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?