Monday, March 17, 2008

warning, you may not agree with this posting (a bit of a rant on the subject of Jeremiah Wright)

this is not an endorsement of Jeremiah Wright, his politics, his theology or his views on race. I am sure I would disagree with his views on many subjects and might even find some of his views disturbing. That has nothing to do with this post.

I must admit my bias regarding the stories surrounding Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright and his "hateful" words about America. I am a Christian. I read the Bible and take its words seriously. I believe the Old Testament prophets have things to say to modern America. I even believe that America is not particularly perfect and has done some things that God could judge it for. I believe that pastor's have the right and the authority to speak prophetically. I also believe that, when prophetic, the words of a pastor will be misconstrued and misunderstood. I believe this happened to the OT Prophets, to Jesus, to the early church fathers, to the reformers, to my Baptist forerunners, to the Abolitionists and Civil Rights workers.

Here is the thing... I have absolutely no problems with what I heard from Jeremiah Wright that has been broadcast into American homes during the past 4 days. While I may disagree with some of the finer Biblical and theological points of his sermons, I believe they are within the bounds of Christian theology, Biblical scholarship and preaching. They are just outside the bounds of a post-9/11 "with us or against us" mentality. Plus, we refined Americans are not used to the fiery preaching of Black churches.

In fact, I have heard similar words from the mouths of many white conservative pastors concerning God's blessing and removal of blessing upon America because of our views on homosexuality, pluralism and abortion. I have heard the great Billy Graham state that if God does not judge America harshly, God will need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is not Anti-patriotic. This is prophetic in the understanding of the preacher. To say that because of America's actions towards an oppressed minority for hundreds of years that God will judge America harshly reminds me of the words of Amos to the leaders of Israel. In fact, it reminds me of every OT prophet.

To say that America does not have blood on its hands is blindly immature. To say that we have not mourned the deaths of our enemies is true. When have we collectively repented of our actions towards Native Americans, the civilians of Japan, the people of Dresden or the villagers of Vietnam? We have not. Is it really out of bounds for a pastor to have a problem with this? Is it out of bounds to connect our bloodlust as a nation to 9/11? Is there not a passage of the Bible stating that we reap what we sow. Do we not believe that if we live by the sword, we will die by the sword?

Now, as I said, I do not agree with Rev. Wright on this issue (the past exercise was to show the logical progression of thought). I think is reductionist and simplistic (especially for such an intelligent man like Wright). However, it is not outside the bounds to say this. It is much more justified Biblically than what many preachers said post 9/11 and Katrina. There is causality in this instant within the realm of plausibility.

This news cycle has reminded me of how little white American journalists or voters know about their black neighbors, especially their churches. Are we shocked that Wright said this? Are we shocked that his congregents applauded?

It is arrogant to think that black Americans should feel nothing but gratitude to an American system that legally oppressed them until the 1960s and still treats them with little respect (see the Clinton campaign machine). Do we really think affirmative action will cure the ills that have been heaped upon them since the dawning of our nation? Do we really think that the African American church (which was started in many cases because they were unwelcome in white churches) and its leaders would not want to hold us accountable for our actions we so quickly disavow? I wish I could quote Chris Rock here on the black relationship to the US, but it is a family blog.

So, lets lay off the pastor unless the due diligence is done to see his work in Chicago over the course of his career. Let's attempt to practice empathy and actually walk in the shoes of a brother to understand why he feels the way he does about our nation. Lets quit acting like knee-jerk reactionaries and examine the truth in the words of a person speaking prophetically. Lets look in the mirror a bit instead of looking down upon the other.

In this age of Gotcha politics, we have become increasingly cynical. We allow our politicians to be in bed with lobbyists and leaders of industries destroying the very fabric of our life, yet we excoriate politicians for their relationships to preachers, professors and family, none of whom have the corrupting influence of money and privilege. We even expect every politician to disavow those that support them, if that person has said one controversial thing, whether it is Farrakhan, Parsley, Hagee, Blessit or Wright. What matters is the politician's views on a controversial subject, not necessarily a supporter or friend, especially when that politician's views have been clearly articulated.

We need to move past that. I just wish someone on television or in Washington could be honest on these issues (I may not even talk about it if I had anything to lose or anyone read this thing).


RDF said...


I don't write in an intellectual high falootin' style like you, but I feel the need to state the obvious...

It may be a feeling that everyone gets from time to time, but it feels like our American society is getting closer and closer to the edge of the abyss. Its 2008 and we are still trying to silence a black man for openly expressing his views. I've heard rumblings that the IRS may look into him since he's preaching politics from the pulpit. Agreed, not everyone shares his views. They have the right to disagree with him. But sending the IRS out sounds like something the "man" would do. Did the IRS investigate Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson? (If they have, I don't know off hand.)

Back to the abyss-thing: This year's election has had too much discussion of religion, sexism, racism, agism and probably some -isms I don't recall. Mitt belongs to a religious cult. Hilary - enough said. Obama and now his preacher. McCain's too old. He'll probably be unable to serve two terms. Judgment on this country? United we stand. Divided we, anyone, fall. The hypocrisy is sickening.

This election circus is going on while our President is danicng in front of reporters and singing at parties. Can anyone say Nero? (Sorry, Bruce. Too good a comparison not to steal.)

The economy is writhing in pain since the morphine drips of tax cuts, rate cuts and government stimulus are exhausted. Bear Stearns, one of the most storied investment banks of my formative years, just sold for $2 a share.

All this and more, but it feels like the oil companies, defense industry and generally anyone ultra wealthy, are dancing in the streets.

This rant may not actually fit the original topic too well, but the times mandate that we all start pulling the issues out into the light for scrutiny. Besides you used the word "excoriate" in your post and it just set me off.


Porthos said...


The reason the IRS may be looking into it is because non-profits aren't supposed to take sides in a political race. The same thing has happened to white churches.

The reason someone like James Dobson, for example, usually doesn't get into trouble is because he (for the most part) stays issue focused. He's not going to get the IRS hammer for saying, "I believe abortion is wrong and so does Romney, so I like him" or whatever. Although I do think he's been getting closer and closer to that line over the last few years.

Most religious speakers, including Graham, seldom picks sides based on people, just issues which are greater than just politics.

As to Rick's original post, I hear ya. America certainly does have blood on it's hands. And theologically speaking, everyone does. We're all sinners, destined for God's judgement if not for salvation through Christ.

But I think the significant difference between what Billy Graham has said and what Pastor Wright has said, is that Wright has painted it entirely as a racial issue. And by doing so, he inherently divides instead of unites.

Theology matters here. Because HE chooses to focus on a specific race, he misses the larger, (truly) universal impact of his point—the need for forgiveness we ALL have.

And just because some may criticize, doesn't mean it's all "knee-jerk reactionary". The criticisms may be entirely spot on. Just because they show up quickly doesn't mean they're wrong.

I think you are on to something very important though—this situation shows the difference between "mainstream whites" and that part of black culture. And that is something we can all work towards crossing, even though we all know it is not representative of all blacks.

I just wondering if Pastor Wright is more interested in crossing it or rather enflaming the folks on his side.