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van Susteren vs Sharpton - Manifestos of the Moon

About van Susteren vs Sharpton

Previous Entry van Susteren vs Sharpton Mar. 22nd, 2008 @ 04:06 pm Next Entry
Greta van Susteren, the lawyer who became famous as a tv analyst during the O. J. Simpson trial -- now she's a staple on Fox News -- seems to be convinced that Rev. Wright (the preacher at Barack Obama's church in Chicago) spews out "hate speech against whites". She interviewed Al Sharpton to ask him why he and Obama don't condemn Wright for racist speech the way they condemmed Don Imus for his comments about the Rutgers women's rugby team.

The video's here: http://rawstory.com/rawreplay/?p=808 (Thanks, nausved, for the link.)

Sharpton points out that he sees Wright strongly criticizing the government and the Clintons but doesn't see him making sexist or racist comments like Imus did. Americans have a right, Sharpton argues, to say controversial things about the government or politicians -- Fox News commentators do it all the time. Show us an example, he requests, where Wright spews racial hatred. Van Susteren apparently isn't prepared to do so, and promises instead to have him back on the next day.

The next day is here: http://rawstory.com/rawreplay/index.php?p=814

Van Susteren recaps their disagreement the previous day, and then plays a tape of bits from various Wright sermons, asserting that they represent "hate against whites".

You can watch the video if you want. But I've noticed that many people -- especially conservatives -- are unable to focus on the actual words spoken rather than on their emotional reaction to those words (yes, liberals often have this problem too -- but mostly I see in it conservatives, perhaps because they dominate the realms of talk radio and email forwarding). Anyway, for that reason, I've transcribed the words coming from Rev. Wright's mouth. Put them down on paper so we can -- hopefully -- look at them calmly and accurately.

As you read these words, ask yourself: is this hate speech against whites? or instead is this liberal ranting against the government, the wealthy, and the Clintons? Greta van Susteren says its racism against whites. Al Sharpton says it's the latter. For my part, I'll follow each quote with my own opinion.

This government lied about their belief that all men are created equal. The truth is they believed all white men were created equal. The truth is they did not believe that even white women were created equal—in creation nor in civilization. The government had to pass an amendment to the Constitution to get white women the vote. Then the government had to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to get equal protection under the law for women. The government still thinks a woman has no rights over her own body, and between Uncle Clarence who sexually harassed Anita Hill, and the [closeted ?] [clanned ?] Court that is a throwback to the 19th Century, hand-picked by Daddy Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, [but?] between Clarence and that stacked court they are about to undo Roe versus Wade just like they're about to undo affirmative action. The government lied in its founding document and the government is still lying today. --Rev. Wright


First, Wright is wrong: the ERA never passed. The four sentences prior to the ERA statement are uncontroversial facts of history (although most historians probably see it as something a lot more complex than the authors of the Constitution simply "lying" about their belief that all men are created equal -- the phrase comes from the Declaration, not the Constitution anyway).

The sentences that follow the ERA misstatement are an exaggeration -- after all Roe v Wade is still the law of the land as it currently stands. On the other hand, the Supreme Court may possibly overturn it, and yes, aspects of affirmative action (eg busing to integrate schools and the use of race-related selection criteria for admission to college -- but not law school -- have been overturned).

But to the bottom line: Is there any "hate against whites" in this segment of speech? No, unless reciting widely recognized facts of U. S. history (that blacks and women were initially disenfranchised, and slavery allowed) constitutes hate. I'm pretty sure that conservatives will agree that reciting historical facts does not constitute race hatred.

Nor do I even see "implied" hate except toward certain famous individuals: Clarence Thomas (for being against affirmative action and abortion rights, and for [allegedly] sexually harassing Anita Hill), George Bush (41), Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford (for "stacking" the court with justices against affirmative action and abortion rights, making it a throwback to the 19th century when separate but equal reigned and Jim Crow laws were the norm).

Score at this point: Greta is looking silly so far. This doesn't even come close to supporting her claim.

