Rev. Wright spoke out … just like thousands of pastors do every weekend. He spoke to and from the African experience in America, an experience that other Americans can only dimly perceive.
Wherever I hear comments about “the people who moved here,” whether it be Detroit, Pittsburgh, or here in LA, I know racism remains a part of the American landscape and a part of the American psyche. The KKK remains active, and various white Aryan groups continue to pour out their hate-filled invective in print and the internet.
Were Wright’s remarks racist?
Of course they were … as are any remarks that paint in broad strokes and characterize an entire race by the example of the few.
But racist or not, Wright’s remarks convey a truth that’s hard to hear. Having lived in Detroit, America’s most thoroughly segregated city, I have learned too many stories of how the white infrastructure promoted and protected whites – in everything from housing loans to assistance with civil service exams for potential postal employees.
These are well-documented realities that have stained the conscience of our land even as they have conspired to sustain failure for African Americans.
But getting back to the pulpit … and the freedom of a pastor to speak her mind and heart on matters of substance that pertain to the gospel: love and justice, freedom and salvation, eternity and faith, all matters of sin – prejudice, bigotry, greed, lust, envy and pride.
I don’t know enough about Mr. Wright to weigh in on the whole of preaching; I’ve heard only snippets lifted from a few videos.
But I know that pastors around the country and around the world speak mind and heart, even as they address the sorrows and burdens of their community.
More to the point, conservative pulpits rarely hold back on their political rhetoric – namely the now-deceased Jerry Falwell and James D. Kennedy; James Dobson, the now-disgraced Ted Haggard and others continue to hammer away politically, preaching their vision of America and the Christian life, without apology or reserve, soundly condemning those who suggest alternatives, labeling folks like me as servants of Satan and deceivers of God’s people. If surprise and chagrin is the mode of the day, let’s be surprised and chagrined by the conservative pulpits around the land.
The response to Wright, for me, is clearly tinged with racism, as if white America is surprised that an African American would hold these views and make them public. And to hold Barack Obama somehow responsible for this is just ludicrous, and demanding that Obama repudiate Wright in the strongest terms is cruel.
Obama has distanced himself from Wright and has instead focused on the positive developments within American history for the African American. Obama’s speech highlighted his positive convictions, yet at the same time, touched the painful wound of racism in the American soul.
Indeed, we have come a long way, and for that we can be grateful to God.
But let’s be savvy, let’s be faithful – there is much work to be done. Wherever prejudice of any kind raises its ugly head, let us lift higher the name of Christ and with His light, illumine the darkness that always finds some new expression in our national soul.
Turing fully to Christ, we no longer consider anyone from a physical point of view – we only see children of God!