Monday, April 28, 2008

Dialogue With an African-American on Rev. Wright and Racism (Including In-Depth Biblical Examinations of Complete Sermons and Speeches on Judgment)

This came about as a result of my post: Rev. Jeremiah Wright is Dead Wrong For All the Wright Reasons (the Old Testament Prophetic Tradition, AIDS, and Abortion). Amaryah is a 20-year-old African-American woman (see her blog, Not Like Crazy . . .). She responded in the combox for this post, and I counter-replied. She then made a second, fuller reply. This post is a response to her second comment. I wholeheartedly thank Amaryah for taking the time to interact with myself and my readers on this very important topic, and engaging in dialogue. I wish there were a hundred people with her opinions that would come here and talk, or that would be willing to dialogue with me on their own blogs. Few things would please me more, as I have been intensely interested in race relations issues for now more than 40 years. Her words will be in blue.

* * * * *

Here's a couple of links to some fuller sermons:

After 9/11 [ link to You Tube sermon: Part One ] [+ Part Two / Part Three / Part Four ]

I'm listening to this complete sermon. I'll comment as I see fit. At about the four-minute mark of Part One he is talking about Psalm 137, about Israel lamenting about its exile in Babylon. He made the remark that in all his years of preaching (since 1959, making it 42 years), he had never preached about the last three verses, and that these were rarely dealt with from the pulpit (although he did say a little bit later that he had taught on them in Bible study classes. For my part, I have heard (in evangelical congregations) several sermons or teachings on this subject matter (I can vividly remember one Bible study, because I made a comment), and have written about it myself.

For example, in my 1996 book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, in commenting on Revelation 6:9-10, I mentioned (pp. 112-113) the same concept:
Here the martyrs in Heaven are uttering what are known as "imprecatory prayers." These are not so much vengeful as they are a plea for, and recognition of, God's role as the wrathful Judge who will rescue and vindicate the righteous, either in this life or the next. Examples can be found particularly in the Psalms (Psalms 35, 59, 69, 79, 109, 139) and in Jeremiah (11:18 ff., 15:15 ff., 18:19 ff., 20:11 ff.).

(see also the same point made in an online article that I wrote for my own parish: under #2)
Here is an excellent article on imprecatory prayers, by Bob Deffinbaugh (Baptist, I believe), and another by Jeff Ziegler, and a third, from the excellent site (that I link to): Christian Think Tank. I'm simply noting that I am well familiar with the concept he is talking about, and I don't think it is quite as unknown in Christian circles as he implies. How he goes about interpreting the same biblical data may become problematic, too (since he is part of a denomination that is theologically ultra-liberal). I'll see what I think as I listen to the sermon.

At around 5:00, Rev. Wright compares the historic experience of black people in slavery and facing discrimination, with the strong feelings expressed by the Hebrews in captivity. I have no problem with that. It makes perfect sense to me. I would feel exactly the same. In the instances where I have experienced prejudice against myself (as a Catholic, or pro-lifer, or political conservative, or a male in dealing with extreme feminists, or as a white person, dealing with black racists: once, for example, I was not allowed to enter a room and listen to a free speech from folks who believed in some sort of "black liberation theology", at Wayne State University in Detroit), I felt outraged, too. I can't even imagine what slavery would be like. It is an unfathomable horror to contemplate.

At 6:00 he is talking about how 9-11 raised in some people feelings such as those expressed in Psalm 137. That makes sense to me too. Shortly after that he preaches on 2 Kings 25: the description of the fall of Jerusalem, to give the congregation a sense of what it felt like to be overrun by enemies. So far so good.

In Part Two he continues the narrative of the fall of Jerusalem, in rather striking analogy to 9-11. The man is (stylistically) a great preacher; no question about it. But the content, as we shall see, sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, and he leaves out crucial aspects that need to also be included, to present a fuller biblical worldview.

Around 4:00 he is talking about how the early part of Psalm 137 highlighted "reverence." Then at 5:00 he says that this theme turned to revenge in the latter part of the Psalm. This is true on a human level; however, imprecatory Psalms are more complex than that, because there is a multi-faceted aspect of divine judgment being executed as well.

For what the Psalmist expresses in Psalm 137 (even in the last part) reflects God's righteous judgment (and this is, after all, divinely-inspired Scripture; not mere words and emotions of men -- though it includes those things). This is quite clear in Scripture. Babylon is judged by God in passages such as Isaiah 13 (including "infants" who are "dashed in pieces" and "wives ravished" -- 13:16; cf. 13:18). The denunciation continues in Isaiah 14, including these words:

Isaiah 14:1-2 (RSV) The LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and aliens will join them and will cleave to the house of Jacob. And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the LORD's land as male and female slaves; they will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them.
Thus the agents of judgment were themselves judged, because it doesn't follow that the agent was therefore righteous, just because they were used by God for His purposes. I've written about this at length in my paper on the Judgment of Nations (with tons of Scriptural support).

