Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Emails Across The Divide- Part I

3 19 08 Ferraro WrightImage by Bearman2007 via Flickr
Annie and I are very good friends... Recently we had a great conversation about race and our perspective on the whole Reverend Wright thing. Barack Obama encouraged a national conversation on race. I've been blessed with the opportunity to have a few of these across the divide recently.

Annie has given me permission to share our conversation with you. I'll do it in a series of posts. I'll probably break it up into five or six. Annie is a young white woman in her early 50s. She's not your "typical" white woman in that she lives in a pretty diverse family and has spent a lot of time in the inner city. Annie and I have known each other for a few years now. She's the best friend I have that I've never met (with the exception of my brother Brian in Ireland).

Annie is my good friend. We met on the Internet 3 or 4 years ago. Annie is an Irish-American woman who lives in Saint Louis. She’s just a few years older than I am. Annie is not unfamiliar with Black culture, having lived in inner city environments and having extensive dealings with black people. Annie has a black son-in-law. She is my best friend that I’ve never met with the exception of my “big brother” Brian.

The following is a series of emails Annie and I exchanged on a message board during the days following the breaking of the Jeremiah Wright story. The conversation was frank but respectful and while we disagreed on several things, we felt comfortable discussing them with each other.
Brian: I just listened to some clips of Jeremiah Wright. And, I'll be writing more in depth on this, probably over the weekend. Let me make some quick points.
1.) These are clips taken from 40 years of sermons and strung together to make it seem like the man preaches nothing but hate.
2.) The first clip I watched on YouTube supposedly was of Jeremiah Wright speaking of hate because he was saying how Hillary had never been called a nigger. The POINT was that Hillary couldn't relate to the struggles of being an oppressed minority like Barack could or like Jesus could. And the clip ended with Jeremiah talking about LOVING your enemies.
3.) When you're a half-White man raised by a single White mother, half of your family is White, your stepfather is Indonesian, your half sister is Indonesian and you've lived half way around the world, it's kind of hard to be a separatist.
4.) Obama's church is not my cup of tea. I was aware of their theology a year or so ago right after I joined the UCC. I'm not a proponent of Liberation Theology. I'm more of a “I just wish everything would be OK” kind of guy. But, there are many, many Black churches with pastors saying similar things every Sunday. Black people in this country have been abused and misused and it continues.
5.) You can't pin Wright's comments on Obama. My best friends is a nut-case Jew (and he knows I would say that). I would hate to have the crap he's posted on blogs over the years brought back up and presented as my POV.
Jimmy, you say clips of sermons, not sermons in their entirety. And based on the comments I saw on YouTube, I could tell many people who were watching the clips were completely missing the point of the sermons. Having been raised in the Black Pentecostal church I could understand Reverend Wright's message to his audience in a way that I'm guessing the White man on the street cannot.
OK. That's all I have time for now. I'll be saying more on one of my blogs soon. I probably won't do it on the Beautiful Heresy because I don't want to turn it too political. But, I think this is important and more needs to be said.

Annie: it's disappointing that "rev" wright uses God in his hate speech. there's no doubt about it - there's been a lot of wrong done against blacks in this country. other groups have also been oppressed: the japanese (interred during WWII), the chinese (uses as slave labor to build the RR system), the irish, the italians, the american indians, the latinos, the homosexuals... even christians. we, as a nation should indeed repent. but, i think rev wright should reread (assuming he's actually read them) peter's words regarding Jesus, "when he was reviled, he did not revile again. when he was hurt, he did not threaten". and peter said that we are called to walk "in his steps". when we experience unfair treatment, we can allow it to make us bitter or better. the best "revenge" is not to tear down the one who hurt us, but to lift up others who are experiencing the same hurts that we have. it's sad that rev wright has chosen words of violence (whether or not they actually incite acts of violence). O that he would launch the same type of protest that MLK did!!! rev wright does not seek the best for others, preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which is love, but rather seeks to preach a message that promotes himself, producing not followers of the Christ the church name claims, but adoring groupies of rev wright. one of the "faithful" called rev wright "insightful". i would change that to incite-ful. obama needs to repudiate this audacity of hate if he expects us to believe his message of hope. i don't blame him for this man's rhetoric. but i AM waiting to hear obama's response to it. he should distance himself from it immediately, just as john mccain decried the remarks made at the rally in ohio against obama by that moronic radio talk show host (cunningham?). –annie

Annie: thanks b2. i think the best thing obama could do right now is have a sit-down interview on something like 20/20 before this fire rages any hotter. it's wrong for folks to prejudge him based on what wright says. but it's not wrong for folks to ask for him to address this in depth. i NEED to hear his thoughts from his own mouth. i want reassurance. "rev" wright stirs up the same fear in me that i feel when i'm walking alone in the park and there's a group of a half dozen young black men and one of them says, "hey, baby.." i've never been accosted. i usually answer, "hey, how's it goin'?" but, for a few seconds, my heart feels like it's going to thump right out of my chest. i'm not proud of that. for crying out loud, my own son-in-law is black. but, it's people like wright that make white folks get double locks on their doors and move out of the city into the burbs for fear of being attacked. wright is wrong. and obama MUST repudiate not only his words, but his person. he must do it strongly in order to overcome the instinctive fear that will sweep over whites whether we want it to or not. let's put it this way... what if you were a homosexual and obama went to fred phelps' church? extreme example i know. but fear is fear. the words that "rev" wright speaks make me afraid...
and i do so much hope that you'll write more about this. perhaps even though rev wright's words are not good, God can bring good out of them if it helps us to confront our fears and reach out even while afraid. i want racial harmony in our land. i dream it will some day be so. we do what we can in our own little corner of the world. but i want to do more and just don't know how to do it.

Brian: This just came to my attention and it's the first time I've heard Rev Wright (probably not 2 hours ago). This has nothing to do with Fred Phelps though. Even though I know it will raise the instinctive fear Whites have of Blacks. I grew up in a Black church. We did have a few White members. In that way, it was similar to Obama's church.
I'm not going to defend Wright's words. But, I can understand why Black (and White) people would go to his church.
Check out this video, BTW. Here's a White lady who feels very comfortable at Trinity. My pastor (about as White as you can get) has been there and loves Jeremiah Wright. Also two other White people in my small group have been there and said they love the church.

Jim: Annie your words are so true... That was my and still is my prayer for Mr.Wright I did you see the video of the people in his church being interviewed... It is also My prayer for them as well. Did you see his message about how Jesus was black
In a world of white people and of course it was the white people that killed Him!!!

Brian: I don't know if Rev. Wright was speaking literally or not. But, figuratively and metaphorically what he said was exactly correct.

Jesus was part of an oppressed, enslaved society. The Romans had made the Jews basically non-people. The phrase "go the second mile" refers to the fact that a Roman soldier could command a Jew to carry his pack a mile. In the days of Jesus, the Jews were the Slaves (Blacks) and the Romans were the establishment/government/Masters. So, in a sense, Jesus was a Black man killed by White people. In the sense that He was part of an oppressed people killed by a corrupt, ruling government. Black people can relate to Jesus because, in a very real sense, He is one of us. Reverend Wright was making that point in his sermon.

I know this all brings up bad feelings and things people don't like to talk about in mixed company anymore. But, if you're going to listen in on a Black church, you'll hear this in a lot more pulpits than coming from Reverend Wright's. The Black church has, for a very long time, been the engine of social change and the beginning of that is to point out uncomfortable facts about our society to people.
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