I'm a white kid from Atlanta. And if I know anything about race, it's that I don't have much chance knowing where a 60-plus black man in Chicago is coming from, or whether what he believes is reasonable given his own personal experiences, and the role that American racism has played in developing his beliefs.
Anyway, I thought this New York Times story gave a good description of Obama's pastor. It starts, though, with a description of Obama's family's religious beliefs.
This story, and others, says Mr. Wright presided over Obama's wedding ceremony, baptized his two daughters and gave sermon. I've read from other reliable sources that one of Pastor Wright's sermons provided the title for Obama's second book, "The Audacity of Hope."
It also includes some context for Mr. Wright's more controversial statements, which I've transcribed below from the YouTube clips. From the Times story:
Still, Mr. Obama was entranced by Mr. Wright, whose sermons fused analysis of the Bible with outrage at what he saw as the racism of everything from daily life in Chicago to American foreign policy. Mr. Obama had never met a minister who made pilgrimages to Africa, welcomed women leaders and gay members and crooned Teddy Pendergrass rhythm and blues from the pulpit. Mr. Wright was making Trinity a social force, initiating day care, drug counseling, legal aid and tutoring. He was also interested in the world beyond his own; in 1984, he traveled to Cuba to teach Christians about the value of nonviolent protest and to Libya to visit Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, along with the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Mr. Wright said his visits implied no endorsement of their views. ...
Mr. Wright preached black liberation theology, which interprets the Bible as the story of the struggles of black people, who by virtue of their oppression are better able to understand Scripture than those who have suffered less. That message can sound different to white audiences, said Dwight Hopkins, a professor at University of Chicago Divinity School and a Trinity member. “Some white people hear it as racism in reverse,” Dr. Hopkins said, while blacks hear, “Yes, we are somebody, we’re also made in God’s image.” ...
While Mr. Obama stated his opposition to the Iraq war in conventional terms, Mr. Wright issued a “War on Iraq I.Q. Test,” with questions like, “Which country do you think poses the greatest threat to global peace: Iraq or the U.S.?”
Now, these are the three Wright comments I've heard people get the most concerned about. I transcribed them off of Fox News video available on Youtube.
From Wright's sermon the Sunday after Sep. 11:
"We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki. And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. ... We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans and now we are indignent because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards."
Hillary ain't never been called a ...
"(Obama) ain't white. He ain't rich. He ain't priveleged. Hillary fits the mold. Europeans fit the mold... Hillary never had a cab whiz past her and not pick her up because here skin was the wrong color... 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 n-----. Hillary has never had here peopole defined as non-persons."
Oh I am so glad that I've got a God who knows what it is to be a poor black man in a country that is controlled by and run by rich white people. He taught me, Jesus did, how to love my enemies. Jesus taught me how to love the hell out of my enemies... Hillary hasn't ever had her own people say he ain't white enough."
This last one I actually got from ABC News. It's the ---damn America quote:
"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."