The theme of judgment of Babylon continues in Isaiah 43:14-17 and chapter 47. God is the one who is vengeful, and He can use human armies to exercise His vengeance (and to maintain civil order: Romans 13: the "power of the sword"). Note how Babylon, whom God used to judge Israel, was herself judged by God:

Isaiah 47:3,6,9,11 Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your shame shall be seen. I will take vengeance, and I will spare no man.

I was angry with my people, I profaned my heritage; I gave them into your hand, you showed them no mercy; on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.

These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day; the loss of children and widowhood
shall come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and the great power of your enchantments.

But evil shall come upon you, for which you cannot atone; disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to expiate; and ruin shall come on you suddenly, of which you know nothing.

Jeremiah 50 and 51 provide further prophetic denunciations of Babylon (and note how the main reason is how she treated Israel, including divine vengeance for having destroyed the temple):

Jeremiah 50:17-18,24,28 Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadrez'zar king of Babylon has gnawed his bones. Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing punishment on the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria.

I set a snare for you and you were taken, O Babylon, and you did not know it; you were found and caught, because you strove against the LORD.

"Hark! they flee and escape from the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, vengeance for his temple.

Jeremiah 51:5-6,10-11,24,34-37,49-51,56 For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts; but the land of the Chalde'ans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel. "Flee from the midst of Babylon, let every man save his life! Be not cut off in her punishment, for this is the time of the LORD's vengeance, the requital he is rendering her.

The LORD has brought forth our vindication; come, let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God. "Sharpen the arrows! Take up the shields! The LORD has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance for his temple.

I will requite Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chalde'a before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, says the LORD.

"Nebuchadrez'zar the king of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me; he has made me an empty vessel, he has swallowed me like a monster; he has filled his belly with my delicacies, he has rinsed me out. The violence done to me and to my kinsmen be upon Babylon," let the inhabitant of Zion say. "My blood be upon the inhabitants of Chalde'a," let Jerusalem say. Therefore thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will plead your cause and take vengeance for you. I will dry up her sea and make her fountain dry; and Babylon shall become a heap of ruins, the haunt of jackals, a horror and a hissing, without inhabitant.

Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth. "You that have escaped from the sword, go, stand not still! Remember the LORD from afar, and let Jerusalem come into your mind: `We are put to shame, for we have heard reproach; dishonor has covered our face, for aliens have come into the holy places of the LORD's house.'

. . . for the LORD is a God of recompense, he will surely requite.
The Edomites (Ps 137:7) are also judged by God (Jer 49:7-22; Lam 4:21-22; Ezek 25:12-14, 35:15; Joel 3:19; Amos 9:12; Ob 10 ff.)

For further material about such judgments by God, including massacres, see my papers (including links to many other similar treatments): "How Can God [in the OT] Order the Killing and Massacre of Innocents?" [Amalekites, etc.] (+ Discussion).

Rev. Wright neglects to take into account all these things. He doesn't give his hearers the whole picture. He seems to reduce Scripture to a mere narrative of men; minimizing its divine inspiration, and the use of men with ordinary emotions, for the expression of divine purposes. Thus, the Psalmist in Psalm 137:7-9 expresses, by divine inspiration, God's own will for the later judgment of Babylon, as seen in several other passages, from God Himself, through the mouths of the prophets. It's not only human emotions over having been conquered and oppressed.

At 8:00 he appears to be moving towards a pacifist or semi-pacifist position, whereby it is wrong for the United States to militarily strike the terrorists who were behind 9-11. This is where he starts to go off: as if all military action flows simply from the unsavory and sinful feelings of revenge. This is not true. The Bible doesn't teach that (see my paper on pacifism, just war, and the Bible).

How ironic, that in sermons that have been sound-byted by the media, with context neglected (and I agree that that practice is generally grossly unfair, and we Catholics have often had our words taken out of context and distorted by those who passionately oppose our theology), Rev. Wright himself neglects all sorts of biblical context, and thus presents half-truths with regard to the motif of judgment in Scripture. He selectively offers what he wants to present, in order to further his political purposes.

This is altogether typical of theologically liberal preaching by political liberals. The politics overcomes the Bible and orthodox theology. The political ideology in effect becomes the new religion (to some degree, at least). It is ultimately a great abuse of the Bible. I've already noted the hypocrisy of Wright and many in the black churches, in never condemning abortion: the greatest evil by far of our time. This is yet more hypocrisy and neglect of the full message of Holy Scripture.