For every 1 Oprah, a billionaire, you've got 5 million blacks who are out of work. For every 1 Colin Powell, a millionaire, you've got 10 million blacks who cannot read. For every 1 Condolessa Rice, you've got 1 million in prison. For every 1 Tiger Woods, who needs to get beat at the Masters, with his [blazing hits?] playing on a course that discriminates against women, for every 1 Tiger Woods we got 10 thousand black kids who will never see a golf course. - Rev Wright


Ok, I detect some apparent animosity towards Tiger here (but my interpretation is possibly dependent on the phrase I couldn't understand), but "hate speech against whites"?

Come on, Greta, you are striking out big time so far. Are Wrights facts correct? Are there 5 million blacks out of work, are there 10 million blacks who can't read, are 10 thousand black kids who will never see a golf course -- I really don't know, but these figures sure seem plausible. As for "1 million in prison" (notice Wright didn't say "1 million blacks in prison") -- that figure was reported earlier this year in the major media. I'm not sure when Wright made this speech -- perhaps before the prison population quite hit a million, making this either a slight exaggeration or a matter of rounding off. Sure, Wright is a black minister and is concerned about how black people are faring in society, but how can this recitation of apparently accurate facts be called "hate against whites"?

So far Greta is looking very silly.

The government gives them the drugs, build bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing "God Bless America" -- No, no, no, not God bless America -- God damn America. That's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human. God damn America as long as she is trying to act like she is God and she is supreme. -- Rev Wright


Wow -- harsh language, even for a preacher. But the basic message, that God will punish the nation for its evil ways, has been repeated in tens of thousands of pulpits across the country. And for a very simple reason: if the Bible is really God's word, then Americans are in trouble. We may "believe" in the Bible as God's word but we certainly don't follow most of its dictates.

Still, back to the charge of "hate speech against whites" -- it can't be found here either. Yes, Wright wants God to (or believes God already does) damn America for "killing innocent people", for "treating its citizens as less than human", for acting like it's God. But as Al Sharpton pointed out, Wright is denigrating the government, not denigrating white people on account of their skin color.

Oh, and that bit about the government giving them the drugs -- that is a reference, I take it, to the well-documented involvement of the CIA with drug smugglers. Former DEA agents have made the same claim. Obviously, most drugs smuggled into the U.S. are not brought in by foreign nationals funded by the CIA -- but enough has been to make the claim "the government gives them the drugs" feasible. Whether God will damn America or Americans because we've killed innocent people (think Iraq) or treated people inhumanly (think Jim Crow) is something those who believe in God can debate if they like. But the question at hand is something else: is this "hate speech against whites".

Sorry, Greta's score is still zilch.


I am sick of negros who just do not get it. Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home, Barack was. Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a [bleeped out - presumably "nigger"]. Hillary has never had her people defined as non-persons. Hillary ain't had to work twice as hard just to get accepted by the rich white folk who run everything or to get a passing grade when you know you are smarter than that 'C' student sitting in the White House. Oh I am so glad that I've got a God that knows what it is to be a poor black man and in a country and a culture that is controlled by and run by rich white people. - Rev Wright


Hate speech? Again no.

"Rich white people" run everything? Well that's his interpretation of it. Do rich people run everything? I doubt it, though I'm sure they have a lot more power on a per capita basis than poor or even middle class folk. Nor are all rich people in the United States white -- although virtually all of them are. Perhaps Wright is exaggerating a bit. Over-simplifying things. But is this "hate speech against whites"?

I can't see it. White people aren't being called any names except "rich" -- a term not exactly considered a racial slur in most quarters. And in fact he is not claiming that all or even most white people are rich -- he's not even stereotyping, as far as I can see. What he seems to be claiming is that that rich people run everything, and those rich people are overwhelmingly white.

