Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Phi Obama Slamma?

Did you see Obama renounce his pastor's thoughts on why America deserved 9/11? Speaking on matters of race and specifically his pastor's divisive remarks, Obama gave his "More Perfect Union" speech on MAR 18 in Philadelphia. Among his comments, he said he can no more disown his pastor than he could disown his white grandmother. Who had also made racist comments that made him cringe. While I agree with Obama that "Words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialog, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit" [click here for the rest of the pre-speech fireworks], I do admire his pastor for saying what he really thinks [even though I don't agree with how or what he said]. And I admire the pastor's congregation even more for allowing him to do so. Isn't there something significant to "Iron sharpening iron" as Proverbs 27:17 says? Click the pic for a link to read the entire transcript, the triangular play button below to watch it on YouTube, or comment below [no blogger registration required]. What good things have you heard your pastor/rabbi/priest/imam shout out loud?


Monte Sahlin said...

I agree with you! I don't understand why people go to church wanting tepid stuff from the pulpit. Do they somehow think that preachers do not allow disagreement? I have preached a sermon, heard a comment from a church member, changed my mind and later preached a second sermon the same topic where I began by saying, "So and so changed my mind. I was wrong." Preaching should be dialog not ex cathedra pronouncements.

Anonymous said...

This Obama-Wright controversy is quite amusing and crazy. The media's take on the Church seems to be that everyone who is in a congregation must, by their presence, be endorsing everything that the preacher says. Regardless of how one feels about what Jeremiah Wright said, or how he said it, trying to implicate Obama simply because he might have been in the audience is quite a stretch.

Arden said...

First, I’m not sure people go to church wanting tepid stuff from the pulpit. I do think they go to church wanting to worship God and understand the Bible. I don’t think they go to hear a preacher’s biased view of American politics and history.

Second, I find absolutely nothing to admire about Jeremiah Wright's speaking his mind as a pastor from the pulpit. This is not about his freedom of speech as an individual. He can say anything he wants outside church. Wright is welcome to vent all he wants on Larry King, O’Riley Factor, and Rush Limbaugh’s show if he wants. If he wants to take his so-called “social gospel” to make a political impact, let him withdraw his church’s tax exemption, and operate it as a political organization. Perhaps he can compete with the KKK’s David Duke for political funds and influence.

Shame on Wright for using his position as a pastor and the bully pulpit at Trinity United Church of Christ to vent his political preferences and angry political expressions that include, “God damm America!” Shame on him! Perhaps Jeremiah Wright and James Manning of the ATLAH World Ministries can debate which of their respective presidential candidates is more racist than the other.

Third, I find absolutely nothing to admire about Wright’s congregation if they let him vent politically from the pulpit. Shame on his elders and congregation IF none of them have effectively challenged Wright’s use of the pulpit to vent politically. I find it hard to believe that no one in Wright’s congregation has had the courage to charge him with pastoral malpractice, and negligence.
And finally, I find absolutely nothing in Wright’s sermon that uplifts Christ and his gospel of love, forgiveness and redemption.

Ryan said...

These are very important issues to me. I totally agree with Arden that Rev. Wright has not business endorsing a particular candidate from the pulpit, as it seems he did several times. However, I feel just as strongly that he cannot and should not be expected, on the very same grounds, to be a booster for an America that left his people in the gutter for two centuries.

Pastors must have the freedom and courage to speak truth to power, sometimes from the pulpit. This is simply following the example of Jeremiah, Isaiah and John the Seer. How do we actually think John ended up on the Isle of Patmos? By singing God Bless Rome? I don't think so.

For the public and the media to say that Rev Wright or any pastor should simply speak in glowing and nationalistic terms about America from their pulpit is just missing the point of what the gospel is about and what the church is for. We may take issue with WHAT he said, but not his freedom to say it.

Why the media would try to damn Obama for being a member there is also beyond me. Jeremiah Wright isn't running for president last I checked. Does Obama now have to disown every crazy person who every said they are voting for him and others should too?

secase said...

By beholding we become changed.

Arden said...

Thanks for this excellent discussion.

However, I’m not sure I can equate Wright’s preaching style and content with the traditions of Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah.

Here are some questions about the “prophetic tradition” and its current expression in church pulpits like the clips proudly shown from Trinity United Church in Chicago or ATLAH World Missionary church in Harlem:

1. What does the “prophetic tradition” say about preaching content that is accurate and truthful? What does it require about telling the Jesus truth about loving our enemies and loving those who hate us? Where does the message of God’s grace, and Christ’s command for us to love one another fall into the curriculum of the prophetic tradition preachers?

2. Does preaching in the “prophetic tradition” of Jeremiah and Isaiah qualify a preacher to preach like a prophet? Who determines those standards? For example, if you Google Pastor Manning and listen to his "prophetic style," would he qualify? Would a David Duke-like pastor in the KKK qualify?

3. As practiced by Pastor Wright, who precisely is the prophetic preaching messages designed to help? Did Jeremiah and Isaiah use their prophetic power to call out sins of the people inside their group, or the sins of the people outside their group, like the Gentiles?

4. Does it matter that Pastor Wright and Manning preach their inflammatory political and racial messages largely to their respective congregations who, by their definition, are not the problem, but instead, are the victims of the problem created by people outside the group? What positive actions can Wright’s congregation take as a result of hearing these messages frequently? Who benefits most from these inflamatory messages that are preached mainly to the topical choir, reminding them on a frequent basis of their wretched conditions they must live with in America?

5. Since the topic of slavery, injustice and bigotry in America is the focus of many prophetic tradition preachers, what “truths” does that tradition require those preachers to reveal regarding blacks killing blacks genocides in many African countries? What about white on white genocides in Europe and brown on brown or yellow on yellow genocides in Asia?

6. What do preachers of the prophetic tradition in the pulpit have to say about the idea that hatred and bigotry are products of living in a sinful world, and that hatred and bigotry affect all people, not just whites or Americans?

7. How does the prophetic preaching tradition handle the concept of "collective guilt" and "collective accountability?"

Look forward to your thoughts...

Ryan said...

Arden, really good questions. I'm certainly not arguing for hate speech from the pulpit. Frankly, I feel like we're on thin ice here. I don't feel qualified to critique the black church, since I'm not black and have no personal experience with the racism experienced, even to this day, by blacks (and others) in America. I have been and continue to be one of the "privileged ones". Therefore, I think it would be a good idea to hear from people who have experienced the very real and ugly racism that is part of life in our country. Let's learn from them. At my blog there are a few links to some other commentary by a friend of mine, Melvin Bray.

I hope this doesn't seem like cowardice to you. My sense, though, is that the black experience is something that white people don't understand and therefore it's easy to critique. That's not to say that anything is permissible in a black church. Just that we need to seek to understand more deeply.

Peace of Christ to you!

Arden said...

Excellent points, Ryan. I need Christ's peace indeed.

Also, great idea for inviting others to join the discussion. The point I'm hoping to make is this: For me, and only me, it is hard to hear the gospel message of grace, love and forgiveness from the context of politics from the pulpit. And I completely agree with you, Ryan, that we're on thin ice indeed, especially as it is spring and thawing here in Ohio. Have a blessed Easter, Ryan! Thanks for a great discussion.