Obbi879_revwri_20080428122811Rev. Jeremiah Wright is back in the news this weekend. I would have to guess the Obama campaign wishes he wasn’t but the minister will not keep quiet. Personally I am glad he is not keeping quiet. These events demonstrate something the Christian Right and Left both need to see and hear—truly prophetic ministry cannot keep quiet in the face of polticial debate. Wright, you could argue, is probably harming Barack Obama’s campaign. I feel sure that he not only understands this but he regrets it deep inside. But he can’t be kept silent now that he has become a household name and has been afforded a national platform. He is showing both courage and biblically prophetic ministry by speaking opening and candidly.

I have watched several of Wright’s addresses and watched some of the critique from the right. I am, frankly, more convinced than ever that this controversy has demonstrated the truly deep racial divide in America more than anything that we have witnessed in some years. It has opened up a discussion that could help all of us to listen and learn a great deal. I pray that it will and remain committed to the process that seeks that end. My primary commitment is to seek out black Christian leaders and then ask them to help me understand more fully how they see this discussion and understand the debate. As I have mentioned before I am also watching a lot of documentaries and full-length movie material to enter into the racial issues that plague us as a people. I have believed, for nearly a lifetime, that no issue more powerfully defines us, as to both our good and dark sides, than race. And, of course, I am reading books and articles like never before.

In Wright’s comments to the National Press Club he was asked about Obama’s denouncing him in his public remarks. He rightly said, "Obama did not denounce me." Wright says he distanced himself from the sound bytes and the way these were being heard and understood. He said Obama was doing what he had to do to be a viable political candidate, which is of course correct, and that this did not bother him personally. He added that he was not at Obama’s side when he announced his candidacy for the presidency last year because he is his pastor not his political advisor. He noted that he privately prayed with his whole family on that day and then stepped aside and Senator Dick Durbin introduced the candidate. What a refreshing and sound approach. I wish more Christian ministers would pray and then step aside. Let our voices be heard prophetically not politically.

We have lost the power of the pulpit in this land to speak to the real spiritual and justice issues the Church ought to speak to because we have made peace with the left, or the right, and become the extensions of partisan political agendas. When someone dares to question this arrangement he is despised on one side or the other. Please understand that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party both have a history of using religious values and groups for their political ends. These parties exist to win elections and gain power. Christians are foolish to not recognize this simple fact.

And all of this has nothing to do with the church iliving faith very hoenst about it. I believed long ago that the loss of our prophetic voice directly hindered the missional mandate of Christ, the very thing that I am publicly committed to as a minister of Jesus Christ. But many of my conservative white friends do not agree. They understand the cultural mandate, which I strongly affirm as a biblical truth, includes the church engaging in partisan political debate of the sort that favors one party or the other.

Father Michael Phleger, a priest who serves a virtually all-black Roman Catholic Church near Wright’s former church in Chicago, put it well when he said, "We just want America to ignore America’s reality. C’mon, let’s stop ignoring it. One hundred years of racism. It’s not going to go away." The only caveat I have to that statement is about the 100 years of racism. It is more like 350 years. It is so much a part of the very fabric of our national identity that precious few white Christians, churches and ministers are willing to face it. Why? The honest answer, as best I can tell, is simple. They would lose their jobs if they did. It is so much easier to see all of this in terms that are clear and defensive rather than have to admit that we inherited a system that is broken and desperately needs serious "Christian" commitments to fix it.

Related Posts


  1. Bruce Gerencser April 29, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I for one, appreciated Rev.Wright’s courage and boldness.
    He had to know the talking heads on Fox, CNN, MSNBC were going to shred his comments and go through them with a fine tooth comb.
    For the most part……….us white guys? We need to shut up and listen.
    Here in rural, white, Midwest America racism is alive and well. It is on display every Sunday at 10:00 A.M.

  2. c April 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    There is no doubt that Rev. Wright’s racially charged statements are inflammatory and sometimes wrong. But I do not believe he is a racist. He is a man who is outraged at the abhorrent atrocities that this nation has committed. He is a man who has experienced firsthand hardships that a white privileged man will never be able to comprehend.
    I read and watched Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons from a member of his congregation and I believe he loves Jesus. http://youtube.com/watch?v=4ThIdzzb0zc&feature=user
    Racism is rampant in this country. From hate crimes to job discrimination to public policies that deny black families housing and underprivileged schools funding, racism is entrenched in every arena of American life. There is a bevy of sociological and psychological research literature that exposes the overt and subtle racism that we ALL harbor (the most recent one I read is a a comparative study on resumes and cv’s rejected if they had black-sounding names). It saddens me how indifferent and apathetic people are to this deeply important issue, especially among white Christians.
    I do not agree with everything Rev. Wright says, but I think white Christians are too quick to pass condemnation without even attempting to understand the black church community. Rev. Wright’s church has been accused of being black separatist and racist. **His accusers do not understand the refuge that the black church is for people who are still oppressed in this day and age and do not feel welcome or regarded as equals in other aspects of society (including the white American church).** Yes, even in the post-civil rights era.
    Thank you for opening dialogue on this topic. I pray we may all seek God’s wisdom on this critical matter.

