Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rev. Jeremiah Wright

What's the big hubbub all about?
Rev. Jeremiah Wright was hired by Trinity United Church of Christ in 1972 when he could find no Baptist church to take him. The congregation on 95th Street had recently adopted the motto "Unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian" and was at home with Wright's his fiery red Afro and black power agenda. Over the decades since then, Wright has built Trinity's membership into the nation's largest UCC congregation at 6,000. Wright filled his church with his blunt, charismatic preaching, meldings detailed scriptural analysis, black power, Afrocentrism and an emphasis on social justice. Wright is steeped deeply into James Cone's Black Theology of Liberation which interprets the Bible as a guide to combating oppression of African-Americans.

It was a needed prescription in the early 1970's. Many black Christians were leaving the church for other religious traditions, including the Black Hebrew Israelites and the Nation of Islam. Wright recalls,
They didn't know African-American history. They were leaving the churches by the boatloads. The church seemed so disconnected from their struggle for dignity and humanity.
In 1972, he planted a "Free South Africa" sign on the lawn of his church and asked other local religious leaders to follow his lead. None took him up on the invitation. The sign stayed until the end of apartheid. Wright continued to make waves with his own audacity, questioning the common sense of scripture, objecting to mandatory prayer in schools and clashing with clergy who preach prosperity theology. I didn't know what that is. Apparently it's a popular notion among black pastors that God will bestow wealth and success on believers.

Well, fast forward to the new century, as they say. It turns out that Barack Obama had joined Trinity in 1991. He and his wife Michelle Robinson were married in the church and his daughters were baptized. Obama's bestselling The Audacity of Hope is said to have been inspired by one of Wright's sermons. And Reverend Wright is said to have been one of the first people Obama thanked upon his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate. Recently, You-Tube excerpts from Rev. Wright's sermons have launched themselves into circulation on Fox news and the Internet. Since the content of these excerpts are considered to be politically incorrect', Barack Obama is deemed to have a 'Pastor problem'.

So what is this all about? In the most widely quoted sermon (April 2003), Wright is shown to have preached:
The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes three-strike laws and wants them to sing God Bless America.

No! No No!

God damn America … for killing innocent people.

God damn America for threatening citizens as less than humans.

God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and supreme.
Well, in the historical context, let's remember that was in the first month of Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq. One can easily see how those words might offend my fellow Americans who were offended by Bush's unjustifiable aggression abroad. Not only were they not offended by it, but they were cheerleaders and still are.

What else? Well, in the days after 9-11 attacks, Wright is alleged to have told his flock,
We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because of stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own backyard. America is chickens coming home to roost.
Well, that is harsh, even if true. Under the first Bush, my USA had pulverized the nation of Panama just to make a narcotics arrest. And for decades my country has financed Israel at the tune of $5 billion per year with only a wink and nod at settlement encroachment on Palestinian lands. So, I guess we were all (1) shocked at our vulnerability and (2) enraged at being on the receiving end of mass destruction for a change. Not to mention (3) our fledgling Bush administration, bent on setting up a missile defense, only to be caught with their pants down by 19 A-rabs with box-cutters.

Well, Reverend has retired from Obama's church last month. Via his Huffington Post, On My Faith and My Church, Obama has placed into the record his obligatory renunciations and denunciations of everything his ex-Pastor said that was in the least bit objectionable.

And now that we are assured that Barack Obama is not a Muslim, can we get on with the campaign? Hillary, are you listening?

16 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Yellow Dog said...

In other words, Obama threw his own minister under his campaign bus. If Hillary had done something like this, you'd be all over her.

3/16/2008 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

You and I share some basic agreements on the issue of Reverand Jeremiah Wright. Wright's past sermons should not be a central issue of the campaign.

"So here is my view. We are not electing Jeremiah Wright President. I am deeply concerned about some of Wright's statements from the pulpit, but not from a Presidential politics perspective. I'll judge Barrack Obama from by his own words and his own actions, not by those of Reverend Jeremiah Wright."

But let's not think for a minute this is some sort of "Fox News" issue. I saw the virtually continous replays of Wright's sermons on MSNBC. In fact MSNBC went so far as to have "exclusive videos" many of which were more damaging than those on YouTube.

