Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barak Obama, Rev. Wright and some thoughts

I should probably comment on the recent intrigue regarding the Rev. Wright. Rev. Wright got a lot of attention because he is the former pastor of Barak Obama, and Rev. Wright happens to hate America and have said a lot of really strange things. I just want to make a few observations about this that you are not going to get on the news.

1. I have been really surprised to see the level of vitriol that exists in the black community or in at least the proponents of Black Liberation Theology. What shocked me is not so much the odd comments and damning of America, but the crowd reaction. The people are not shocked. They agree with it. It has been an eye opening experience for me, as a pastor, to see the level of hurt and anger that exists in a segment of the American population, what may be a very large segment of the population.
2. Senator Obama’s speech was very good, challenging, well done, and also completely wrong. While it is refreshing to hear a politician speak plainly and openly about a very sore subject. I think he is wrong for a couple of reasons. One, while he did condemn the comments of Rev. Wright, he seems to say it is legitimate for those of that generation to still be angry about the fight they had to go through. Anger held onto will eventually turn into Rev. Wright’s sermons. Yes, segregation is wrong and evil, and so was slavery, but continuing to be angry about those things is wrong, and not healthy. Rev. Wright is exhibit A. Perhaps Obama thinks I just “widen the chasm” by condemning it. However, I think the chasm is widened when we see that anger burning hot after 50 years and the best condemnation it receives is “that anger is not always productive.” Two, and more importantly, Obama looks for the answers in the wrong place. He places the answer in "self-help" frequently mentioned in Rev. Wright’s sermons. The answer to racism is found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The government has tried to fix it for years, and most of those attempts to fix it found a place in Obama’s list of reasons white Americans are angry and racially charged today. Other non-Christian answers include the ethnic cleansing found in places like Bosnia, Serbia, and Sudan. There is no hope for unity unless a basis for unity can be found. The gospel is the best place for that. This is what makes this whole situation so sad. Barak Obama got these racist messages and messages of self-help in the one place that should have given him the right answer; help from the Son of God.
3. The third point is about the root problem that exists in many churches. Politics. Yes, Rev. Wright made some horrible sermons and the Sunday after 9/11 too. But, then so did Pat Robertson and Jerry Fawell. A McCain supporter, televangelist Rod Parsley, made a comment that America existed to destroy Islam. These things are all wrong. The main reason they are wrong is because they have lost sight of the true answer. Jesus Christ. The gospel and church are not about America. They are not pro-America and they are not anti-America. What is important is the gospel and building up the Kingdom of God. The churches on the Religious Right and the Religious Left have been placing politics on a level with the gospel. I am strongly anti-abortion or pro-life if you prefer. I vote for pro-life candidates because it is an important issue to me. However, the way to end abortion is not through legal fiat, nor with Supreme Court justices. It is best ended with the promotion of God’s kingdom, His gospel, and teaching people God’s view of mankind, personhood, and responsibility. You can tell the hope of a minister from his sermons. If the sermons are always about politics, the Republican party or upcoming elections that minister places his hope in government. If the sermons are about do this and don’t do that, the minister places his hope in works or in himself. If the sermons are about the gospel and about Jesus Christ and trusting in Him, then the hope of that minister lies in God.

Those are my thoughts about this debate. It has raised some interesting things to think about.


Jay said...

I think you're missing a bit of the point with your second observation, for a reason that ties into your first observation. I don't think Sen. Obama was suggesting that it is legitimate to be angry about something that happened 50 years ago. I think he was saying that, in part because of things that happened 50 years ago, and even 250 years ago, people in the black community experience circumstances today that make them angry. You don't have to dig very far into statistics about poverty, crime and imprisonment to imagine why today's world is angering. What is so amazing about Obama's speech--and it was an amazing speech, for many reasons--is that he asks both blacks and whites to set aside their anger, and warns that if they can't do that, we as a country can never make progress toward a better, more just society.

Sen. Obama is not a pastor, so I think it is unfair to expect him to call explicitly for people to repent and turn to Jesus. But if that speech isn't about advancing the Kingdom of God, I don't know what is.

Lee said...

I certainly did not think Obama was going to come out and give a speech about how all are one in Jesus Christ. Still that does not change the fact that I think the only real answer to racism is found in Christ. Thus, I think Obama's call to set aside racism by our own power and pull ourselves up by our boot straps is doomed to fail. Where in the world has this worked? Kenya? Sudan? India? Bosnia? Samalia? I did not expect him to preach a gospel message, but I still think that means he left out the real answer.

I don't think I missed Obama's point. He is indeed saying that things that happened 250 and 50 years ago contribute, but I am not convinced all of those points are correct. Is the reason African Americans still have an achievement gap really Brown v Board of Education? Is the reason black families are more likely to have single mothers really the prejudice that would not give out FHA loans in 1950? I see that he is trying to make that argument, but I am unconvinced. However, I do think because he is saying that old wounds are causing new troubles he is saying the anger over 50 year old injustices is legitimate. Look at how he talks about 'black anger'. "That anger is not always productive" meaning that sometimes it is productive. "Just as black anger often proved counterproductive" meaning that sometimes it is productive. White anger by the way according to Obama got Reagan elected.

In the end, Obama's speech was quite amazing for speaking straight and asking the country to move past it. However, in doing so he is simply saying 'accept the other side has a right to be mad and move on'. A lofty and worhty goal to be sure. However, I do not believe it provides a basis for true unity, which is what we really need, not a rehashing of why each side is angry.

Anonymous said...

Muslims Against Sharia call on Senators McCain and Obama to cut all ties with their racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic supporters.