Defending Rev. Jeremiah Wright

 | April 29, 2008 3:23 PM

Yesterday I watched on CSPAN Reverend Jeremiah Wright defend himself. He was eloquent and intelligent. I learned much about the perspective of an oppressed group that distrusts its governments and struggles for rights within the context of Christ’s love and desire for reconciliation. I did feel during questioning he was a best defensive but I do not fault him for this and overall I am a bigger admirer of him and Barack Obama too.

Here are some of my observations from yesterday’s talk.

  • Reverend Wright is being unfairly characterized as unpatriotic using a couple of taken out of context statements and no one is talking about his six years of service in the military and the other ways he has served his country. Also his church has sent many people into military service including several serving in Iraq for this “unjust war.”
  • Reverend Wright explained that it is the American government and its policies that he has issues with, not the country nor its people.
  • Reverend Wright asks why the American government has not apologized to the African-American people for its enslavement when Britain has apologized to the African nations, Germany has apologized to the Jewish people and Israel. It’s more than a fair question and the same as my asking why the Japanese government has not apologized for its atrocities during the Korean occupation of the early 20th century.
  • Reverend Wright believes the American government may have created the AIDS virus. I find this somewhat preposterous but this kind of thinking reflects such an incredible distrust of this government and I can’t help but believe this comes from deep, personal and painful episodes in his life.  A friend pointed to a 2005 EPA study that was to study the effects of known toxic chemicals on children and which would have targeted low income children.  Though this doesn’t necessarily substantiate Reverend Wright’s claim it seems to add least a little bit of credence to the black community’s suspicions.
  • Reverend Wright pointed out injustices such as blacks serving much longer prison sentences for possessing crack while whites get shorter sentences for possessing cocaine, the whie drug. My wife pointed out studies showing the much higher proportion of blacks on death row. You can just go on and on listing injustices visited upon the black people.
  • Reverend Wright pointed out that one of his quotes where he said the U.S. is culpable for 9/11 was actually him quoting the Iraqi diplomat.
  • Reverend Wright said it’s Biblical that God condemns the nations for their iniquities and that condemn is the same as damn, hence the infamous quote “Damn America.” He also correctly quotes Jesus calling the Pharisees as a “brood of vipers.” He also quoted another “bombastic” quote of Jesus’s but I forgot what it was.
  • When Barack Obama was asked why Reverend Wright was not at his Presidential campaign announcement, he said he chose not to have him there because of his sometimes inflammatory remarks. But Reverend Wright said he wasn’t there because it was a political view. However before the event started he was downstairs with Barack and his family praying for them. This is something Barack obviously failed to mention.
  • When asked how can whites and blacks reconcile Rev. Wright pointed out that the underground railroad was done by white Christians and gave many other examples of white Christians helping their black brothers.
  • Rev. Wright explained that he does not necessarily agree with everything that Louis Farrakhan believes but that Louis Farrakhan is a very influential person in the black community and that when he speaks people listen.
  • Rev. Wright said he is being unfairly characterized as anti-semitic and that he has said that he expect God’s people, the Israelis, to reconcile with the Palestinians.
  • Rev. Wright pointed out he’d like to be Vice-President. I think he was 50% serious.

I was disappointed in the media’s coverage of this event. NPR said Rev. Wright did nothing to help his image and that it would hurt Obama even further. The New York Times was not too kind either and both of these are liberal media sources.

The TV Watch
Not Speaking for Obama, Pastor Speaks for Himself, at Length
Published: April 29, 2008

It turns out that the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. doesn’t hate America, but he loves the sound of his own voice.

In general what stirs me about this situation is that immediately after 9/11 many conservative Christians, including myself, questioned whether what happened was a sign of God’s judgment for the U.S.’s many sins. Jerry Falwell was one of the most famous conservative evangelicals who talked about this. (Note I don’t hold to this belief anymore as my theology has changed to believe that we are in a new covenant and that Jesus has taken upon all of God’s punishment for all our sins, the most unfair and gracious exchange ever.)  Pastor David Wilkerson of Times Square Church in a service that I attended said that New York city was worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.

Yet no white politician was sullied by those words. George Bush was elected because of his overwhelming support amongst conservative evangelicals.

Admittedly it is a little different, Jerry Falwell is not any politician’s personal pastor. On the other hand how much Barack Obama is being associated with his pastor’s views is unbelievable to say the least. If I ran for office and was being judged based on my pastor’s views I would be flabbergasted. This is why I think there is a tinge of racism here. Obama is black, Wright is black, it’s a black church, this must be how those blacks think. We can’t trust them. They’re not patriotic. They’re not us.

My opinion of this situation, which Rev. Wright alluded to, is that Barack is distancing himself from Rev. Wright because he knows white America is not ready for Rev. Wright. White America is not ready to hear just how hurt Black America is. I myself was never really aware of it. And I’m grateful that Rev. Wright has communicated this to me.

(This reminds me of a story I heard where at a church planting conference they spoke about multi-ethnic churches. One black woman said she saw no reason for why she needed to worship with whites. I am not sure exactly what she said but a white friend of mine who was there heard her words and her heart, I am sure there was much more than what I am saying, and just started crying and apologizing on behalf of whites. That’s the beginning of reconciliation in the name of Christ).

I more than ever hope Barack Obama wins. This country needs to heal and I am hoping that electing a multi-racial man as President will do just that. Unfortunately I believe that mainstream white America is not ready for a white President and that he will go down as the media continues to character assassinate.

One Response to “Defending Rev. Jeremiah Wright”

scott wrote a comment on May 9, 2008

You’ve gotta be kidding, right? It seems to be you’re bending over backwards to defend this guy. I think the ending of the NYT article sums up exactly what is going on. I think a strong argument can be made that the Christian thing to have done was to accept the misunderstandings of the press, at least for the time being. He would have had plenty of chances to vindidate himself in the public later–if he felt that it was his Christian duty to do so, which I certainly don’t think it was. Instead, he decided to go on a campaign, come hell or high water, that clearly upstaged Obama’s campaign, at least for a few days.

This is not to deny the history of injustice, and indeed the continuing injustice that is racism in America. But tell me, what is the correct way to go about addressing this. It seems odd that the correct course would be to polarize and potentially derail what could conceivably be the most important positive event in post civil rights politics. Does he want to have his say or get his way? To then go on and try to characterize criticisms of his views as one against “the black church” and “black culture” is so absurd. C’mon, his church was ATYPICAL as a black church because it was so liberal.

Care to comment?