You are quite correct to place Reverand Wright's teaching and preaching in historic black context. I, for one, find him engaging and charismatic. I would love to attend his church and hear him preach (although I understand he is now retired and has preached his last sermon).

That doesn't make Wright's comments less hateful or less racist (or less ignorant). Barack Obama has rightly condemned those portions of Wright's preaching and has distanced himself from Wright. Obama should be praised for being both correct and politically savvy.

Sorry for the long reply.

3/16/2008 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

Wizard, I agree with what you said so eloquently about wanting to attend a service of Wright's. I, an old white woman, joined a black Baptist church here in Mittland, or Zion, as the Mormons call it, because they had a rocking band and great gospel choir and an intellectual and inspirational pastor who could raise the temperature and volume enough to scorch my shriveled soul. I still remain a humanist, not a deist. And sadly, I agree that Barack is doing the right thing with just the right tone and touch. God, has he got great instincts or what!

3/16/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Its convenient that many seem to have forgotten that many of the right wing bible thumpers have their own sermonal skeletons in their closets concerning outrageous statements.

3/16/2008 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

In the future, candidates will hold "Pre-Renounce and Reject" rallies to rid themselves of unpopular ideas and thoughts.

3/17/2008 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Stella said...

Bileary is merely using Rethuglican tactics, which I'm sure she learned at the dirty hands of her money-grubbing masters.

I am utterly sick of this "Obama = Muslim" crap. In this country, freedom of religion is supposed to be a constitutional law. What if he is, what if he ain't?

Did I miss something? Whether Obama or Bileary gets the nomination, I still think we're in danger of Mad Max McBush winning with Lieberman in toe.

That's a truly chilling immage.

3/17/2008 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/17/2008 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

William Kristol in the NYT[!] claimed that Obama was in fact in the pews at Trinity last July 22 when Wright preached blaming the “arrogance” of the “United States of White America” for much of the world’s suffering, especially the oppression of blacks. The Obama campaign did some instant research and proved this allegation to be in error, so Kristol had to write an apology:

In this column, I cite a report that Sen. Obama had attended services at Trinity Church on July 22, 2007. The Obama campaign has provided information showing that Senator Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error.

Second apology in weeks for Kristol!

3/17/2008 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Samuel Brainsample said...

I think that Beach Bum hit the nail on the head. The media is really pitching a fit over this, but it went largely unnoticed when McCain embraced Jerry Falwell, who once said that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were due to our tolerance of homosexuals and feminists. Or when McCain courted John Hagee for a year, despite the fact that Hagee has made some anti-Catholic remarks, and blamed the destruction of New Orleans on (you guessed it) the gays. If we're going to apply guilt-by-association, can't we at least do it consistently?

3/17/2008 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Emily, it turns out that Kristol had lifted (cut and pasted) 22-July-07 event from NewsMax, the notorious Right-Wing Hack-Job of a source.

Everyone should be puzzled as to how such a craven conduit such as Kristol secured a position with the once-peerless New York Times. Kristol is nothing another than a flavor of Kool-Aide, one among many.

3/17/2008 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Utah, you are such a good conversationalist, I encourage you to engage the Wizard on his own site (as long as you can do so without sacrificing your attention to my pages). Wiz is an old friendly adversary with whom I have had loads of slam-bam disagreements and huggy-kissy agreements over the years (it seems). When he's wrong (often) he's still thoughtful. He sets the bar very high when he's right.

3/17/2008 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Concerning Senator Obama's speech today. I saw more honest feeling and humanity in Obama today than Hillary Clinton has shown in her entire public life. If you were really listening to his speech you heard a man that is able to understand both the good and bad of both the black and white sides of this divide. I loved my grandparents dearly but like Obama said about his grandmother I heard them say things about other groups that I did not believe. As for his preacher no person who goes to church can be honest with themselves and say that they have never heard their preacher mutter something that was off color are simply wrong. That does not make the preacher a bad person it just makes him or her human. Yes, preacher Wright said some things that I would cringe at but I thought one of the reasons we had guys and gals fighting in Iraq was to protect our freedom of speech.

3/18/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Stella said...

Et tu, Vig?

3/19/2008 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Yeah, me too, Stella.

3/19/2008 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Here's Mike Huckabee on Obama & Pastor Wright. Start your slider 3:25 minutes into it. This might surprise you.

3/22/2008 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger Tessa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/12/2009 09:06:00 PM  

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