At 9:00 in Part Two, Wright is excoriating (at 9:16) the "hatred of unarmed innocents: the babies; blessed are they who dash your baby's brains against a rock, and that, my beloved, is a dangerous place to be" -- based on Ps 137:7-9. But as I've just shown, it is not necessarily the case that the Psalmist hates children! He is expressing (as an inspired writer of God-breathed Scriptural revelation) the completely justified divine wrath. Would Wright also condemn God for the sin of "revenge" when He expresses the same thing? If not, then why can't the Psalmist reflect that? The Bible is not mere human opinion.

Besides, how dare Wright condemn the murder of innocent children (in this case as ordained by God as part of particular judgment), while his own denomination upholds the legality of partial birth dismemberment, where a "doctor" pulls a child halfway from its mother's womb, inserts scissors into his or her brain, and crushes his or her skull, to deliver the child to our lovely, just world, immediately into the trash can or incinerator?

It's exactly what is described in Psalm 137, that he is preaching against! The only difference is that in the old days the baby was thrown against a rock. Now we have educated doctors (just as the Nazis who designed the Final Solution were highly educated and scientifically sophisticated) slaughter them by ripping them limb from limb, or burning them, or crushing their skulls (see the pictures of these perfectly legal "procedures").

What sort of man would condemn one thing out of one side of his (very loud) mouth and ignore the same outrageous injustice right beneath his nose? He condemns the ancient Israelites who felt an urge for revenge, while he ignores his own society; his own denomination, probably within a few blocks of the place he preached this very sermon NOW: with the murder of the innocent unborn child occurring every day, day and night, year in and year out, legally upheld (just as slavery once was), to the tune of over 50 million now murdered. And he thinks he is the one who is preaching all of this wonderful biblical justice and righteousness, with this sort of manifest Pharisaical blindness and hypocrisy on his own part?

At 1:30 of Part Three, Rev. Wright notes how America is guilty of the sins of taking the Indians' land, and of slavery ("terrorism"). Quite true, and I agree. He cites some white ambassador who was on Fox News and claims that he made the statement, citing Malcolm X: "America's chickens are coming home to roost." Fox News, however (i.e., Sean Hannity) has pointed out the last two nights that this person never made the statement that Wright attributed to him. He misquoted him. Isn't that interesting?

Then he goes on to condemn various bombings (Grenada, Panama, Iraq), as if they were all equally immoral and designed to kill innocents. I highly doubt that this was the case. I do, however, condemn with him, the nuclear bombings in Japan in 1945. Now, with some of these points (if we set aside the blurred distinctions for a moment) are valid. We have done acts of evil and have called them good, many times. We tried to justify the slaughter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it can't be done. I don't object (in the main) to Wright making these observations, nor to the notion of American possibly being judged or being subject to the biblical principle of "what you sow, so shall you reap."

What I object to primarily is his astonishing blindness concerning abortion. He is neck-deep in justification of that. He winks at it while condemning these other outrages. He's a moral hypocrite. I can sit here as a despised "white conservative" and agree with much of his analysis of America's historic sins, but Rev. Wright won't agree with me that abortion is a grave evil and ought not be legal in any civilized nation. I am on record stating that America is the most wicked nation of all time, by biblical standards.

I can put Wright to shame in excoriating America's sins. I hold that all of us are complying with the abortion holocaust, by letting it continue, when we could stop it in a month, legally-speaking. We're all neck-deep in baby's body parts and blood. I've even agreed (shortly after 9-11, on my website) that America played a significant role in stirring up Muslim resentment, and thus having some contributing indirect cause in the tragic events of 9-11.

At 4:28 of Part Three, Wright asks: "what should our response be right now?" [to 9-11]. He said that he "asked the Lord" that question four days in a row. At 5:50 he starts talking about three things he says God told him. At 6:05 he gives #1: "this is a time for self-examination." Amen! Let's get America to start thinking about abortion. That's how I reacted to 9-11. When I heard of 3,000 deaths in the twin towers, I immediately thought of the 4,000 or so innocent preborn children who were also murdered on that same day, with legal sanction, and every day since January 1973. And I thought about how we don't care about that as a country, simply because those victims are so small, and unseen.

At 6:20 Wright said that this was a time for him to examine his relationship with God. Good. At 7:00 he noted how prayer and church services were filled right after 9-11. Normal human behavior there . . . God often has to wake us up. This is good stuff. Catholics are big on self-examination. We have a thing called "examination of conscience" that we do before another thing that we call confession. There's plenty of self-examination in our tradition. So I find this particular motif quite "Catholic." He went on to reflect on family relationships. I have no objection to any of this. It is good teaching. He said that we need to love each other in our church relationships. Amen.

Part Four continues this theme. I would add "how about loving the unborn child too?" How about liberals, who claim to be for the oppressed, the "little guy" start extending this care and compassion to the smallest among the family of human beings? At 3:20 he starts talking about "social transformation." Now we're back to the political. He describes America as "an arrogant, racist military superpower" (4:05). He urges that America shouldn't try to declare war on terrorists, but rather, declare war on racism (4:20). "Maybe we need to declare war on injustice" (4:25). Amen! How about starting with the defenseless unborn child? And we gotta declare war on "greed".