Wright is also claiming that Hillary is not as qualified as Barack to represent the political aspirations of black people in America. I don't know, perhaps Greta disagrees with him on this. But she can hardly claim that Wright's position is implausible. More to the point: how can she claim this is "hate against whites". I'm white, and so far I haven't seen anything that attacks me or criticizes me or in any way offends me. Now, if I was rich I might see it differently. Then I might see myself as one of the people Wright is unhappy with. Even so, rich white people used to own black people as slaves (believe it or not, Greta, this is true), rich white people used to run around in white hooded costumes at night lynching black people (check your local history book for details), rich white people used to pass laws (sometimes they still do this today) making it more difficult for blacks to vote, rich white people used to stipulate that black people couldn't go to their restaurants or send black children to their schools or even go to the same bathrooms. Is it possible that they are unaware of this history at Fox News?

My point is this -- and Barack Obama makes the same point in his speech about this (see A More Perfect Union) -- Wright's anger against the government and "rich white people" has to be seen in the context of actual American history, and the economic and social consequences of that history. At the same time, Barack also makes the point that black people need to learn how to put that past behind themselves -- need to understand that most white people today (especially the younger generations) weren't around back then and aren't personally responsible. More importantly, society is not static but changing, improving. "This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected," Barack says in the speech.

I strongly recommend reading (or at least listening to) A More Perfect Union. I read it and when I came to the end I found myself crying. Things don't make me cry, especially political speeches. This is one of the few great speeches in American history.

But back to Rev. Wright.

There is a legitimate question that ought to be asked: has Wright in effect endorsed a political candidate in this sermon? If so, he has put the tax exempt status of his church in danger? The privilege of tax-exemption rests upon a church not being used to endorse candidates for public office.

Still, this is not the complaint Greta has made. She claims he is spewing anti-white hate. Her score: still stuck at zero.

Hillary is married to Bill and Bill has been good to us -- no he ain't. Bill did us just like he did Monica Lewinski. He was riding dirty, but he fixed it so that some of y'all are now riding pretty. Money talks and BS walks. - Rev. Wright


Rev. Wright accompanies this with undulating motions suggestive of sexual intercourse. (I suspect this is not typical preacher etiquette for a Sunday sermon in most churches.) Wright gets his facts wrong: Bill Clinton never had intercourse with Monica -- based on Ken Starr's report, their interactions were limited to oral sex -- so there was no "riding" going on. And this is rather crude (albeit it entertaining) behavior for Sunday church -- I guess that's what it takes to pack them in the pews in Chicago.

Again, as Al Sharpton pointed out, Wright does indeed attack the Clintons (so have a few conservatives, according to rumors I've heard), but this doesn't look anything like "hate speech against whites". I think its very bad taste for anyone to belittle Bill and Hillary in this way. But wait -- Republicans do it all the time. Still, I maintain that its a bad idea for Democrats to imitate Republican in this (and Wright does appear to be a Democrat of some sort), even Democrats who prefer Barack over Hillary. Especially Democrats who prefer Barack. It's not appropriate for his campaign.

But the bottom line is this: there is simply no hate speech against whites in the video clips Greta van Susteren presents here. It seems irrational to maintain otherwise. I can understand conservatives having an emotional response to some of Wright's statement. In their usual world it is conservative preachers who say God will damn America for x, y or z, not liberal ones. But on the question of whether this is racial hate speech, their emotions strike out.

And we must ask, is van Susteren incapable of distinguishing hate speech from liberal complaints about how rich people have too much power or how blacks have been historically treated under a majority-white government? Apparently so, having breathed in too much Fox News miasma. Or something.

Final verdict: Greta van Susteren strikes out on all counts. Embarrassing.
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From:greywolfe
Date:March 22nd, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for the partial transcripts. Two have the quotes I was looking for in them. But they are not all the ones I was hoping for. I don't care for GVS and think she chose th ewrong ones to debate here. And the wrong debates on some.
To me the one I see the most is the one about "Hillary ain't never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had her people defined as non-persons. Hillary ain't had to work twice as hard just to get accepted by the rich white folk who run everything or to get a passing grade...
I find this insulting to women where he refuses to acknowledge their fight for the same rights he wants to claim. Women were not recognized fully evenin our own counrty and they still have to work more than twice as hard to get accepted. It has been my experience talking to many black women that they say the stuggles they see are mostly for being a woman and not for being black. Women have a harder fight and he seems to discount it in an insulting manor here.

