28 April, 2008

Jeremiah Wright

Much of his radical theology disgusts me, and I have a very strong intellectual disagreement with it. However, growing up a pastor's kid in a religion well-represented among both white and black communities (and more integrated than most), I understand a bit about where he's coming from--politics tends to be more overtly a part of black churches and theology than white, and there is more confidence in calling a spade a spade in the black religious tradition (church being a refuge from white control and interference going back to even the slavery days). But Jeremiah Wright is far beyond the tradition of black churches railing against injustice and pulling together to address or mitigate that injustice as much as possible.

While listening to the extended excerpts Hugh Hewitt played last week, I sat with my mouth hanging open. Literally. I had tried so hard to "understand," to consider that maybe Wright tended to get carried away to hyperbole with his emotionalism, that perhaps he spoke more metaphorically as is often the case in black churches. But there it was, staring me in the face.

I had two reactions after I was done: 1) I now "get" the Obamas. Michelle's speeches, her tone, her body language... the awkwardness of having said she'd never been proud of her country until her husband ran for president... I had never been able to form a coherent vision of her. Listening to Wright's sermons was like a final piece of the puzzle that made the picture pull into focus. And even moreso, I understood the cult of personality that Barak cultivated in his campaign. Whether she and Barak Obama believed as Wright does when they joined the church, twenty years of hearing things like I did as I listened cannot help but shape a person's intellect and attitude. 2) I need a shower; I felt like I'd had the worst kind of sludge poured over me for the last hour.

Mere transcripts do not do justice to the mood of Wright's diatribes against this country and people who don't look like him or believe like him. I was stunned and appalled. So much rage, so much carefully-considered and clearly-laid-out venom for the country he once served as a Marine and which has enabled him to retire in wealth to a gated community. Those short excerpts we heard were not moments of overwhelming emotion or ill-considered metaphors/similes/parallels. They were snippets in carefully-constructed and consciously-delivered sermons of rage, hatred, uber-left-wing politics, and a desire for the destruction of this country and anybody who didn't agree with him.

In response, I at first felt anger. But that quickly gave way to pity, and finally a sense of filthiness for continuing to listen... much as one feels if looking too closely at the car wreck as one drives by. It is appalling, and even moreso when you subsequently listen to the mild-mannered and "oh-so-reasonable" man Bill Moyers interviewed last week. I was forcibly reminded of the wolf in sheep's clothing, but I don't think I've ever seen the two sides so starkly drawn as they are in Reverend Wright.

Over at Powerline, John Hinderocker comes close to summing up my opinion on this, though perhaps with a bit more resentment/offense than I had (I mostly feel pity for someone so obviously consumed with rage and the more destructive emotions of this life):

I had a busy weekend, and missed it when Hugh Hewitt posted extensive transcripts of the sermons of Jeremiah Wright on Friday evening. The transcripts are devastating to Wright. He is a despicable human being, and the fact that has been ordained, apparently, is a disgrace. Wright has been claiming that he was quoted out of context, and Barack Obama has suggested that Americans would view Wright differently if they heard his whole sermons instead of a few sound bites. In fact, the context makes it worse, and the whole sermons are outrageous. It turns out that "God damn America" understates the baroque hatefulness of Wright's theology.

Still unexplained is what Wright's political screeds have to do with Christianity. I don't know anyone who would sit still for a minister who persistently abused the pulpit to preach hate instead of the Gospel. As a Christian, I am outraged that "Reverend" Wright has hijacked my faith to preach hate and to sow falsehood. How Barack Obama could have participated in this charade for twenty years, and then held himself out as someone fit to lead this nation, is inexplicable.

Let the charges of racism begin...

[Note: if you are unfamiliar with the original definition of baroque (the one NOT referring to classical music), look it up. Hinderocker obviously chose his words very carefully here.]