Immediately, Dubois flashed back to his time in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They’d get together and sing “Our God is an Awesome God.” It was the first time he had ever heard a Democrat speaking publicly on a national platform about God. Dubois was so moved that he applied for a job as an aide to Obama. While he had been an associate pastor at a Pentecostal church in Boston, he’d moved on to graduate school and an internship on Capitol Hill. Ever since, he’d been grappling with the question of whether to pursue vocational ministry or politics. Dubois found his answer that day: He could have a spiritual impact on the world through politics, not in spite of it.
Two years into their working relationship, DuBois found himself working with Obama on his famous Call to Renewal speech. In that speech, Obama explained that after years of doubting and questioning, working with black churches gave him new perspective. Then one Sunday at church, he was ready to publicly affirm his Christian faith. “It came about as a choice and not an epiphany,” Obama said. “The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling below that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to his will, and dedicated myself to discovering his truth.”
In 2008, when it came time for Obama to run for president, a new obstacle appeared: his longstanding relationship with pastor Jeremiah Wright. Obama had been public about his membership at Wright’s church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. It was, he said, the church in which he had “walked the aisle.”
When ABC News reviewed a back-log of Wright’s sermons, they found a number of times in which Wright had railed against the American government, both in the context of history and current events. His sermons pointed to specific instances—such as the Tuskegee Experiment and the Japanese-American internment camps—in which the government had mistreated African Americans and other minority groups. Wright’s conclusion was that “the United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent” (as well as others) and that “governments lie.” Insisting the US would be condemned by God for its actions, Wright infamously proclaimed, “No. No. No. Not God bless America. God damn America!”
When pushed to discuss his relationship with Wright, Obama sought to smooth things over with the public by delivering a speech titled “A More Perfect Union,” in which he placed Wright’s comments within a historical and sociological context. Rather than taking the opportunity to let the controversy subside, Wright fanned the flames by making media appearances and giving speeches that echoed the sentiments he had expressed in his sermons.
Politicians such as Vice President Dick Cheney and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton commented publicly on Wright and his relationship with Obama. “You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend,” Clinton said in a March 2008 interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in reference to Obama’s attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ. “I think given all we have heard and seen, [Wright] would not have been my pastor,” she said later in a press conference.