Defending Wright and Hagee

Due to their respective connections to Barack Obama and John McCain, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. and Pastor John Hagee have drawn plenty of media coverage in recent weeks, with both clergymen being painted by some as agents of intolerance.

In recent days, however, both men have received some positive press.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, one member of Wright’s (and Obama’s) church explains how he knows firsthand that the retiring religious leader is not a racist:

About 26 years ago, I became engaged to my wife, an African-American. She was at that time and remains a member of Trinity. Somewhere between the ring and the altar, my wife had second thoughts and broke off the engagement. Her decision was grounded in race: So committed to black causes, the daughter of parents subjected to unthinkable prejudice over the years, an “up-and-coming” leader in the young black community, how could she marry a white man?

Rev. Wright, whom I had met only in passing at the time and who was equally if not more outspoken about “black” issues than he is today, somehow found out about my wife’s decision. He called and asked her to “drop everything” and meet with him at Trinity. He spent four hours explaining his reaction to her decision. Racial divisions were unacceptable, he said, no matter how great or prolonged the pain that caused them. God would not want us to assess or make decisions about people based on race. The world could make progress on issues of race only if people were prepared to break down barriers that were much easier to let stand.

Rev. Wright was pretty persuasive; he presided over our wedding a few months later.

And then there is this piece, in which a writer for Catholic Online recounts his recent visit with Hagee, a McCain backer, describing the mega-church leader as humbled and trying to understand why some people feel he is anti-Catholic:

Since I had been critical of Hagee myself, I thought it reasonable that I sit down with him and discuss the anti-Catholicism charge. As a young man I was also an Evangelical from Texas, and I knew I could find some common ground with him – and maybe find out more about what appeared to be an open-and-shut case. (I called Donohue to tell him that a meeting had been proposed, and Bill said he appreciated my letting him know.)…

The intent of my meeting with John Hagee was to help him understand why he was considered anti-Catholic. He listened and agreed with much I had to say. In turn, I listened to him explain how he thought he was being misunderstood. We agreed to meet again after his trip to Israel, to continue our conversation about anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church and his interpretation of the Book of Revelation. …

Until then, I look forward to learning more about this man who took such good care of the Ursuline Sisters of San Antonio.

NEXT STORY