Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rev. Jeremiah Wright

If you turned on the TV you might have noticed a few stories about how Rev. Jeremiah Wright is hurting the Obama campaign. How is it hurting the campaign? I'm not sure. But talking about it does hurt the campaign, and I guess that's how you create news instead of reporting on it.

They play clips of Wright imitating John F. Kennedy, taking it totally out of context, and say this is an indication that he's sparking racial divisions. Say what? Apparently a black man talking in public about racial inequities stirs up divisions.

I don't mean to wax on about politics, in fact I did not intend to write on politics at all. What I want to write on today (taking a break from my 21st Century Christian Fellowship series) is how inspired I became by Rev. Wright after reading his speech at the National Press Club yesterday.

It is good to hear the Gospel of Peace, and it is especially good to have it receive so much attention. I'm half-surprised that it received such a negative reaction. I guess it should not be a surprise considering Jesus promised the world would hate us for the sake of the Gospel. Of course with the majority of the nation claiming to be Christian, it's different.

What this points to is the spiritualization of the United States. If the Gospel does not say "America is blessed by God" or comes down on America for her sins, it's a bad Gospel.
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.- 1Cor.1.22
Jeremiah Wright isn't against America, and he consistently states how grateful he is to live in this country, and has served six years in the military (often drawing criticism on his accusers who have not served at all). But he does call the nation to repentance for her sins regarding oppression, usury, and rejecting the poor. He gets a lot of criticism for one line out of a forty-minute sermon about the character of God where he said, "God damn America" because we do not care for the oppressed and even cause oppression. I don't think that needs to be defended, but it's not anti-American, and it's not anti-patriotic (except to those who think patriotism is an uncritical view of the nation as a whole - even though they're critical of the "left," hypocritically). But he was using the language of the prophets who said, "Woe to you" for the poor in your land go hungry while you fill your bellies.

So while the media, and right-wing pundits, are falling over themselves to play six-second clips of the Reverend in order to slander him, they ignore when he says, "Maybe now, as an honest dialogue about race in this country begins, a dialogue called for by Senator Obama and a dialogue to begin in the United Church of Christ among 5,700 congregations in just a few weeks, maybe now, as that dialogue begins, the religious tradition that has kept hope alive for people struggling to survive in countless hopeless situation, maybe that religious tradition will be understood, celebrated, and even embraced by a nation that seems not to have noticed why 11 o’clock on Sunday morning has been called the most segregated hour in America."

While they're calling him "racist" and "bigoted," they ignore when he says, "And maybe now we can begin to take steps to move the black religious tradition from the status of invisible to the status of invaluable, not just for some black people in this country, but for all the people in this country."

This is good stuff, but his detractors don't want to hear it, they want to shout over him, demonizing him for no other purpose than it hurts their political foe. His words wouldn't even be in the news if we weren't in a Presidential election year and a black man was running.
Maybe this dialogue on race, an honest dialogue that does not engage in denial or superficial platitudes, maybe this dialogue on race can move the people of faith in this country from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation.
And they continue to smear Black theologians because they don't understand it. They're afraid of the rhetoric because it implicates us all, black and white, in the sin of oppression.
The prophetic tradition of the black church has its roots in Isaiah, the 61st chapter, where God says the prophet is to preach the gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive. Liberating the captives also liberates who are holding them captive.
It frees the captives and it frees the captors. It frees the oppressed and it frees the oppressors.
He brings the Church back to Jesus Christ, whose first message was from Isaiah.
The prophetic theology of the black church is not only a theology of liberation; it is also a theology of transformation, which is also rooted in Isaiah 61, the text from which Jesus preached in his inaugural message, as recorded by Luke.
And while the media calls him divisive, he's calling us to unity with one another. Somehow they've missed his message.
The Apostle Paul said, "Be ye reconciled one to another, even as God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s self."
God does not desire for us, as children of God, to be at war with each other, to see each other as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, misuse each other, define each other, or put each other down.
Maybe the offense comes because we don't want to face our sins. We don't want to know we've wronged anyone. Wright evokes Jim Wallis, "America’s sin of racism has never even been confessed, much less repented for."

And this is a message that needs to be taken to the Church mostly, but also to the world.

Shame on the media, God bless Jeremiah Wright, a brother in Christ.


His Name Extoled said...

Yeah, I'm going to have to disagree with you here, especially when Wright claims Jesus as a black man oppressed by whites. Jesus was not black, and he was oppressed far more by the Jews than "white" europeans. And I also cant say Wright is non partisan and just carrying a message of equality. Black republicans are sellouts? There are very healthy black pastors, and I do not count Wright as one of them. If you're interested at a reformed black pastor who wants reform in black churches, and who brings light to solid black pastors of the puritan age, then check out Thabiti Anyabwile.

If youre interested in his critique of Wrights last interview you can read his blog.

Destroy:Ideas said...

But you don't understand what black liberation theology is. When he says Jesus is black, he doesn't mean he was literally black, but that he identifies with the blacks. It is symbolic using the apocalyptic language of black oppression. White isn't literally white, and black is not literally black. Black is symbolic of the oppressed, regardless of if they're poor white, black or other.

Wright said Obama becoming the President makes him white because he is now part of the oppressors.

On what points do you disagree?

I'm not sure how it's partisan when he's been preaching the same thing throughout multiple administrations regardless of party affiliation.

