Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wright Is Wrong

WASHINGTON - APRIL 28:  Rev. Jeremiah Wright, ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Ironically, just yesterday, I was going to write a post titled "Wright is Right".  IMO, Reverend Jeremiah Wright has been right on target with a number of things, including the sermons that were so controversial.   When I heard Reverend Wright was going to be on Bill Moyers' show on Friday night, I waited with bated breath.  Would we see the Jeremiah Wright who is so well respected as a community activist and prophet?  Or would we see the insolent angry man that I saw on a conservative talk show interview a while back?  I was pleased with the interview.  I thought Reverend Wright and Billy Moyers did a wonderful job.  My defense of him was well-earned, I thought.  Then, Reverend Wright opened his mouth again...

I began watching the video of the talk at the NAACP yesterday. I didn't have the time to get through it all.  I find it rather boring and thought I had spent enough time listening to Reverend Wright anyway.  I saw just a few brief moments of the Q&A after the National Press Club speech.  Reverend Wright seemed playful and jovial.  I thought, "OK, guess he didn't do too much damage".  Then, today, I saw Barack Obama's response. "What the hell did Reverend Wright say?"  I wondered. I also wondered if Barack was just overreacting because Reverend Wright hadn't been apologetic for his sermons and the soundbites taken from them.  Maybe Barack was just trying to distance himself a little more.  Then, I read the transcript of the National Press Club speech and the Q&A.  It looks like Reverend Wright skipped his meds yesterday.

The speech itself I found to be mostly irrelevant. What I was amazed by was how there are so many more important things he could have talked about, and all he wanted to talk about is the "black church" and "black liberation theology".  I've tried to be tolerant of his obsession with both and tried to explain to white folks why they simply don't understand our experience, why we need the black church, the role of the prophet.  But, the good Reverend has gone, too far, IMO.   He seems to identify himself as only a black man.  While it's undeniable that that is a part of who the Reverend is, what is becoming apparent is that he clings much too strongly to that. His views on black liberation theology and the black church are pretty well known right now.  He didn't need to put them in the national spotlight again.  At a time when he could have really made a huge stride forward for understanding and peace, he chose to spout off even more divisive stuff than the sound bites that put him in this position.  Then, in the Q&A he was flippant and insulting. Even worse than the salt he poured on the already open wound of race in America, he threw Barack Obama under the bus by questioning the sincerity of the denunciation of the Reverend's remarks.  Barack tried to stand by this man- at great personal peril.  He refused to denounce him. And the Reverend repaid him with a character assassination.  He could have been humble.  He could have said "Of course Barack doesn't agree with everything I say.  And, I understand why he had to distance himself from some of my more outrageous remarks.  As a pastor, I say outrageous things...".  The calm, reasonable man who appeared on Bill Moyers was explained away as Reverend Wright himself complained about the things edited out of the interview.  Is it possible Bill Moyers' editors were trying to give the man a break?  Then, when he's unedited, he goes out and makes an ass of himself.  What's up with that?

He says this is not about an attack on Jeremiah Wright but an attack on the "black church" as if the black church is some monolithic institution and he speaks for the entire black church.  Reverend Wright is starting to remind me of Reverend Sharpton.  Does Reverend Wright forget he's a part of Trinity United Church of Christ?  Far from a black denomination. The UCC also went out of their way to defend him when he was attacked.  Why did he have to make this about the black church?

You know I am a Barack Obama supporter.  And, until now, I have bent over backwards to give Reverend Wright the benefit of the doubt.  I think Barack did too, to his detriment.  My guess is the real reason Barack Obama joined Trinity was not the theology or even the politics of the place.  It was its role in building up the community.  As a young community organizer, Barack Obama sought out the person who knew the most about the community and it was Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  Barack stuck with him and the church in spite of some of his outrageous views.  Probably because of the excellent work Trinity does. And, Jeremiah Wright is a brilliant man and a great speaker.  We tend to dismiss a lot when people are doing good work and when they are brilliant orators, as Jeremiah Wright is.

The bottom line is my interest in this issue is mainly with Barack Obama and what I think he can do for America.   Jeremiah Wright is a separate and peripheral issue, IMO.  He had the spotlight and could have done great things for race relations.  Instead, he chose to live up to people's lowest expectations and worst fears.  I am saddened by that.  I am glad that Barack chose to stand up today and "publicly divorce" (as Tim Russert put it) Jeremiah Wright.  It was the only thing left for him to do.  Many will say he's a hypocrite and he surely must have known what kind of man Jeremiah Wright is.  But, I believe that Barack Obama is the type of person who sees the best in people, the best in our country and the best in the world.  He looked past Jeremiah Wright's flaws and valued the many, many good thing the man has done.  But, enough is enough.  Jeremiah Wright returned Barack's loyalty with a betrayal of epic proportions.  And for that, Reverend Wright is wrong.

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