On the way to our pastoral team prayer meeting yesterday I caught a good portion of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's speech to the National Press Club on the radio. I couldn't take my ears off the radio. I was late for my meeting because I was so reluctant to quit listening. (The video below only includes the last section of his address and the first few questions.)
Jeremiah Wright is a tough cookie. And he is a straight shooter--I did not hear the voice of a man who was concerned with pleasing or impressing the nation (though he does have a quite a charismatic stage presence) and neither did he backtrack on or explain away the soundbites that have been used against him lately. I admire that. I felt like I was listening to the voice of a prophet--a man who wasn't afraid to tell the truth to power.
As a pastor, I found myself understanding where he was coming from and agreeing with much of what he said. His response to the question about "America's chicken's coming home to roost," was priceless. "Did you hear the whole sermon? No? Well that nullifies that question but let me see if I can answer it anyway. Are you aware that I was quoting ... with that statement?" At the core, Wright is not wanting to be identified by 10 second soundbites after an over 30 year career of preaching regularly. I concur--its scary to think what people might be able to do with some of my 10 second soundbites and I've only been at it for a few years.
I found myself in equal agreement with his explanation of the now infamous "God Damn America" quote. Where is it written that pastors are the tools of the political/governmental establishment? As I read Scripture it seems that blessing every act of the government was the property of the false prophet. Confrontation and truth were the property of the true prophet. I haven't heard the entire sermon to say whether I agree with every point but I do believe in the principal that pastors are not called to be blessing factories for the acts of government and that they may need to confront government when it is wrong.
And to the accusation that Wright "hates white people"--that is a classic straw man argument. (Straw man: I reduce your argument to a caricature so that I can dismiss and ignore its substance.) If you hear Wright's comments in context in this video, you see that he is focused in his views about slavery and repentance. He rightly credits many white churches/christians with pursuit of reconciliation and gives credit to the predominately white church's role in abolition and the underground railroad. His beef is primarily with a government that stubbornly refuses to admit its past wrongs and make them right.
So I encourage you, if you haven't, to watch Wright's remarks in their entirety and see if your views about him become more balanced. Maybe dismissing him based on soundbites is hasty. Maybe he has something to say that we need to hear.
And one more thing... I do not know all of Rev. Wright's views and theology and will not claim to agree with him on everything he says. What I find refreshing is a man committed to truth, unwilling to be cowed even when he's set on fire by the press, and clearly understanding his role as a pastor and follower of Jesus.