Since that post, Hillary and the Republican Machine have come out to condemn Wright, and through him Obama. Hillary has reminded us all that she's not part of a church by stating she would have left that church after not agreeing with her pastor. (Obama had it right when he compared Wright to a family member- everyone in a church is. We don't just leave our churches like cherry pickers when there's something we don't agree with. You remember that last time you disagreed with something your pastor said? I do- three times in the last sermon.) Wright has finally come out to begin to defend himself. And Obama has adamantly, irrevocably, and completely distanced himself from Wright. He misinterpreted Wright's use of the word "politician" as negative, when Wright was just using it as a description of Obama's occupation. I wish Obama hadn't distanced himself, but I understand he has to, to win this election- for many of his supporters will also hear the word "politician" in the same manner. Ultimately, Wright had a poor choice of words- for he is not a politician.
But let us turn to Wright's defense. It was beautiful. For again and again, Wright pointed out that he wasn't defending himself. He was speaking on behalf of God - true apologetics. He was speaking what the Bible say on justice. He was patient, and waited a long time before responding to his critics. Now he does, in a few interviews and speeches, and is accused of trying to make a name for himself by media pandering. Everyone seems to forget the incredible weight of attacks by the media, Republicans, and Hillary a month ago, as those parties sought to make a name for themselves on the back of Jeremiah Wright.
As Wright defended the politics of Jesus, he also demonstrated that his remarks were deep in the black preaching tradition. But he isn't the first to point this out. And this is what is saddest from this entire controversy.
There wasn't much I disagreed with in Wright's remarks- and I refer to the out-of-context snippets on YouTube. But though I'm white, I didn't grow up in American culture. Most American whites were shocked at what Wright said. They couldn't believe that a loyal American would say such things. Most American blacks were scratching their heads and wondering what the big deal is.
What the Wright controversy has revealed is a deeper kind of racism. It is the not merely the discrimination that occurs every day, but the lack of knowledge and awareness of the other in our midst. We (white America) are fine with blacks as long as they stay like us and act like us. When they're by themselves, they can do their own thing. But we've reached the point where, at least in general, we'll treat them with respect and equality as long as they act white.
Imagine the shock to find out that they don't always act the same way. Anyone who's had the opportunity to visit or be part of a black church already knows this. There is a strong tradition of the prophetic in the black church- and by prophetic, I of course mean in the Biblical sense of the word - calling people to justice. What Wright said was no different from what you hear in thousands of black churches- and also from the Reverend King, as he contemplated his last sermon "Why America May Go to Hell" because of the lack of concern for poverty- a sermon he never gave because an assassin's bullet got in the way.
But we in white America don't want to hear that. We in rich America don't want to hear that. We want to be happy in our privilege and wealth, and if the underprivileged and underclass want to go off somewhere to make themselves feel good, so much the better- just don't let us hear about it. And God forbid that we should be called to account for our actions. I fear we desire the metaphorical assassin's bullet to silence the prophetic Biblical calls to justice and change.
And now, we ask that, even in the black churches, these voices be silenced. Sure, this is wrong, because it steals from people the place where they can freely express themselves, and witness to the injustices of their oppressors. But more than that. More than that, it steals from us the prophetic witness that we need as a nation, as a people. Without the black prophetic witness, our nation is very poor indeed. Without that call for justice, our Christianity becomes a weak, snivelling thing, withered on the vine, suitable only for the rubbish heap and gehenna fire. What has grown in the pyre of years of torture and slavery is a phoenix truth of what it means to follow justice and hope- what it means to be a Christian.
Hope. There's that word again. Make no mistake, the same hope that inspired Obama after listening to a Rev. Wright sermon to write The Audacity of Hope, that same hope was born in the fiery calls to justice in the misery of oppression.
Obama has to lead all of America, as Wright said, and therefore he has to speak to lower class whites like myself, to those of us who don't even begin to understand the black prophetic voice, and are repelled by it. But here there be dragons. Obama too strongly distanced himself from the truth of the Rev. Wright's words. Wright's words were racially tinged because he was pointing out the racism in American society. And if Obama goes too far in rejecting what the Rev. Wright says, Obama risks losing that very foundation of hope that has galvanized a nation.
For let us not forget. This hope did not begin with Obama. This call for justice did not begin with him. It did not begin with Jeremiah Wright. It did not begin with the Reverend Martin Luther King. For the beginnings, we need to go a little earlier. In the following quote, only the racial words have been updated to reflect modern class distinctions.
Come now, you whites, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the migrant laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the blacks have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.