Rev. Wright lives in a $10,000,000 house, and drives a Mercedes-Benz. As usual, the liberal exempts himself from the advice and moralizing of his own sermons. At 4:53 he says: "maybe we need to declare war on AIDS". Like we haven't done so? This is so asinine that it doesn't deserve any rebuttal. We've virtually cured the thing already after many millions of dollars poured into the effort.

Then he hits on the truth again: lambasting the government for neglecting the health needs of the poor and public education. Liberals fight at every turn any educational reform. They despise home-schoolers like my wife and myself, precisely because we have rejected this same overwhelmingly liberal-run public school system as grossly inadequate and amoral. But when Wright says the same thing we have been saying for years, he is lauded and applauded. He ends the sermon on the usual spiritual themes of thanksgiving to and praise of God.

The other sermon I have been given a link to is the one where Wright says "God damn America . . ." (well, 6:48 of it, anyway). America should be judged. I wholeheartedly agree, and have said so for many years. God would be perfectly justified, in my opinion, to reduce the entire country to a pile of ashes tomorrow. But judged for what? That's the question. If politically conservative Christians say it should be judged for abortion or homosexuality, we are written off as nuts and fanatics. But if a (usually liberal) black preacher says we should go down for militarism and imperialism and racism, that is a profound pearl of truth that no one could doubt (because it's fashionable left-wing polemics).

I have agreed with large chunks of Wright's analysis, but again, he won't agree that sodomy and slaughter of innocent children are also fit for judgment? His denomination supports same-sex "marriage" and abortion, including partial-birth infanticide. WHY? Why can't he see this? Why are sexual sins exempted from the list of things that God might judge a country for? But let's see what he says in this sermon:

He decries slavery. I don't know a single reputable person today who defends slavery or denies that it was a huge national sin (only nuts and neo-Nazi types and however many KKK are still around, do that) . So there is no argument there whatsoever. At 0:50 he mentions the Dred Scott decision of 1857, that denied the personhood of black people. We pro-lifers have been using that example for years, as a parallel to Roe v. Wade, that denies the personhood of preborn babies. But that is off the radar screen for Wright. He apparently thinks that preborn African-Americans are not people and have no rights. He's the one who is, therefore, upholding the racism and the Dred Scott mentality today.

Every mother owns her preborn child and can do with him or her what she wills, including the most cruel forms of torture and murder. That's slavery. No one owns another human being. I want those children to live! But Wright dehumanizes them and allows them to be slaughtered and won't say one word of condemnation against that unspeakably evil outrage. He is more concerned about an unjust and outrageous 1857 Supreme Court Decision than a far worse 1973 decision and the slaughter of black children (and all other colors of children) today, every day. He'd rather lecture us about 1857 and the abominable history of race relations in this country.

Thankfully, he allows the possibility that "governments change" (1:20). Great. Yet he thinks that today's government would plant AIDS to target black people for genocide? Huh? He praises Bill Clinton at 2:10, but then "government changed" again and evil George W. Bush came in. "The election was stollen. We went from an intelligent friend to a dumb Dixiecrat: a rich Republican, who has never held a job in his life" (2:20).

He then preaches about how God doesn't change. He's against slavery now as he was before. "Governments fail" (4:30). They sure do, don't they? Ours can't even provide the most fundamental right to the preborn child: the right to life. And professed Christians like Rev. Wright can't even see the injustice of that. Folks like Clinton, Gephardt, Gore, and Jesse Jackson can understand this and then reject it simply because they are running for political office and because the Democrats won't tolerate rights for the unborn. Lord help us.

At 4:40 he goes after the British Empire and its practice of colonization. A very fair and justified critique . . . He attacks the treatment of the Indians at 5:15. I couldn't agree more. He decries the internment camps for the Japanese-Americans in WWII. Virtually no one would disagree with the wrongness of that, either. He returns to the theme of slavery. We all agree it was wrong (except for fanatics and extremist nuts)!

At 6:10 he claims that "the government gives then [black people] the drugs . . ." Now, government is responsible for every drug dealer in the ghettoes? It's all the government's fault? yet another conspiracy? Where is the fault of the actual criminals, for heaven's sake? Then at 6:20 he gets to the famous line, and it continues: ". . . for killing innocent people" and treating certain citizens as "less than human." (all except babies, of course, as usual). How can one be so blind?

So once again, it is the moral hypocrisy of not including abortion in all his social denunciations which is the primary problem.

And now I return to Amaryah's comments. She provided a link to an article: Toxic Sludge Being Marketed as Fertilizer Utilizing Low-Income Americans as Guinea Pigs, noting that "things like this are still happening." I agree that things like this still take place, and that it is an outrage. It's still a far cry, however, from the claim that the government planted AIDS as genocide against black people. I'm not arguing that government (whoever is running it) is saintly. I'm contending that some claims about it are ludicrous and unfounded.

