Saturday, March 29, 2008

wright speaks the truth; obama apologizes for it

Christianity did not arise as a national or a class religion. As a dominant religion of rulers it must deny its origin in the crucified Christ and lose its identity. The crucified God is in fact a stateless and classless God. But it does not mean an unpolitical God. God is the God of the poor, the oppressed and the humiliated. The rule of the Christ who was crucified for political reasons can only be extended through liberation from forms of rule which make humanity servile and apathetic and the political religions which give them stability [i can't help but be reminded here of shariati's religion against religion. -LoA]. According to Paul, the perfection of the kingdom of freedom is to bring about the annihilation of all rule, authority and power, which are still unavoidable here, and at the same time to achieve the overcoming of apathy and alienation. Christians will seek to anticipate the future of Christ according to the measure of the possibilities available to them, by breaking down lordship and building up the political liveliness of each person.

Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (1972)

Jon deMartin, "Faith in the Wilderness" (2006)

i have to admit that to me, a white man from rural north carolina, the words of rev. wright were beautiful. they brought back memories of many of the sermons i heard as a child and young adult, often, or even especially around the 4th of july or an election. the theme that was often pounded home from the pulpit of my home church was "heal our land". the clear implication, often made quite explicit, was that the country was sick and subject to divine judgment.

so my question has been from the beginning, what did rev. wright say that was wrong?

on this good friday, one should remember that jesus was executed as a political threat and blasphemer. he was not sentenced and killed for being nice and loving everyone. mr. rogers and barney the dinosaur are disgustingly sweet; no one suggested they be tried for treason. so the idea that sunday morning sermons should be inoffensive and make everybody feel better about themselves seems obviously absurd...even if for the most part this absurdity has become the reality in many churches. the words of pastor wright, the 30 seconds of sermon that we get to hear online, are apparently too much for fragile american ears, even though they are some of the most christian statements i have heard in a long time. they are the words of a christianity which refuses to be shackled to a state, refuses to be the handmaid of an alien power, refuses to lie in order to placate the powers and thrones that rule the american nation. america is not the kingdom of god and has been all too often blind to its own history of injustice and murder. the fact that rev. wright's words were so controversial -- pointing out the racism that still functions so powerfully in american life; reminding americans, as we try to limit nuclear weapons, that we alone have used them; reminding americans, as we fight against terrorism, that we have waged and are waging war with little concern for the lives of others; that america is not god -- is simply more evidence that america has made an idol of itself and that the nation has supplanted god in the minds and hearts of the american people.

obama has distanced himself from the "inflammatory" words of pastor wright. there are pragmatic reasons for this. perhaps it is the case that a christian cannot say the truth and be elected president. but the fact that obama denounced the truth reveals that he is nothing new on the political scene, and the fact that america needed him to denounce the words of his pastor in order to have a chance of being president suggests that america wants many things, but it does not want change. america does not wish to hear of its illness, but wants a president that will continue to lead it -- with the imperial band playing its march -- triumphantly into the glorious future that belongs to it by right, by nature. because america is the greatest nation in the world.

and it proves once again that prophets are not welcome in their own country.


Evan Wilson, "Down to the Water" (2006)

"Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing, for you will mourn and weep.
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye', when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."
Luke 6:24-25,41-42 (c.75 AD)


koonj said...

Amen! Amen! Amen!
I was shocked and sorry when Obama had to distance himself from Rev Wright's comments.

Lawrence of Arabia said...

we are clearly in something of a minority here. i caught several discussions on npr and cnn over the last wk+ concerning wright and obama's speech and the unquestioned assumption throughout was that wright was wrong and inappropriate and that obama had to justify his 20 year association with wright and distance himself from the message. no one really suggested that wright was on target really. and there were many calls suggesting wright was filled with hate, unchristian, and that nothing obama could say could salvage his campaign. on the whole, i have found the entire episode, the response of obama and the response of the country rather depressing.

you and me in the amen-corner. woot.


koonj said...

A quiet, sad corner, eh. That is extremely depressing.

Lawrence of Arabia said...

no, no, no...the amen-corner is supposed to be the exciting happening place.

Irving said...

Happy Birthday :) I read it on Facebook and wanted to wish you a happy and joyous day :)

Ya Haqq!

Anonymous said...

Stunning and powerful commentary, as are the two accompanying images.

Aysha said...

Dear LoA,
This is all new to me, but as I followed your argument, I hardly found any "illogic" to it. Such an enriching p.o.v.
Thank you so much!