Politics and Preaching

April 2, 2008

If the flap over Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, has given you any pause, please take a moment and read what Diana Butler-Bass has to say about it here.

A sample:

Anyone who attends church on a regular basis knows how frequently congregants disagree with their ministers. To sit in a pew is not necessarily assent to a message preached on a particular day. Being a church member is not some sort of mindless cult, where individuals believe every word preached. Rather, being a church member means being part of a community of faith—a gathered people, always diverse and sometimes at odds, who constitute Christ’s body in the world.

Amen!  And she goes on to provide the perspective which I think is so much needed when thinking about Rev. Wright’s comments, which have been so taken out of their context in the life of his parish in the fast-paced life of contemporary media, always wanting another sound-bite, another victim to spend hours of time pouring over, and to analyze without really reporting on anything.

Please take a few moments to read the piece if you can.



4 Responses to “Politics and Preaching”

  1. FrMichael Says:

    Bulter-Bass has some good points about congregants disagreeing from time-to-time with preachers, the importance of the community, etc.

    But when a “Christian” preacher hates people (“God damn America”) and endorses crackpot theories (the US government inventing AIDS to kill off blacks) it is time to head for another parish.

    I wasn’t going to vote for Obama under any circumstances, so the controversy hasn’t bothered me much, but this Rev. Wright thing has been an unmitigated disaster for the Obama campaign.

  2. Jeff Says:

    I haven’t watched all of the Wright videos, but I have seen some.

    I do know enough to say that the pieces I’ve seen can be disturbing to any who have not taken the time to understand the full African-American context (or any minority context, for that matter). They are not sermons I would or could deliver.

    But “God damn America” does not, in my interpretation, describe a preacher who hates people. It describes a preacher who hates the status quo in a country (certainly using words that would not be used in many other contexts– even other African-American contexts). Those are very different things, though. I think Butler-Bass touched on that without going into too many of the details.

    I never heard any clip where Wright claimed that the U.S. Government invented AIDS to kill off blacks, although that does not mean he didn’t say it. I’d be much more comfortable myself with a claim that the U.S. government was at ease with the AIDS crisis because white straight men were not at risk. It was ‘only’ killing gay men and black people; Reagan did not publicly mention the word AIDS until it had killed over 41,000 people and afflicted over 70,000. We just recently lost our 4,000th in Iraq and we certainly have heard a lot more from Bush on Iraq, to put that in perspective. Certainly there is plenty of cause for outrage.

    The Wright incident has only had the level of impact on the Obama campaign because the dominant culture in this culture still has a long way to go. I think Obama explained that pretty well in his speech, while giving himself an appropriate amount of distance from Wright due to the challenges the dominant culture (such as yourself) will have with him.

    Personally, I would rather have someone committed to the kind of justice that Rev. Wright envisions– justice for the poor and the marginalized, which I believe are gospel values– then the vision McCain’s pastor sees. When John Hagee says that Hurricane Katrina is God’s punishment or America’s acceptance of homosexuality, or that the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves, or calls the Roman Catholic Church the “great whore”– well– I guess I see true hatred in that kind of talk. Rev. Wright’s rhetoric is just righteous indignation.

    This should be an even bigger problem for McCain, because he actively sought the Hagee endorsement, whereas Obama was a parishioner at Wright’s church. Using Butler-Bass’ point, I often disagree with the preacher; proclamation is an invitation to a dialogue, not a monolithic pronouncement of doctrine. Just because Wright preached to Obama does not (or should not) associate Obama with Wright’s views, but McCain’s active solicitation of Hagee does (or should) present a much more problematic issue for McCain as he was well aware of what he was signing up for.


  3. FrMichael Says:

    Rev. Hagee denied calling the RCC the Great Whore of Babylon, so we’ll have to see whether that charge holds up to evidence or not. I’m not aware of the other things you bring up regarding Katrina or the Jews– that they brought the Holocaust upon themselves– did he really say that?? That is as outrageous as anything Wright said if true.

    Either way, my point is that nobody should be congregants of a minister/priest who hates people. Such a person, no matter his/her personal qualities and good works, can have the Holy Spirit abiding within, and therefore cannot properly direct people to the supernatural ends of the faith.

  4. FrMichael Says:

    Amend my last sentence:

    “Such a person…cannot have the Holy Spirit abiding within…”

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