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright has yet to be written. There’s still a lot we don’t know. Barack Obama certainly could have had differences with both Reverend Wright and with black liberation theology on various particulars. Certainly, Obama’s rhetoric differs from both Wright and Cone. Yet I think it’s increasingly clear that Obama was aware of both his pastor’s views and his church’s theology, and was generally attracted to this broad political stance, whatever the differences on particulars may have been.

We still don’t know precisely how much Obama knew regarding the contents of Trumpet Newsmagazine. As a long-time parishioner who had gone through new member classes and who had a close relationship to Wright, it’s next-to-impossible to believe that Obama did not have at least a basic familiarity with the nature and contents of Trumpet. Almost certainly, new member classes would have included information about Trumpet. And it’s hard to believe that Wright would not have been eager to point Obama to his many essays in Trumpet. At minimum, we now know for certain that, as of early 2007, when he was interviewed for a Trumpet cover story, Obama had to know of the existence of the magazine. I think we’d likely learn a lot more if we had copies of earlier years of Trumpet, especially those earlier issues with Obama on the cover. But the fact that Obama and Wright were “close confidants” makes it hard to believe that, however much Obama did or didn’t read Trumpet, he could have been unaware of the nature of Wright’s politics. And now I think we need to know more about Father Michael Pfleger, and his relationship to Obama.

Whatever the precise degree of agreement on particular issues, it’s increasingly clear that Obama found the basic stance of the radical religious figures he worked with not only acceptable but in significant respects, attractive. That may not yet tell us everything we ultimately want to know about Obama’s precise views on these matters, but it’s important nonetheless.


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