Thoughts on Rev. Wright's comments

I mentioned in my last post that I was going to write up my thoughts on the Rev. Wright media feeding frenzy once I got around to it. Turns out I have more thoughts on the issue than I realized. I'll have three separate posts: the first on what I see as the core issues in the Rev. Wright debacle; the second on comparing Wright's relationship with Obama with McCain's underpublicized relationships with Hagee and Parsley, and the third on Obama's speech itself. Wright's remarks that have received the most airtime are his “God damn America” clip and the post-9/11 speech.

The way I see it, the uproar over Wright's remarks comes largely from sheltered white people who haven't previously been in black churches or been exposed to black preachers. On Point had two good shows, the first on Wright's remarks, and the second on Obama's speech. In the first, Dr. Dwight Hopkins explained a bit of the history of the black church tradition. Dr. Wright:
“the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, is full of prophetic condemnation and damnation of peoples and nations... so when Rev. Wright says 'God damn America', he's actually, and if you look at the clips, he says 'it's in the Bible, it's in the Bible,' it's actually in the Bible, the word “damn”, in the Old Testament it means condemnation and sacred judgment... it's damning a powerful country that has the resources to bring about peace, build friendship, and help the poor; instead it's gone to war and occupied a smaller nation.”
Wright's remarks were:“God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people...God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.” Wright is damning the American government in that he is condemning it for being racist. Previously in his sermon he preached about how "governments change, God does not change" - i.e. that America must change or else it is worthy of condemnation, or in the language of the Old Testament, damnation.

In the same way, Martin Luther King preached “We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world ... God has a way of even putting nations in their place. And if you don't stop your reckless course, [God will] rise up and break the backbone of your power.” Some of you might have heard that MLK has his own holiday named after him - he's not (anymore) seen as an anti-American figure.

Wright's quote of “America's chickens are coming home to roost” are taken out of context to portray Wright negatively. In context, it's apparent that Wright is quoting Edward Peck when he makes the comment "America's chickens are coming home to roost." This statement is the non-controversial (except to Rudy Giuliani) theory of blowback. This clip is a non-issue on substance, but is another instance of an angry black preacher that in Obama's words are “jarring to the untrained ear” - i.e. they frighten sheltered white people.

The bottom line is that Trinity Church is neither anti-American nor exceptional. Wright grew up in the sixties who seemingly hasn't moved on, but on substance, there is no controversy worthy of the media's obsession.

The remarks that bother me most from Wright are when he says “Hillary never had a cab whizz past her and not pick her up because her skin was the wrong color.” He emphasizes racism so much that he ignores the equally real sexism that women face especially in politics. A problem, yes, but not one that reflects on to Obama (unless he has some legacy of sexism that I don't know about).

I urge everyone who's been up in arms about this spectacle to watch the two videos of Wright in context - the longer, unclipped versions are here and here.

Hopefully this post has helped put in context Wright's remarks. Next up is the comparison between Wright, and Hagee and Parsley.


Dan tdaxp said...

It's ironic that your excerpt of Wright's words itself is cut-off, excluding his injunction against God bless America.

If you can find an equivalent "prophetic" verse in the Old Testament, where a Prophet tells Israel not to ask God for blessings for their country but only for damnation, please provide it.

It is interesting to see how the apologetic for Rev. Wright unfolds. The first I heard is that he never said God Damn America at all,. but rather "Goddamn America." Now, his words are taken out of context and compared to a (non-existent, I think) portion of the Old Testament.

No comment on his AIDS remarks? Or his racist replacement theology that sees only blacks are the chosen people?

Adrian said...

The HIV/AIDs myth is unfortunately widespread in parts of the black community. This would be a reason for his damning of the government. Again, not a particularly uncommon thing to hear.

I haven't seen any racism in any of the clips of Wright. Example?

Adrian said...

As for the prophetic tradition and "damnation", if you are interested then I guess check out one of Hopkins' books from the library.