Its not completely outside of the realm of possibility to believe the government capable of such a thing. While I don't agree with the Rev. Wright's assertion, I don't think he should be labeled a kook, . . .

Okay, so we agree that the claim is quite disputable; our disagreement is how relatively kooky or nutty it is to make such a claim. I can handle that. At least you disagree with the assertion. I would even agree that, because of things like what the above article describes, and the Tuskegee experiments that went all the way to 1972 (!!), that there is some small degree of plausibility. But I do not agree at all that it is likely, let alone factual, that (white, government) folks actually plotted to have AIDS destroy an entire race of people.

The targets of genocide today are children in the womb, not African-Americans. But black people are, strangely enough, in league with the pro-death mentality. They vote 90% for the folks who uphold that genocide. They have disproportionate numbers of abortions. Because of the overwhelming politically liberal position of black people, they buy (on the whole) this feminist / pro-abortion mentality hook, line, and sinker. This is what I find so amazing. Black folks, of all people, should be attuned to injustice being perpetrated against others with no cause.

especially when more white people in America believe Elvis is alive than believe that racism is still a serious problem [link].

Now this is very interesting, and I agree with you. The poll would depend on how "very serious" problems of racism are defined. I don't deny for a second that racism is still around. My main point there is that laws have vastly changed. Attitudes have changed to a large extent, too, but people's hearts still have the same old problems. There are all sorts of subtle racist feelings. How about, for example, letting your daughter marry a black man (no problem whatsoever for me)?

Things are a lot better than they were, but we still have a long way to go. That is my opinion on the matter. Some of the things in the survey are a bit subjective. 40% of blacks think they are treated equally in their communities, too. So are 4 out of 10 black people nuts (and like us blind white people who are dense about the black experience) because they don't see what the other 6 out of 10 view as an obvious truism? People have different experiences and perceptions. We know these are not just black conservatives because there aren't that many, by a long shot. I don find it an informative and interesting article, and I would agree with it for the most part. If I am asked whether I think white people underestimate the problems that black people continue to experience in a dominant white society, I readily agree that this is the case.

I believe Rev. Wright said things are better now in his PBS interview.


Also, the excelling of one African America does not prove that things are "far better now."

That's not the point. It isn't just one person making good money, but a person being the likely Democratic candidate for President. That is a huge change (along with, for that matter, a woman being the other possible candidate), because (I think it can safely be said) that would not have been possible even just a generation ago. This is real progress, and it can't be dismissed so easily.

Madame CJ Walker was the first female millionare in America and this happened in the early 1900's. If we followed your logic, her success should prove that racial problems we're "far better" than slavery . . .

Not at all, because that's not my logic. There are always exceptions to the rule, in any event. But if she was a serious presidential candidate, that would be my logic. But that didn't happen (for either a woman or a black person) till the year 2008, did it?

. . . and possibly a little bit, but always when talking about race it has been easier for whites to look back and see the magnitude of the problem later than when they're currently entrenched in it.

I think that's true. And black people are able to be blind to the abortion holocaust that is all around them, and not see the parallels to both slavery and Nazi Germany. I find that equally as amazing and inexplicable, I assure you. There is more than enough blindness and moral hypocrisy to go around.

However, blacks and other people of color who continue to fight against racism are labelled as kooks and troublemakers, stirring up divisions.

They are considered kooks when they say goofy, false things. Al Sharpton, for example, is not liked much by white folks, not because he is black, but because he is a demagogue, and deliberately tries to stir up racial tensions. You're not even old enough to remember the Tawana Brawley incident, that turned out to be a hoax. I remember it very well. This kind of nutty stuff is what white people despise as trumped-up exploitation (often for personal gain and/or fame) of existing race problems.

This is why we don't care for folks like Sharpton: the facts of the matter: not merely because he may advocate racial justice. I do that myself, and have my entire life. And that is what we object to in remarks like Wright's, that the government invented AIDS to kill African-Americans. It's kooky and wacko. It doesn't help advance race relations one iota to spew ridiculous falsehoods like that.

In fact, I would argue that it literally exacerbates racial tensions (a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy), because then white people of a sort inclined to be racist, will reason, "man, if a seemingly intelligent black preacher like this can believe such a silly thing, then black people must be pretty stupid and gullible." The prejudiced mindset will jump from the particular instance, to the generalization about the whole group. And so in this fashion, polemics like Wright's increase and promote the very racism and prejudice that he wants to oppose and lessen.

Furthermore, if you think black people are having children out of wedlock because they've bought into "sexual freedom," I think that's highly simplistic and seems to ignore how the creation of ghettos, and by consequence their extreme poverty which feeds a lot into out of wedlock births (because the same thing happens in extremely poor white areas as well), came to be a major part of the problem.

