Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Separating Wright From Right

Unfortunately I was too busy yesterday to write about the most fascinating story of the campaign season thus far: Rev. Jeremiah Wright. We're taking a quick vacation next week, so there was enough work to make a preacher say "G*damn!"

Know any preachers that would say that word from the pulpit? About America?

No matter; the United Church of Christ -- Rev. Wright's church -- is standing by their man:
In the wake of misleading attacks on its mission and ministry, Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ is being lauded by United Church of Christ leaders across the nation for the integrity of its worship, the breadth of its community involvement and the depth of its commitment to social justice.
Misleading? Attacks? Words are words, and Wright's words can't be explained away by "context." There is no context to salvage a statement like
"America's chickens are coming home to roost," which stands on its own, indefensible.

I can understand United Church of Christ's president, John Thomas, and others in the church being upset that only one aspect of the Trinity is being exposed to the harsh light of media attention. Certainly, there is a lot of good the church has done, bringing people to Christ, helping the poor, turning around lives. But there's a right way and a wrong way to deal with that. Here's the wrong way:
"These attacks, many of them motivated by their own partisan agenda, cannot go unchallenged," Thomas emphasizes. "It's time for all of us to say 'No' to these attacks and to declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends."
While there is a partisan aspect to the attacks, they genuinely offend all whites and patriotic Americans, transcending partisanship and justifying the scrutiny on Wright's teachings. I looked through the entire United Church of Christ statement for anything approaching not just recognition of the legitimacy of the outrage against Wright's statement, but also an apology.

There is neither, which was troubling, as was this:
Trinity UCC has been involved in planting more than 15 new congregations, according to the UCC's Evangelism Ministry in Cleveland.
Normally, as a Christian I would be elated and impressed, because I'm all for spreading the gospel and bringing Christ to those who need Him. But a thought enters my mind in this case that wouldn't have been there before hearing Wright's sermons: The thought of Saudi-funded Wahhabi mosques spreading across America.

Extreme? Both teach hatred for the American establishment, both teach their followers to not fit in, to not assimilate, to remain separate, apart and superior. From all indications, Wright doesn't teach violence against America, but up to that point, the similarities are chilling. I don't have the exact Wright quote, but the relevant one here is the one in which he says Jesus was "a black man" (wrong) in a country under the thumb of the white man (right).

If you seek lessons from Christ's experience, it is to focus on God, your relationship with others and your own character, not on Caesar. Christ never railed against the Romans -- and we whites of America are not Romans.

I was pointed to the United Church of Christ statement by Rev. Dennis Sanders' Notes from a Black Pastor post at The Moderate Voice (via memeorandum). Sanders "has standing" in the United Church of Christ, and has previously seen Wright's work as "lifting up the race," and therefore meritorious. No more:

Most African American preachers will inject social concerns into their sermons. Because of our experience with slavery and later segregation, we tend to see Christianity in a more prophetic role, where God is on the side of the downtrodden. While I mostly preach in predominately white churches (and I tend to have a more subdued style than most black preachers) I do tend to talk about care for the poor and about the fact that God loves and accepts all regardless of color or sexual orientation. I believe that as Christians we are called to strive for justice and I do try to make that point in my sermons.

That said, the sermons by Rev. Wright go waaaay over the top. He paints an America that I don’t recognize and throws in falsehoods and a tinge of anti-Semitism that I believe shames all African American preachers.

There is no way you can explain away Wright’s belief that 9/11 was basically “just desserts” on America, especially a few days after the event. Then there is his giving into dark conspiracy theories such as the one where the government gives black people the drugs. Or, his talk of Zionism as white racism.

There is just something wrong about what Rev. Wright is doing. It’s not that he isn’t patriotic enough as some on the right are yelping: it’s that this man seems an inverse of the late Jerry Falwell: a mean-spirited preacher that uses the Bible to further his agenda.

Who is the "typical" black preacher, Wright or Sanders? I think it's Sanders, I hope it's Sanders, but with the United Church of Christ's failure to denounce Wright's anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and racism, I worry.

WSJ found another speech Wright gave at Howard University (could you imagine an all-white university in America today?) which was worse than anything he said at Trinity.

Comfortable in front of his all blalck audience, Wright laid it on thick, saying America "
started the AIDS virus," that we "are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty," and that in white America we "believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God."

He then inspired all the women at Howard to greatness with this:
"No black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body."
This is the man Obama goes to for spirtual guidance and has for 20 years?

Perhaps prophetically, given the damage he's done to Obama's campaign, he said to the crowd at Howard that "no black man will ever be considered for president" in America. His prophesy is wrong on "considered;" Obama's being considered -- but Wright may well have ended that consideration.

Yesterday, I was listening on the radio to the Wright comments and listener reactions to them on my way to a meeting with my company's account managers, including the Token Dem, who's an Obama precinct captain.

I was seething with anger and had not had a chance to begin getting it under control when I saw him.

"Still for Obama?" I barked in the nastiness of tones, then ripped into him about his candidate's pastor.

Our political relationship is always just joshing and fun; this was new to him. He countered with Hagge and I shot back that Hagge is not McCain's spiritual mentor, and that Wright's way off the deep end, even when compared to the shameful anti-Catholic rants of Hagge.

I apologized for my anger after the meeting, and the Token Dem remains an Obama man ... at least for now.

His reasoning for supporting Obama is that as a young progressive, he feels change is a good thing and will be good for America. Will he see that Obama can no longer claim the change mantle, now that Wright, earmarks and Rezko are out in the public eye?

Even if Token Dem doesn't see it, thousands will, and if America is still a country of strong people who know a con man when they see one, then Obama's days are numbered. Is that a big if?

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