I need to get someone to transcribe the longer version of these sermons that I found. I will send you the link... (the one I wrote down apparently has typo and I have to find it again)
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From:rastaban
Date:March 22nd, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)
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It seems to me that your objection to Wright's claim that "Hillary has never had her people defined as non-persons. Hillary ain't had to work twice as hard just to get accepted..." is that his claim is incorrect -- not that its sexist. You think that women have it harder and he thinks that blacks have it harder (either way black women would have it the hardest). My point is that seems to be a difference of opinion on a subject that is probably difficult to study scientifically (and thus difficult provide a definitive answer).

As to the reference to "her people defined as non-persons" -- I don't think "her people" in this context refers to "women" or even "white women". I think it either refers to Clinton's family or to white people, an interpretation which has the benefit of being factually true.

And I think you are maybe unfair to Wright in saying "he refuses to acknowledge their fight for the same rights he wants to claim". I say this because he does seem to acknowledge this point in other quotes on the video. To wit: "The truth is they did not believe that even white women were created equal — in creation nor in civilization. The government had to pass an amendment to the Constitution to get white women the vote. Then the government had to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to get equal protection under the law for women."

I'm willing to bet that if Barack wasn't a candidate in the current campaign cycle, Wright would be a gung-ho supporter of Hillary for President. I'm sure he would be touting the struggles she faces as a woman trying to break this ultimate "glass ceiling". In his desire to build up Barack and tear down Hillary he seems to have completely forgotten that she is a woman, and that she has been very supportive of black causes. Such partisanship is not seemly, even in a preacher.

What I see here is Wright attacking Hillary injudiciously in order to support the guy who goes to his church, but I don't see sexism or racism.
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From:momentai
Date:March 23rd, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
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I think Wright's biggest problem is that his opinions are very strong and he refuses to taper them or water them down despite being a high profile person. He just may be speaking a certain truth, as greywolfe and others point out, but his delivery leaves s/t to be desired.

As for his possible disdain for women, I would agree that he does care about women, but that maybe he personally feels, in the grand scheme, Blacks have had it harder. As you point out, that's not scientific and really can only be judged on an induvidual level of experience and/or w/i a certain environment. I think that his problem is not with Hilary being White or female, but being rich and a friend of rich people. He seems to feel that her social status eclipses any sympathy he can give her for being a women. I also sense he dislikes her politico personality, which is why I disapprove of her as well.
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From:walneto
Date:March 23rd, 2008 05:44 am (UTC)
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What is his point? I think if you rationally examine what he has said (and how he said it is important) you will see that the entire sermon amounts to hate speech - the fact that it is true is beside the point. But don't focus on what he said - focus on his intent. We don't really know what that is, do we? Isn't he just venting hatred? It bothers me that Obama 'plugs into' this guy every Sunday.
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From:nausved
Date:March 23rd, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
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I don't get that impression at all. It's certainly fiery speech, but hate speech? He seems to preach peace and forgiveness—though very fiercely. Perhaps it's that contrast that is throwing people off...?
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From:nausved
Date:March 23rd, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
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Let me make an amendment here. He preaches forgiveness in some of his sermons (like the one I linked in my journal). In others, he preaches justice.
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From:rastaban
Date:March 23rd, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
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I see anger, but I don't see hatred. I don't see any incitement to violence, or anything close to that. I see anger at government-sponsored or government-allowed social injustice -- but you know what? I was an American history major in college, and I've often felt the same anger over those same and other injustices.

If man's inhumanity to man doesn't bring anger to a person, then they lack a heart and a sense of morality. Injustice can't be righted, things can't be changed, if they don't anger us enough to get mad enough to do something -- even if its only to vote for change.

Those who are blind to injustice -- past or present -- have a serious pathological flaw, it seems to me.

