I think Obama is lying, and is 75 percent of the political phony Jeremiah Wright said the other day that he is. Jeremiah Wright did not turn into some racialist kook yesterday. As far as I can tell, whether you love him or hate him, Rev. Wright has been the same man for a very long time. It was useful to young Barack Obama, fatherless and conflicted about his race and his class status, to leave the Ivy League and attach himself to a loudmouth Southside preacher/race man. Radical chic and all that. I doubt Obama would be where he is today if not for Jeremiah Wright.
Do I believe that Obama shares all of Wright's views? No. But I don't think he finds them offensive, or even all that objectionable, despite his positioning at the moment. Look, Wright is a buffoon, but I can understand why he feels used by Obama, who was happy to be associated with him when it was good for Obama's career, but when not, not. Don't misread me; I'm not defending Wright's incredibly vain and selfish sabotaging of Obama's campaign.
This makes me reflect on my own intellectual biography. When I went to college, I was set on majoring in philosophy. Academic philosophy, at least of the analytic variety (and especially at a place like Michigan), is heavily populated with atheists and materialists; one does not exactly pick this up during one's first encounters with Plato and Aristotle. The GSI for my intro class, though of the 'I'd like to have faith, but can't quite manage it' variety of atheist, made a notable point of finding all the arguments for God's existence unconvincing; the Professor and GSI for my 17th and 18th century philosophy class was decidedly less fair-minded on these questions; they preferred Hume's position on religion. I was rather disillusioned with philosophy, or the possibility that it could ever be integrated with Christianity in any intellectually satisfying way.*
That changed, for me, somewhere January my freshman year, when Cornel West came to give a talk at Michigan's annual symposium on Holocaust-related issues. I don't remember very much about it, except that it was intellectually and emotionally serious, and held very tightly to both philosophy and Christianity. I explicitly remember his telling multiple people during the Q&A that he did not consider humanism to be a sufficiently good position from which to attempt to make social and political change: only Christianity would do.
Now that was over seven years ago. I don't have the same politics I did then. I find West's work to be, on the whole, incomprehensible (when he writes as an academic; he can still be intriguing when he speaks personally); I don't think he separates himself enough from trends (like liberation theology) from which his politics or religion ought to encourage him to separate; and I was on Larry Summers' side of that disagreement. But he also pointed me to a number of things I'm glad to have read (that liberation theology included), and in terms of essential moments in my personal development, it's one of the most important. I'm no Obama apologist, but I don't think it's hard to tell the same story: if Wright is the impetus for one of the big changes he's undergone in his life, I can understand his continued loyalty to Wright even if, as time goes on, he finds more points of difference, even to the point of opposition.
*for the record, I had read Kierkegaard and a few other prominent Christian philosophers at this point; but these are, at best, boutique options at most major philosophy programs.