This is a naive analysis (I'll trade criticisms with you, since you said my belief was simplistic) that doesn't take into account many relevant factors and variables. I majored in sociology in college (the very field that studies things like formations of ghettoes and racism). I grew up in inner-city Detroit and went to all Detroit public schools (my high school was 80% black) and even to college in Detroit (Wayne State, which had about a 20-25% black population when I was there in the late 70s: far more than the University of Michigan or Michigan State University had). I know a little bit about these things.

First of all, you have to understand that the black family survived slavery intact. Black families have historically been very strong. That is not the case today, with African-American communities in virtual collapse, family-wise. Something changed. I say it is the Sexual Revolution and LBJ's Great Society. That has destroyed the black family structure, as it was historically. I won't pull out actual figures now, but I have seen them, and would be more than happy to produce them again if you wish to challenge what I assert.

About 40 years ago or so, illegitimacy rates in the black community were higher than in the white community, but not significantly higher. Today they are at 75% or so, which is a socially alarming statistic. Something caused that. You can't say it was slavery, because it wasn't there a hundred years ago, or even 30 or 40 years ago. So what caused this? You can't say it was merely racism, if you acknowledge that things are better at all than they used to be. The causes have to lie elsewhere. You can't say it is simply poverty.

It's true that if you control for the factor of poverty, poor whites and blacks have very similar situations, in illegitimacy and other social ills. But there is more going on than that. The African-American community (in far greater numbers than for whites) is plagued by fatherless families. You know it; I know it. No one can deny this. We can only argue as to cause. If you want to maintain that racism alone caused this, and only in the last 30-40 years, feel free, but I think it falls flat. That is truly naive and simplistic . . .

This stuff has to do with welfare and how it decimated black communities by enshrining lack of work and irresponsibility, and what that did to marital relations, with the husband not being needed, since Uncle Sam was providing income (and poor black men often being unemployed). Yet Rev. Wright blasted Bill Clinton's welfare reform as a bad thing. He obviously doesn't understand these variables, either. It was, in my opinion, backed up by statistics and sociological analyses, that welfare mentality along with the sexual and feminist revolutions that are the cause of the present astonishing decline of intact black families. The historic and continuing racism ties into that, too, of course, but not as primary cause in this instance.

Not every bad thing in the African-American community is because of racism. Some people (like Bill Cosby) get this and are trying to get the message through, but it is a slow process, because liberals are not big on personal sexual responsibility. They fight against it at every turn (and we see it in their lives: such as Jesse Jackson fathering children out of wedlock, or Coleman Young, former mayor of Detroit: and they are applauded for doing so).

Also, Barack Obama's calling Rev. Wright "ludicrous," is coming from a black man trying to run for president. His having to distance himself from comments that discomfort the majority of white America doesn't prove that he's "ludicrous," simply that white America and black America are on two different wavelengths and Barack has to cater to the majority.

I agree with the political realities of such a situation; however, I don't think we have to assume that Barack Obama is lying through his teeth. I think he truly believes what he is saying. Are you saying he is a liar, and doesn't really believe his current statements? He already claimed in his Philadelphia speech that he disagreed strongly with Rev. Wright's statements.

Secondly, you claim that this is simply a matter of different perceptions of whites and blacks. That is quite simplistic as well. It isn't just white people who think Wright is a kook and extremist. Plenty of black folk do too. You cited polls. I will do so as well. I like polls. They can provide a great deal of objective information.

According to a Rasmussen Report (national phone survey), reported on March 17th, 73% of voters said that Wright's comments were "racially divisive). Now, of course, in such matters, we always have to break the data down into black and white. And so, doing that, we find that 77% of whites felt that way, but also 58% of blacks, which is a significant majority, that would be considered a landslide in an election. So now, what do you do? Say that 58% of black people don't know that racism continues to exist in America?

The one-cause-for-all mentality doesn't work in this case. There has to be something in play besides unwillingness to face, or ignorance about racism. Black people think he is extreme, too. You're in the minority on this one, even among your fellow African-Americans. And that was before the current fracas. I suspect that his "negatives" will rise much higher now, because blacks will choose Obama over Wright (if they are forced to choose who to believe) in a heartbeat.

18% of African-Americans said they would be less likely to vote for Obama because of his association with Wright. That's less statistically significant, but still indicative of a strong "negative" for Wright. One out of five of a huge constituency group is highly relevant in politics, though. 16% also said Obama should leave Wright's church. So it ain't like only rich white suburbanites (I'm a fairly poor white suburbanite) or red-necked hicks think these things.

A Pew Research poll from March 27th reports that 29% of blacks were offended by Wright's sermons, while 43% of Democrats were, and even 33% of Obama's supporters (59% of Clinton's).

