EDITORIAL: The Wright prism

The Wright prism

Isn’t it curious that so much attention can focus on one man and the manner in which he expresses himself, yet at the same time so little attention is paid to what he says.

Anyone who is not already aware of the depth and subtlety of Rev Jeremiah’s thought should take the time to listen to him being interviewed by Bill Moyers. As for today, all the hubbub is around Wright’s performance at the National Press Club where he committed a cardinal sin: he mocked the media.

The media itself is now implicitly laying down a challenge to the American people: Will you pick your next president on the basis of how you feel about his pastor?

The separation between Church and State has apparently utterly dissolved. Then again, the candidate did say on Sunday that questions about Wright were “a legitimate political issue.”

In that case, maybe it’s worth reading a central passage from his speech this morning. From what I can tell, most of the press were apparently half asleep during this part of the event since from the reports I’ve seen, no one found anything here that merited repetition:

Reconciliation, the years have taught me, is where the hardest work is found for those of us in the Christian faith, however, because it means some critical thinking and some re-examination of faulty assumptions when using the paradigm of Dr. William Augustus Jones.

Dr. Jones, in his book, God in the Ghetto, argues quite accurately that one’s theology, how I see God, determines one’s anthropology, how I see humans, and one’s anthropology then determines one’s sociology, how I order my society.

Now, the implications from the outside are obvious. If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means “God with us,” if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens.

My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens. And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior.

And I order my society where I can worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and kill others on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe. I can have laws which favor whites over blacks in America or South Africa. I can construct a theology of apartheid in the Africana church (ph) and a theology of white supremacy in the North American or Germanic church.

The implications from the outset are obvious, but then the complicated work is left to be done, as you dig deeper into the constructs, which tradition, habit, and hermeneutics put on your plate.

To say “I am a Christian” is not enough. Why? Because the Christianity of the slaveholder is not the Christianity of the slave. The God to whom the slaveholders pray as they ride on the decks of the slave ship is not the God to whom the enslaved are praying as they ride beneath the decks on that slave ship.

How we are seeing God, our theology, is not the same. And what we both mean when we say “I am a Christian” is not the same thing. The prophetic theology of the black church has always seen and still sees all of God’s children as sisters and brothers, equals who need reconciliation, who need to be reconciled as equals in order for us to walk together into the future which God has prepared for us.

Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks and Hispanics become Asian or that Asians become Europeans.

Reconciliation means we embrace our individual rich histories, all of them. We retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us. They are just different from us.

We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice.

And we recognize for the first time in modern history in the West that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles, and different dance moves, that other is one of God’s children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness, just as we are.

Only then will liberation, transformation, and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals.

So, let’s see if I can encapsulate Wright’s message in a pithy little statement – the kind that any journalist could use if they wanted to accurately characterize this controversial minister’s preaching:

The task of reconciliation hinges on our ability to see each other as equals even while we recognize our differences.

Hmmm…. What a radical statement! What a hateful ministry! Who on earth would dream of choosing as their president someone whose pastor would preach such a thing?

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1 thought on “EDITORIAL: The Wright prism

  1. Paco

    Mr. Woodward, this entire smear campaign makes me want to move to Canada, or avoid the entire political process out of complete disgust — which I’m sure is the point of it all.

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