Thursday, January 8, 2009

In defense of Reverend Wright - 03/26/08

Republican pundits have been talking a lot lately about one Pastor Wright, friend and minister to one Barack Obama. They have been calling on Obama to denounce what they see as anti-American comments made by Pastor Wright.

And if there is one thing that Republicans will not stand for, it’s dangerous, hate-filled religious leaders influencing the people we elect into office.

(One of the shortcomings of the written word is that you can’t hear the inflections in one’s voice. But let me assure you, that as I wrote that last sentence, the tone of the voice in my head was dripping with sarcasm.)

First of all, before you condemn someone for their association with someone who has said things you don’t like, you really out to listen to what they actually said and not what someone on Fox News said he said.

Seriously. For many reasons, time constraints being one and bias being another, you are generally going to hear the most jolting lines from anyone in any given sound bite.

They simply don’t have the time to play you an entire sermon so you can get a good idea of what the nature of what he said was.

They keep sound bites down to twenty seconds or so. They just don’t have the time to deal with nine minute clips.

Aside from that, the news in our country has become more and more sensationalized.

What we hear from our ‘journalist,’ if you can still call them that, is more like gossip than real substantive debate. “Did you hear what that guy said?” “Can you believe the nerve of that guy?”

These questions have replaced any meaningful discussion.

We’d rather be indignant than informed.

And the truth of the matter is, if you can find someone to say something angrily, you really can make him look crazy by putting only that sentence up for scrutiny, leaving out what he said before and what he said after whatever it was that is supposed to piss us all off.

If the only thing you show us is an angry statement, then that’s all we’ll see and we’re going to think, “Damn, what an angry dude.”

So before we go any further, take nine minutes to listen to what Pastor Wright actually said.

There’s a link right here.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Back already? Good, that didn’t take too long, did it?

The first thing I find disturbing is that in all the indignation that I’m hearing, the ‘how dare he say that’ what I’m not hearing is some kind of refutation of some factual error.

I call this the Ron Paul syndrome. Nobody is addressing what was said, or even questioning the truth of what was said; they’re too busy yelling about how they should not be saying it.

When Ron Paul said that the terrorist don’t hate our freedom, but rather our ties with the Saudi royal family and our support of Israel, people were pissed.

How dare he say that?

But I don’t remember anyone saying that what he said was untrue, just that it was offensive.

Ron Paul pointed out that the reason the terrorists hate us is not for our freedom but rather because of the role we have played on the world stage.

What he said may not be what you want to hear, but it is correct.

Same with Pastor Wright.

You might not want to hear someone say that our country started with the genocide of Native Americans, but it’s true.

You might not like hearing that our infrastructure was built with slave labor, but it was.

You might not like hearing that we killed civilians when we bombed Grenada, but we did.

You might not like hearing that we are the only country to ever uses nuclear weapons against a civilian population, but we are.

But rather than debating the merits of the short, controversial clip we’ve all heard, I want to talk about the content of the sermon as a whole.

He talks about how this should be a time of reflection for all of us, a time to examine our relationships with God.

He talks about the cycle of hatred.

He speaks from Psalm 137: 8-9, where there is a call, not for justice but for vengeance against Babylon. He talks about this passage serving as a spotlight to the insanity of the cycle of violence and the cycle of hatred.

Pastor Wright asks his congregation to think carefully about what our response should be to 9/11.

He asks what the Bible says about the concept of retribution and payback.

These are questions that a pastor ought to be asking.

And yes, he talks about the actions of the United States and the role it has played in the events leading up to this tragedy.

I am a pastor’s son, so I’ve heard more sermons than most people and part of what every pastor does is speak out against what they feel is immoral about our society.

It is nothing new.

I’ve heard preachers lamenting American tolerance for all kinds of sin, from premarital sex to pornography to divorce to rock music to homosexuality, the list goes on and on.

Pointing out society’s immorality is part of a pastor’s job.

The only difference here is that Pastor Wright, instead of preaching against sexual immorality or dishonesty or something like that, he is condemning things like genocide and slavery.

So why was it acceptable for people like Falwell or Robertson to, in the wake of 9/11 to say that God brought it about to punish us for our sexual immorality but not for Pastor Wright to say that our actions may have contributed to this event?

There are several reasons for this.

First, and most grave, is the state of what we call Christianity in America.

The Evangelical movement is very selective as to which passages in the Bible it is willing to pay attention to.

Any passage having to do with sexual immorality is magnified and trumpeted as if this were the most dangerous type of sin a society could engage itself in.

The law, the rules set out are given a great deal of attention.

There is a fight that never seems to end about the Ten Commandments being posted at courthouses around the country.

But does the law make up the majority of the Scriptures? Is it even the most important part?

Christ said no.

I find it interesting that in this debate, nobody has suggested that Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount be posted in a courthouse.

Why not hang the Beatitudes up next to the Ten Commandments?

Because conservative America doesn’t like that part of the Bible.

Do we really want jurors who are deciding criminal cases to read things like “Blessed are the merciful?”

What kind of soft-on-crime leftie, hippie shit is that?

So, we condemn Pastor Wright, for many reasons. He chooses to point out different sins in our society than white, conservative Evangelical leaders do. Also, he has given conservatives a convenient, angry sound bite that they can use to try to take down one of their political rivals.

Never mind that if you hear the entire sermon, it is very much in keeping with the teachings of the Scriptures.

Also, and I hesitate to bring it up, because it feels like too easy of an answer, but I truly think that racism has something to do with this.

For all the progress we’ve made, an angry black man is something that white Americans are still terrified of.

One question is, does this fear betray a guilty conscience or is it simply fear of revolution, a shift of power out of white hands?

When it comes down to it, anyone who has heard Pastor Wright’s sermon in its entirety and actually understands what a pastor’s role is could not have any problem with what he said.

They may disagree with some of what he said and that’s fine. But claiming that a minister ought not to point out sins that our nation has committed is ludicrous.

If a religious leader, one who is supposed to help us understand God’s nature and his will is not supposed to comment on our sins, then what is he supposed to be talking about?

If you watch this clip, it is clear that this is just a pastor, doing his job, pleading with his parishioners to examine themselves before God.

Remember, the separation of church and state does not only protect the state and the public from the dominance of the church, it also protects the church against the interference of the state.

So please, for the love of God, just let the pastors, leftists as well as conservatives do their jobs.


  1. I agree, I like this dude:

  2. Just perusing your blog from the first time, and I'm a fan. Look forward to hanging with you, we will have much to talk about. Or perhaps little to talk about, since our views are perhaps so convergent as to limit responses to "I know!" and "Amen." Either way, it will be fun.