Monday, March 17, 2008

If you've ever spent Sunday morning at home and gone church surfing on cable TV, you've possibly come across a broadcast from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. If you stayed with it long enough to hear the sermon, then the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is not new to you and neither is his fiery preaching. I've done that, so it was not "shocking and appalling to me" when the "offensive" sound bites were played last week in an attempt to discredit Barack Obama.

The preacher has his own brand of audacity, not too dissimilar to the prophets of old who proclaimed hellfire and damnation on the Hebrew children who needed to be chastised regularly for their disobedience and complacency. They were often reminded of their days in slavery and their deliverance to the Promised Land. Jeremiah, the prophet for whom Rev. Wright was named, made everybody mad, denouncing political leaders, religious leaders and all the rest. Both Jeremiahs had a dramatic style that got attention and aroused rancor. And isn't it the job of a prophet to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

I can't listen for long to any preacher who raves and rants in a loud, angry tone, whether they are white or black, conservative or liberal. Other people believe it's a cornerstone of effective preaching. The style to which I've become accustomed and partial to in the Episcopal Church is much calmer and delivered in a way to make people think. It's usually inspiring, uplifting, edifying, encouraging, comforting, motivating. The intellect is engaged, not just the emotions. I think Barack Obama would be comfortable in my church; the inverse of that is probably not true - I would be very uncomfortable in his.

But do I condemn Rev. Wright for saying the things he said, the controversial quotes most publicized in the last week? Good Heavens, no! I've said similar things myself. A famous preacher once said:

To the question, Who is my neighbor? I reply as my Master did by the example that He gave: "the alien and the heretic."
Frederick W. Robertson

On the night of 9/11/01, I had a conversation with my cousin Skip in the Pizza Hut in Palestine, Texas, in which we discussed exactly what Rev. Wright says about our support for Israel and Israel's aggression toward the Palestinians and the role it may have played in the day's terror attacks on the USA. We weren't blaming the USA for what happened, but considering factors that could have influenced the terrorists. Why, just yesterday, our reading of the Passion Gospel included the verse where Jesus said, "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." Violence begets violence. There's nothing new here. We know this.

Every citizen of this country has freedom of speech. We can agree with our leaders or we can dissent. Some of us dissent more loudly and more dramatically than others. I just wish Americans would not say, "He shouldn't have said that." It seems a most un-American thing to say, especially of someone who served as a Marine fighting for that right for us all. I will defend your right to say it, though.

The only thing that disappointed me about Barack Obama's response to the uproar was that he did not defend his pastor's right to say what he said. I do believe that he personally believes differently about the controversial subjects than his pastor does, and his pastor's statements probably did make him uncomfortable. (Show me a church member who agrees with everything his pastor says and I'll show you a sycophant.) With Obama's background being so different from most of his church's other members, the Trinity Church and its pastor seem to be the perfect classroom and teacher for his learning the history and philosophy of those to whom he had had limited exposure, necessary training for anyone with ambition such as Obama's. As a master politician, he clarified his own views about the controversial subjects. For me, that was enough.

Obama's poll numbers have come down some. Thanks to the mudslingers, it's going to get ugly, like it does every election year. I just hope the young people are not so turned off that they drop out of campaigning and voting altogether.

1 comment:

Zoilus said...

Let's just hope your grandson Jeremiah makes everybody just as mad as all the rest of the Jeremiahs! ;-) Maybe the Silas side of him will pull him back from the edge.