The only thing I've seen from Rev. Wright which disturbs me -- so far, at least -- is his derisory treatment of Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinski. I thought that was very unseemly and unfair -- in short, an injustice. But honestly, I've heard worse from conservatives, who don't hesitate to accuse Bill and Hillary of murder, treason, sexual orgies in the White House, and other debaucheries. And I pass it off as due to the crude and injudicious state of political discourse in America today. What's ok for the goose must be ok for the gander, too.

Part of the problem, I think, is the mistaken notion that to criticize our country is unpatriotic. In fact, not to criticize our country when it is wrong or allows injustice is what betrays the country. If we care about the nation, we want to make it right. When a nation has flaws, its foundation is weakened and undermined -- to defend those flaws due to a false sense of patriotism is an ignorant betrayal of the duties of citizenship.

For this reason I consider Rev. Charles Stanley's sermon prior to the invasion of Iraq far more unpatriotic than Rev. Wright's "God Damn America" sermon. Wright is using God to criticize mistakes in our national behavior, doing us a service as a result. Whereas Stanley is using God to attack the essential American principles of free speech and assembly. Stanley is profoundly unpatriotic in a way that, so far, I haven't seen exposed in Wright's sermons. Yet I've never seen anyone suggest that association with a member church of the Southern Baptist Convention is "disturbing" or anti-American.

Of course, as an atheist, I see inherent problems with anyone who takes the Bible seriously as the word of God or as anything other than ancient literature -- but that's the majority of Americans, and virtually every politician. Rev. Wright, at least, uses God and the Bible to attack injustice. Yes, he goes overboard sometimes -- but compare that to Rev. Stanley who uses God and the Bible to defend injustice, who takes glee in armies destroying cities and killing innocent people if "God" (ie, government) supports it.

What I see in the hullabaloo about Wright is a double standard. Thousands of conservative preachers have damned America (or asserted that God damns America) for allowing abortions, which they see as an injustice worse than slavery. They rail against it in very strong terms -- which is their complete right to do. But let a liberal preacher rail against injustice in strong terms and everyone goes into a funk.

It's ridiculous and it's stupid. That's my opinion.
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From:walneto
Date:March 24th, 2008 03:23 am (UTC)
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I see what you mean and agree with everything you've said; however, I say Wright is basically saying rich WHITE people are evil leading to God damning us (our entire country) for our actions. The fact that he watched how he said it doesn't change that he is talking about the actions of certain WHITE people. Notice his use of the word 'Uncle' referring to Thomas. Uncle Toms are supporters of the white power structure. I say it is hate speech because it dwells on the treatment of blacks by whites in the past and not on the mistreatment of blacks by blacks (other than than those he labels as 'Uncle Toms'). Isn't he saying that white males have treated black people poorly? He implies it - I don't see how it can be interpreted differently. And, that's a given - time to move on. What about the thousands of white males that died to advance the conditions of black slaves? If you focus primarily on the evil treatment of blacks by white people and imply that only electing Obama can change things...

Wright is not making an endorsement of Obama, per se, but he denigrates everyone who isn't Obama.

I agree that Obama's speech was fantastic and I felt like crying after I listened to it, but Wright is his minister and that bothers me for some reason.
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From:rastaban
Date:March 25th, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
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On Anderson Cooper's blog, Roland Martin has gone through the entire Wright sermon which contains all the quotes above except the last two about Hillary and Bill. The title of the sermon was "Confusing God and Government" (today everyone thinks of it as the "God damn America" sermon). You might find it interesting to read Martin's overview (with extensive quotes) of Wright's words. His basic message is that it's important not to confuse government with God. He says "governments lie" but "God does not lie". But he also acknowledges that governments can change -- for the worse or for the better. On the other hand, God never changes. Here's the link:

http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/03/21/the-full-story-behind-wright%e2%80%99s-%e2%80%9cgod-damn-america%e2%80%9d-sermon/

A few quotes from this sermon help demonstrate that it is more balanced than you might have thought. He stresses to the audience, for example, that "All colonizers are not white." He mentions ancient Egypt as an example of oppressors who were black (the Jews were slaves in Egypt, according to the Bible). He tells the audience, "Turn to your neighbor and say that oppressors come in all colors."

