Comments on Obama and Wright

There’s been a slew of comments and posts concerning Obama’s recent speech on the Pastor Wright issue, if you haven’t heard it you can watch the video here. It’s worth watching because I think Obama actually addresses some of the key issues that we still face in America today, and he’s refreshingly honest about just how complicated racism really is.  With that in mind, I really appreciated Fernado’s recent post which catalogues a whole assortment of quotations from various commentors responding to Obama’s speech. Here is one very thought-provoking one:

“…what’s wrong with afro-centric? Especially when much of Christian theology for the past 500 year or so has been ???euro-centric???. Of course we haven’t called it “euro-centric??? Christian theology. We’ve just called it “Christian???. Kind of like “person??? meant “white person??? for many centuries. Or like “rational???, “pure???, “normal???, “clean???, “articulate???, etc. meant “white???.???

(From Thoughts on Obama and Wright via Fernado’s Desk)

Did you see any thoughts or reactions you found particularly moving or insightful? What were your feelings on the whole situation?

 

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

11 thoughts on “Comments on Obama and Wright”

  1. I mentioned here a while ago that I read and liked “Dreams From My Father,” but I also remember finding the (brief) section about the church the most frustrating part of the book. It was oddly coy — you’d never know, just from the text, that he’d actually walked the aisle and been baptized and all that. And the racialist language did clash pretty violently with Obama’s tone in the rest of the book. But probably what put me off most was the whole pastor-centered-megachurch model. Obama writes off-handedly that the congregants probably believe in Wright’s “African values” more than they believe in the resurrection, which didn’t exactly rub me the right way. At least one thing Obama seems to have learned from his mentor is how to gather a faintly cultish following using the power of oratory.

    Having said that, I liked Obama’s speech on the subject. It didn’t really explain why he chose Wright above all pastors, but this may not really have a rational explanation. As you know, I have my own issues with a spiritual mentor I have perennial disagreements with, and maybe Obama is a better Christian than I am for being able to live with them. I don’t really know, and the fact is that while we’d like politicians to be transparent, as human beings they are always somewhat opaque to us.

  2. I tried to think if I’ve ever had a pastor who said something as potentially politically inflammatory, and, with great disappointment, had to admit that I have not.

  3. @Camassia, good point about his earlier book. I’ve not read it yet but I can see what you mean by there being a clash. It is interesting that the critique of the pastoral role isn’t mentioned at all, and I agree with your concerns about why he was there. Maybe we can’t make complete sense of how he ended up there, but we can wonder why he would have stayed. But, I was at least glad that he did state that yes, Wright did say things he disagreed with, which isn’t really different from any of our own church-going experiences. I also agree with the transparent/opaque part. It’s hard to tell when things are really as they seem.

    @Dave – Yeah, for me I’ve definitely been a part of a number of churches where politics were at least very implicit, in the worship songs, etc — but also explicit from the pulpit. I can safely say that if I was running for president right now and people started digging up things I was taught in my former church experiences that I’d be hanging out to dry as well. Of course, those views I don’t believe any longer, but I’m not sure the ones I now espouse are much better.

    But I guess that does bring up a good and classic question, should politics be something espoused from the pulpit? It’s hard, because there are a lot of politics I don’t personally care for, yet I do think that politics and faith go hand in hand, and that we should expect there to be political issues brought up from our spiritual leaders.

    @Kevin – To what are you referring? I can’t find the reference. But I certainly don’t think Jesus ever exploited the role of victim, or that even such a role existed in his time. I think that the “role of victim” is something fairly new and socially constructed.

  4. I was being sarcastic…of course Jesus never exploited the role of “victim”, that was my point.

    Now, what about Obama and Jeremiah Wright?

  5. @Kevin, Great question – I’m not sure if Jesus ever exploited Obama or Jeremiah Write… 😉

    Ok, my real ‘answer’ — it’s hard to say, obviously your question is wide open to interpretation. The way I see is that this is what Obama is criticizing as well, any kind of binary of black vs. white, victim vs. victimizer. I’m not sure about Wright, I honestly haven’t seen the whole speech he gave, just saw a couple short quotes and then whatever Obama referenced. He may very well have fallen prey to your point about victims.

  6. The Jews of Jesus’ time were certainly among the exploited. They were an unwilling state under Rome, and constantly grated under Roman oppression. But, Jesus played a very good game. He was a friend of the victim, to be sure, but he never went on the attack against Rome.

    In fact, the only people he did attack were religious leaders, whose words turned people away from God and towards a false form of religion.

    Yes, theology has been eurocentric, which is bad for everyone, including theology. Which makes liberation theologies of all kind very understandable as a correction. But, in this correction its easy to go too far, and go beyond the correction into the same kinds of errors that those Europeans made. The victims become the victimizers, if not in action than in rhetoric, and in doing that they remove themselves from real Christianity.

    And they don’t bring any peace or any healing and deny Jesus’ call to love our neighbors.

    The anger is understandable given the history, but the teaching of Jesus pushes us not to indulge the anger or even attack the victimizer, but to exemplify peace and hope and love. And the community suffers for it, because indulging anger and frustration tickles the ears, but brings no real healing or reconciliation. At the same time it loses its prophetic ability to speak into the distortions of historical theology.

  7. @Patrick – Thanks for the comment here. I agree that Jesus is the example for our response to everyone, whether they are ‘victims’ or not. It might even be said that by love and caring for the ‘victims’ Jesus reversed their status, and gave them dignity, which also then leaves no room for anyone to claim ‘the status of victim’ any longer.

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