Jeremiah Wright, Pat Robertson and theology

Now that the dust has settled a bit and the bandwagon has left the building I thought I would add a few thoughts. Sen. Obama asks we Amercians to consider his pastor Jeremiah Wright akin to an obnoxious uncle in the family. One loose cannon does not a family define. Volunteer defenders point out that Republicans have crazy uncles too like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, may he rest in peace. My contention is that the comparison is not one of fruitcake to fruitcake. I see superficial as well as substantial differences.

Superficially, Robertson and Falwell never counted anyone of political weight in their congregations. Robertson is not even a pastor of a local church. The closest he gets to a congregation is his audience of the 700 Club, his television show. They did work with the Republican party but were not spiritual leaders to the party’s leaders. Perhaps they considered themselves prophets to the nation and the party but they have no corner on that market. Self-appointed prophets are an abundant and politically promiscuous lot.

It’s the prophet complex that gets these fellows lumped together despite their divergent political views. The lighter skinned prophets saw the homosexual agenda in the Teletubbies. They also condemned TV sitcoms for promoting single parenthood, even though daytime soap operas contained more moral filth daily than one sitcom’s season. In apposition to Wright’s recent notorious rant, the white prophets’ proclamations regarding the attacks on September 11, 2001 are dragged out from the archives. Do they belong in the same suspect line-up?

This is where I see the substantial difference and need to bring up theology. I believe the white prophets were fools for trying to explain the problem of evil so simply as a result of abortion and gay marriage. The 100 fold devastation wrought by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean a few years later puts to shame such idle speculations. The wiser prophets who commanded smaller stages humbly asserted that we all deserve such evil, in light of our own wickedness. They saw it in terms of our own lack of merit or guarantee on tomorrow. Theologically, Falwell and Robertson shared the guilt of Job’s counselors, wrongly interpreting God and ascribing guilt from a concept of a capricious god. They forget they serve a God of grace, a scandalous grace-giving God. Jeremiah Wright however reminds me of the prophet Jonah, ever disappointed that the proclamation of judgment never comes. Is America’s racism worse than Nineveh’s wickedness? Perhaps it is. Yet what prophet of God rejoices in the evil that befalls others? The apostles of Christ were also a persecuted minority, ethnically and religiously, yet they continually advocated prayer for the leaders that God appointed over them. My contention is that Wright’s damning of white America in the name of God is a more serious error than Robertson’s and Falwell’s ignorant, knee jerk explanations of national tragedy. They believe they speak the mind of God, he believes he speaks the will of God. And Sen. Obama has sat under this teaching and discipling for many years, with discernment conveniently coming to him under the glare of the national media in a political contest.

Yes Americans deserve justice for its racism against blacks and natives and immigrants. It also deserves justice for its treatment of those millions killed in the womb. But God is longsuffering. Look at ancient Rome. Look at ancient Israel. Look at ancient Greece. Look at the Mongols. Look at the Young Turks and the Armenians. Look at Stalin’s USSR. Look at Mao’s China. Look at Japan. Look at Germany. Look at Sudan. Look at South Africa. There is none righteous, no not one. And unjust empires have thrived for generations. And wicked leaders have died peacefully in their sleep at an old age. But God is still on his throne. He commands that injustice needs to be corrected. But he doesn’t authorize anyone to damn a nation.

Christ's followers are called to warn about the wages of sin and extol the good news of Jesus Christ. Yesterday, we saw both sides of the deal in the remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion to atone for sin and the resurrection as the proof of the good news. It's that simple.

update: Commenter Sue has included a link to more context of Wright's sermon. I think it is a much more agreeable sermon, theologically and socially, but I need to hear the entire sermon to actually reconsider my main issue, damning a nation. Thank you very much Sue.


Anonymous said…
Listen to the full truth not half truth even if you don't agree with the facts spoken

Rev. Jeremiah Wright's 9-11 sermon in context

Jeremiah Wright's God Damn America in context

Popular posts from this blog

Why did Peter put his coat on before jumping in the water? John 21:7

bike review:men's Simple 3 by Giant

Review: A Weekend to Remember by Family Life