His Name Extoled said...

when he says that Jesus was oppressed by the italians, and then goes on to define them as white europeans, that is not symbolism. its extremely pointed.

i disagree that his form has turned from a preaching of the word of God to a political platform. there is social injustice, and while Christians should stand out against it, it should be me sermonized and no race should be demonized, black, white, or any other. my stomach turns when its preached from the pulpit no longer inequality, but parading one group of people as superior by basis of being oppressed and demonizing another. i think he comes across rash and arrogant, and i think any good that comes ideologically through his message is swallowed up by his social gospel. generally speaking im very disinclined to any social preaching. yes the gospel is social and political, no it is not a true representation of the gospel when the preaching is pointed at any enemy. his "preaching" is as repugnant to me as the religious right preaching on politics and preaching who you should vote for as a Christian. preach the gospel, preach a message of love for ones enemies. i do not see love for your enemies preached through his message, and i have not seen anythng besides "rich white people are the enemy and hold down and oppress the black man." and "america is a nation of violence and hate mongering" blah blah blah. this does not belong in the pulpit. and he is equal to a black jerry fallwell in my opinion, both of which turn my stomach. i respect people like thabiti anyabwile, but not wright.

His Name Extoled said...

If you're interested on a book about historically reformed black preachers, heres a link.
The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors

His Name Extoled said...

and i just found this. yes, i do love Thabiti. :)

The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity

Destroy:Ideas said...

I don't get where you can even say, "i do not see love for your enemies preached through his message, and i have not seen anythng besides 'rich white people are the enemy and hold down and oppress the black man.'"

Did you even read what I posted? He clearly taught on reconciliation, love and faith.

We're trying to define a man's entire work and philosophy by soundbites.

His Name Extoled said...

im sure jerry fallwell had some sermons on love and faith as well. he also had a very political agenda, and said a lot of crap which ought not to be in the pulpit. everyone says some right things, doesnt make them admirable. the fact that another black preacher i respect who is very concerned about racial equality who has issues with him is not something i take lightly. and unless each of us read all the transcripts from 30 years of preaching neither of us are in a place to say with certainty that the good was not just covering his ass, and the bad was not just a thoughtless slip.

Destroy:Ideas said...

The problem is the very sermons he's condemned for are the sermons on God's goodness to all. God's forgiveness to all. Et al.

His Name Extoled said...

honestly, that makes it worse for me. we dont have the clips we have because he occasionally said ridiculous things. you build a reputation by doing things over and over again, and when your craziness is actually caught on recording, its an example of the reputation. even still, the fact that ive heard him say some of the things hes said in the midst of a "good message", as you assert it is, makes my stomach turn all the more. if that is the case it, as i said, makes it worse for me.

Destroy:Ideas said...

You're missing the point entirely. What has he said that is wrong? What has he said that should be condemned? What has he said that, taken in context, is offensive?

His Name Extoled said...

As i mentioned earlier about his absurd, and incorrect, statement about the racial struggles of Christ and his very pointed political agenda about how obama doesnt fit the white mans mold. i refuse to take my cues from someone who makes very politically slanted statements, and absurd statements. im sure if i listened to other messages i would be equally offended, as i have been by the likes of much of the religious right. as i said, everyone says something good in their sermons but thats doesnt make their message good. i have neither the time nor the will to listen to people like right, and those found on the religious right, for the simple fact that time is limited and there are more edifying, less absurd, and more interesting people to spend my time with. my opinion is very strongly based in that of those i trust on the subject. you and i have very different theological circles, and i dont see this changing.

and with Isaiah 61, you do you believe Isaiah was pointing towards the black church, or that you can use the passage to resonate with the black church. i HOPE the latter.

His Name Extoled said...

i forgot some of the prime examples of ludicrous speech. is there any correct context (i cant think of one) to call america the united states of kkk america or to say that the white man created aids to afflict the black man? if there is a suitable context for such craziness, then i might reconsider. but such statements are equal with ergun caner (muslim turned arminian and president of liberty seminary, student of jerry falwell) who said that calvinists are worse than muslims. certain statements are irreconcilable to any context.

Destroy:Ideas said...

Your question on Isaiah 61 can be both. The first, using the language of black liberation, where "black" is equal with "oppressed/poor." Where "white" is "Egypt" or "Babylon."

But it is also the latter because they both mean the same thing when you use symbolic language.

When the oppressed black looks as the Magnificant they see "I'm oppressed, I'm poor. I can identify with this." So they see that Jesus came for the "black" because black is oppressed, and black is poor.

I'm not opposed to politics in theology, as long as it's not a party politic. If it's a prophetic politic, it is int he same vein as when Jesus contrasted the disciple's duty with that of the aristocracy in Luke 22:25, 26, to saw nothing of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, James and Peter (to name a few). We can draw a contrast with the world, and the Church should be in contrast with the world.

I don't see how Wright's comments are party-affiliated comments. He spoke against policies by Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr.

I already said the AIDS conspiracy was a place I disagreed with Wright. He didn't say white man made it, he said the government did. You would be skeptical too, however, if your government conducted experiments on your race up through 1972.

I can't find the context of the KKK comment anywhere. Does he refer to the country as the U.S. KKK of America, or a segment of the country? I believe these statements were said around the time of the Jena 6 trials where people like Hal Turner said things like, "We are going to begin lynching blacks in this country again next year!"

I guess we'll agree to disagree here. My point is that the media is making a deal out of his description of black marching bands and ignoring the substance of his talks which are about reconciliation and community service.