Monday, April 28, 2008

Thoughts on Jeremiah Wright

Last night I was doing some channel surfing. About 9:30, I grew tired of basketball, and hit the new channels. CNN had pre-empted Larry King to give coverage of Jeremiah Wright's keynote address at a fund-raiser for the NAACP in Detroit.

I was fascinated by the excerpts that I heard. I did not see the entire speech, though I set my machine to record its rebroadcast. A year from now, I will be teaching Anthropology. One of the basic ideas of missionary anthropology is that cultural differences are not better or worse, but rather are different. Wright had a segment that dealt with linguistics, ethnomusicology, even homiletics, where he parodied cultural differences between blacks and non-blacks. It was entertaining, and may be useful when talking about cultural differences my future missionary students may face.

When Wright's inflammatory post-9/11 statements came out, Barack Obama put some needed distance between his controversial former pastor and the campaign. Some of the talking heads think Wright should just fade into the woodwork. I found it ironic that one of the Republican talking heads was irate (and nearly irrational), concerned that this self-centered minister should fade into the woodwork rather than putting himself out there in public, hurting the political chances of Obama. Why was Wright there? Well, there were nearly 12,000 people present at a very pricey fund-raiser. I think he was there because his presence could bring in a lot of cash (and probably put a bunch in his own pocket at the same time.)

Back in March, I became aware that Jeremiah Wright had been featured in Christianity Today's Preaching Today series. Our preaching students are required to listen to a variety of sermons from that series. I made a mental note to listen to him preach in that series. This morning, I listened to his message in the series, dating from 1990. It was titled "The Audacity to Hope", and was based on 1 Samuel 1:1-18, about Hannah looking upward toward God in the middle of her barrenness. It was a good sermon. Ironically, Obama's second book (which I have not read) is titled The Audacity of Hope.

Wright is a proponent of Black Liberation Theology. Fair or not, that is the context from which he moves. The most redeeming part of his speech was the emphasis on cultural differences not being deficiencies, but rather differences. He advocated change in the manner in which we see those who are different from us, and also in how we see ourselves. That also is positive.

Back in March, when Wright's inflammatory statements hit the air waves, I found that one of his supporters, Frank Schaeffer (we used to call him Franky Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer--I plan to write more about him someday), wrote a piece for the Huffington Post titled "Obama's Minister Committed Treason But When My Father Said the Same Thing He Was a Republican Hero."

When I left home this morning, I popped in a DVD-R into the DVD Recorder, and started the replay of Wright's speech from last night. I'll edit the speech, and maybe some comments. I may show it (or portions of it) in Anthropology class next year. As to the damage Pastor Wright may cause to Obama's campaign--well, I guess we are just going to have to wait and see.


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