Frank Rich on Hagee/Wright

Frank Rich points towards a double standard in the media's treatment of Wright:

None of this is to say that two wacky white preachers make a Wright right. It is entirely fair for any voter to weigh Mr. Obamas long relationship with his pastor in assessing his fitness for office. It is also fair to weigh Mr. Obamas judgment in handling this personal and political crisis as it has repeatedly boiled over. But whatever that verdict, it is disingenuous to pretend that there isnt a double standard operating here. If were to judge black candidates on their most controversial associates and how quickly, sternly and completely they disown them we must judge white politicians by the same yardstick.

I think this is about right. I actually think McCain's search for the Hagee endorsement is worse than Obama staying in his church despite the views of his pastor. A person remains in a congregation for a number of reasons, the pastor being just one of them. Churches are, after all (or, at least, for most of us), communities of faith, and not just Sunday entertainment provided by the pastor. Someone might stay in a church because of its commitment to service, its connections to a particular neighborhood or ethnic group, bonds with fellow parishioners, etc. Indeed, those who casually say that Obama should have left his church reveal to me a fairly shallow approach towards life in a church. Perhaps I say this because I'm Catholic. By necessity, we have a uniquely non-pastor-centered approach to Church. But I'd imagine the same is true to varying degrees even for more congregational protestants. (As an aside, it's at least ironic that so much of the Wright story is being flogged by Catholic journalists O'Reilly and Hannity. Stephen Colbert -- who is a weekly mass Catholic -- had the right take on this facet of the story. Continuing to attend mass, he suggested, does not signal agreement with how the Church has handled, say, the abuse scandal.)In any event, seeking out a pastor's endorsement is a different sort of calculation than deciding whether to leave a church because of occasionally controversial (even outrageous) comments made by its pastor. So I'm much more troubled by McCain's flirtation with Hagee than by Obama's decision to continue attending his church.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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