In stressing that Governments can change, Wright points to specific cases in American history. "When Lincoln got in office, the government changed". He mentions the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. "Prior to Harry Truman's government, the military was segregated. But governments change." He mentions the civil rights and equal accommodation laws as another example. He even mentions Bill Clinton ("under Clinton blacks had an intelligent friend in the Oval Office").

Then, "Oh, but governments change. The election was stolen. We went from an intelligent friend to a dumb Dixiecrat. Government change. Sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad." He contrasts this to God. "Where governments change, God does not change. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever more."

"God was against slavery yesterday, and God, who does not change, is still against slavery today. God was a God of love yesterday and God, who does not change, is still a God of love today. God was a God of justice yesterday and God, who does not change, is still a God of justice today."

[more to come]
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From:rastaban
Date:March 25th, 2008 01:51 pm (UTC)
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[continued]
Governments, however, are far less dependable, in Wright's eyes. The Roman government failed, the British government failed, the Russian government failed, the Japanese government failed, the German government failed.

And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent, she failed. She put them on reservations.

When it came to putting her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in interment prison camps.

When it came to putting the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters. Put them on auction blocks. Put them in cotton fields. Put them in inferior schools. Put them in substandard housing. Put them scientific experiments. Put them in the lower paying jobs. Put them outside the equal protection of the law. Kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education, and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness.

The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America. Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God Damn America! That’s in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating us citizens as less than human. God Damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.

The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent. Think about this. Think about this. For every one Oprah, a billionaire, you’ve got 5 million blacks that are out of work. For every one Colin Powell, a millionaire, you’ve got 10 million blacks who cannot read. For every one Condi-Skeezer Rice, you’ve got 1 million in prison. For every one Tiger Woods, who needs to get beat at the Masters, with his Cablanasian hips, playing on a course that discriminates against women, God has this way of brining you up short when you get to big for your Cablanasian britches. For every one Tiger Woods, we’ve got 10,000 black kids who will never see a golf course. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent.

Tell your neighbor He’s (going to) help us one last time. Turn back and say forgive him for the God Damn, that’s in the Bible though. Blessings and curses is in the Bible. It’s in the Bible.

Where government fail, God never fails. When God says it, it’s done. God never fails. When God wills it, you better get out the way, cause God never fails. When God fixes it, oh believe me it’s fixed. God never fails. Somebody right now, you think you can’t make it, but I want you to know that you are more than a conqueror through Christ. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

According to Martin, Wright "went on to talk about the salvation of Christians through the death of Jesus Christ. The sermon ended with a song proclaiming, “God never fails.”"
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From:walneto
Date:March 25th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
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You're right - is is more balanced than I had thought. That's what I get for depending on the media's sound bites to form my opinion of things. God damn that Jon Stewart. :>)

On the other hand, saying God damn anything in a sermon about anything when you have such a high profile parishioner is a very bad idea. It was a brilliant sermon though. Since you and Halley have a problem with my saying it was hateful, I'll call it vitriolic instead and I still insist that it was full of bitterness about the unfairness of historically white dominated government. If black people were in charge I highly doubt that things would be any better.
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From:flyswatter
Date:March 24th, 2008 09:33 am (UTC)
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Hey Dwight, put nebris on your friends list. You both have a lot in common.
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From:nausved
Date:April 2nd, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
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"But I've noticed that many people -- especially conservatives -- are unable to focus on the actual words spoken rather than on their emotional reaction to those words...."

Somewhat along these lines, you might be interested in seeing this Gallup poll:

The most prevalent criticisms leveled against Obama and Clinton are all personal in nature: trustworthiness, likability, experience, and family connections. By contrast, the top criticisms of McCain are all more policy oriented: Iraq, associations with Bush, and being a Republican.
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From:randomposting
Date:June 26th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
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Happy Birthday! :)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 2nd, 2011 04:49 am (UTC)

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