In my previous paper on Wright, I cited (at the end) three surveys as to black opinions on the AIDS conspiracy theory. They showed that only 27% (twice) or 35% believed this. That means, of course, that 73% and 65% did not, which are huge majorities. So it can hardly be deemed white blindness on racism alone when a white guy like me merely agrees with what 65% or 83% of black people also think, where goofy notions like the AIDS conspiracy are concerned.

I've also read the complete transcription of Rev. Wright's remarks at the National Press Club (4-28-08). I'll comment on a good amount of that now (with his words in green):

. . . . this most recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright; it is an attack on the black church.

He wraps himself in the Great Tradition, in order to escape the responsibility for his imbecilic remarks and (now, increasingly) behavior. This won't fly, because, as I have shown, a majority of black people do not agree with his goofy remarks. He can certainly claim to be a preacher in the tradition, but not in line with the best of the historic, venerable tradition.

Maybe now, as an honest dialogue about race in this country begins, a dialogue called for by Senator Obama and a dialogue to begin in the United Church of Christ among 5,700 congregations in just a few weeks, maybe now, as that dialogue begins, the religious tradition that has kept hope alive for people struggling to survive in countless hopeless situation, maybe that religious tradition will be understood, celebrated, and even embraced by a nation that seems not to have noticed why 11 o’clock on Sunday morning has been called the most segregated hour in America.

I'm doing my best to participate in such a dialogue. I hope more African-Americans will engage in it with me on this blog, or invite me to theirs, and I'll be more than happy to come talk, if cordiality and lack of personal insults are the order of the day. I love the black churches (the last time I attended one was to see Aretha Franklin sing in a Detroit church. We had a glorious time there). It is because of the love I have for them that I am so saddened to see the historic message they have brought soiled and corrupted by the mess of pottage that is the political far-left (that ultimately derived from a lot of Dead White Guys).

As for being segregated at church, I have worshipped with far more African-Americans as a Catholic than I ever did as a Protestant. Our dearest friend at our parish (where we've been for 17 years) was a black man who died in the last year. We visited his home, his wife in the hospital, and went to his funeral. Most of the evangelical congregations I used to attend were lily-white. Just an observation . . .

Maybe this dialogue on race, an honest dialogue that does not engage in denial or superficial platitudes, maybe this dialogue on race can move the people of faith in this country from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation.

Amen! But I'll guarantee that political liberalism is not the answer to racism or problems in the black community. The principles of biblical Christianity are the answer and solution. I'd say the same about political conservatism, by the way, to the extent that it departs from biblical and historic Christianity (as it, too, sometimes does, though a lot less than with liberalism).

. . . [I am] a pastor and a professor who comes from a long tradition of what I call the prophetic theology of the black church.

Except where that prophetic, biblical theology deals with the slaughter of babies . . . somehow that can be overlooked, just as racism has often been overlooked by the dominant white culture.

Now, in the 1960s, the term “liberation theology” began to gain currency with the writings and the teachings of preachers, pastors, priests, and professors from Latin America. Their theology was done from the underside.

Their viewpoint was not from the top down or from a set of teachings which undergirded imperialism. Their viewpoints, rather, were from the bottom up, the thoughts and understandings of God, the faith, religion and the Bible from those whose lives were ground, under, mangled and destroyed by the ruling classes or the oppressors.

It's warmed-over Marxism, which has never helped anyone in the long run . . . Historic "black theology" was not Marxist. Black people were rather conservative. They were Republicans from the time of Lincoln till FDR, then they started to increasingly adopt more liberal social and political views. But of course the southern Democrats in the 60s were largely racist segregationalists. It was the northern Republicans who allowed the Civil Right Act to be passed in 1964. Not what we usually hear, is it? But it's documented fact.

In the late 1960s, when Dr. James Cone’s powerful books burst onto the scene, the term “black liberation theology” began to be used. I do not in any way disagree with Dr. Cone, nor do I in any way diminish the inimitable and incomparable contributions that he has made and that he continues to make to the field of theology.

Yeah; we noticed . . .

The prophetic tradition of the black church has its roots in Isaiah, the 61st chapter, where God says the prophet is to preach the gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive. Liberating the captives also liberates who are holding them captive.

It frees the captives and it frees the captors. It frees the oppressed and it frees the oppressors.

Except now the new oppressed slaves are children in their mother's wombs (including 14 million slaughtered African-American children).

God’s desire is for positive, meaningful and permanent change. God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society.

God’s desire is for positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change, transformation, radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God’s desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world.

AMEN! How this applies in particulars is, of course, where the controversy arrives. When Wright tries to make out that Holy Scripture teaches a half-baked Marxist, pro-death, unisexist, feminist worldview, then those of us who are students of the Bible and who have devoted our lives to promulgating its message (as I have, just as Wright has) must protest.

These two foci of liberation and transformation have been at the very core of the United Church of Christ since its predecessor denomination, the Congregational Church of New England, came to the moral defense and paid for the legal defense of the Mende people aboard the slave ship Amistad, since the days when the United Church of Christ fought against slavery, played an active role in the underground railroad, and set up over 500 schools for the Africans who were freed from slavery in 1865.

Good for them. Now the same denomination thinks that slaughter of a full-term baby (and those at any stage of development) should be legal, and that same-sex "marriage" (i.e., sodomy) is fine and dandy. Wright preaches about how "governments change!" So do (obviously) denominations.

[then follows a list of various social charitable work that his church has done: which I think is great, but of course -- as always -- it includes just about everything except opposing the genocide of abortion and things like teaching chastity and sex within marriage: a message sorely needed in the African-American community with its astonishing family breakdown]

Jim Wallis [a famous white politically liberal evangelical, that I've long known about] says America’s sin of racism has never even been confessed, much less repented for.

That's sheer nonsense . . .

The God to whom the slaveholders pray as they ride on the decks of the slave ship is not the God to whom the enslaved are praying as they ride beneath the decks on that slave ship.

This is profoundly true. Funny how so much truth and folly can exist side-by-side in Wright.

We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice.

Except, I guess, when talking about conservatves and Republican presidents, so that Bill Clinton is "intelligent" but George W. Bush is a "dumb Dixiecrat."

On November the 5th and on January 21st, I’ll still be a pastor. As I said, this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.

And why am I speaking out now? In our community, we have something called playing the dozens. If you think I’m going to let you talk about my mama and her religious tradition, and my daddy and his religious tradition, and my grandma, you’ve got another thing coming.

Yeah, and in my community, we have something called "biblical Christianity," and if Wright thinks I’m going to let him lie about and distort my "Mama" the Bible, and her religious and prophetic tradition, and my Daddy, God, and His religious tradition, he's got another thing coming.

Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever’s doing the polls. Preachers say what they say because they’re pastors. They have a different person to whom they’re accountable.

As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I’m still going to have to be answerable to God November 5th and January 21st. That’s what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do.

Wright is every bit as "political" as he says Obama is. He wouldn't dare speak out against abortion at his church because a good half or more of the liberal women who attend it would flee, and then passing the plate wouldn't work as well and he wouldn't be able to afford his $10 million house, would he? He wouldn't dare speak out against same-sex "marriage". He can't, because this is what his denomination has just voted to support. He wouldn't dare condemn premarital sex, or divorce, or unisexist feminism. How many would leave his church, then? He couldn't even say that a black person can be a good conservative or Republican, without being branded as an Uncle Tom or an Oreo, as someone like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is habitually treated by black liberals.

That's politics, folks. That's kissing up and desiring the accolades and popularity of [liberal black] men, not God. That's not the biblical and prophetic tradition of speaking the truth, no matter how unpopular it is. There are things he can't and won't say, just as there are things Obama and any other politician, of whatever stripe won't say, and other things that they must say. He has to play his game of being a theologically and politically liberal preacher in one of the most liberal denominations in the world. I sure don't see much difference.

And there is no excuse for the things that the government, not the American people, have done. That doesn’t make me not like America or unpatriotic.

That's right. I agree. Just don't ignore the very greatest evils done by the nation you are critiquing . . .

I offered words of hope. I offered reconciliation. I offered restoration in that sermon, but nobody heard the sermon. They just heard this little sound bite of a sermon.

I heard the whole sermon. And I think it had some profound truths, alongside a number of falsehoods and distortions. And I have explained exactly what I disagree with, and why.

Well, there are many white churches and white persons who are members of churches and clergy and denominations who have already taken great steps in terms of reconciliation.

In the underground railroad, it was the white church that played the largest role in getting Africans out of slavery. In setting up almost all 40 of the HBCUs, it was the white church that sent missionaries into the south. . . . white Christians have been trying for a long time to reconcile, that for other white Christians to understand that we must be reconciled is to understand the injustice that was done to a people, as we raped the continent, brought those people here, built our country, and then defined them as less than human.

And more Christians, more of us working together, not just white Christians, but whites and blacks of every faith, ecumenically working together.

Good. I give the guy his due when he says true things and stuff that goes against a notion that he is profoundly prejudiced against white people. No; reality is more complex than that. He's a mixture of good and bad and truth and falsehood, like all human beings are.

Again, some of you do not know United Church of Christ, just found out about liberation theology, just found out about United Church of Christ, . . .

Not I. I'm quite familiar with both.

Now let's continue to have that "dialogue" that Rev. Wright and his denomination call for. Or is it already too late because I have strongly disagreed with some of his positions, and with you, and have written hard-hitting, critical things, and cited the Bible in favor of my positions?

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