  3. John Paul Todd April 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I thought you would recognize the prophetical element in Dr.Wright and the controversy that continues because he (wisely)chose to begin speaking publically. Thanks for not disappointing me.
    On Monday I put up a post with two links that might be helpful to your readers who are a bit fuzzy what is going on. First there is an excellent group of Black Pastors blogging at Reformed Blacks of America.I know personally some of these men and they are all top quality; white conservatives will perhaps be surprised at how much they integrate the social issues with their Calvinism.
    The other site needs to be called to the attention of every truth loving pastor in this present situation. It is a blog put up by the friends of Rev.Wright –
    It is not for the faint of heart, especially when you look into the videos about what the Liberation Theology and the Black Church which Wright ably represents is trying to tell the rest of us in America. But it will in fact take you deep into the heart of who Dr.Wright is as a prophet of God.
    John Paul Todd

  4. cavman April 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    If this was just about the on-going issues regarding racism, I’d agree. We do need to talk about this.
    But he goes much further describing the US as a terrorist state and other claims that I would classify as ridiculous, thereby forfeiting his place as a prophetic voice to America.
    He practices a sound bite mentality himself at times.

  5. Gene Redlin April 29, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Let’s talk Prophetic. I believe in the Prophetic. Operate in it some. Understand when it is. And when it’s not.
    The best understanding of the prophetic is one who says what God is Saying. In my experience in knowing many competent prophets it is never contrary to scripture. It may be information that is outside what is in scripture but is never contrary. For instance, a prophet may inform, warn or advise of something that is happening that the Spirit of God would have his people know.
    One test in judging prophecy: it is edifying? Does it build the body. Does it equip saints for ministry. Those two are the prime benefits of the prophetic. God gave some as Prophets to equip.
    One other thing prophets are purposed of God to do is to offer hope and a future as Jeremiah did. To say to his people, I’m for you and not against you.
    Certainly in reading the prophetic books in the old testament you would question how all that happens. Those prophets were speaking to a people who did not have the Holy Spirit as a guide. They did not have the capacity to Judge.
    We do today. One who prophecies today meets a different standard. In prediction, not perfection but indication of what they see thru that glass darkly. The idea that a prophet must always prophecy perfectly is no more accurate than that an evangelist must never miss a convert.
    Now, to the question if what Wright is saying is prophecy. In judging the things he is saying the first question one has to ask himself is, “Does this sound like the voice of God”?
    Is there are things that are spoken which are blatantly incorrect, is God blatantly incorrect?
    The more Outrageous claims and conspiracy theories that Wright espouses brings up a huge red flag in my discernment-o-meter.
    I don’t doubt that from time to time Wright like everyone speaks the very word of God. So did King Saul when they asked, “Is Saul now among the Prophets?”
    I think one other fallacy in assessing Rev Wright’s significance in the prophetic and his representation of the black church and it’s culture would be better understood if we would examine churches led by true prophets of God. I know some. I would comment to anyone John Eckhardt of Crusaders Church in Chicago. When you go there you find yourself encouraged, better. He’s a genuine prophet.
    I have taken the time to read the transcript of several of Wright’s sermons. They are on line. So are the full You Tube of some of his more “Routine” sermons.
    I know God. I know what it sounds like when God Speaks. It doesn’t sound like what I am hearing from Jeremiah Wright.
    He’s not a prophet.

  6. c April 29, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    I watched Rev. Wright’s appearances and I am tired of hearing the same rhetorical argument repeated on news programs and blogs all across the nation. It goes something like this: “What if a white person said these statements? What if a white church used the word ‘white’ on its website?”
    This reverse logic is ludicrous. Of course it’s different because historically speaking, white people have been the oppressor, not the oppressed. Racial groups are not on level playing fields. They never were. And until that changes, there will *always* be “double standards.”

  7. ColtsFan April 29, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    C writes:
    “There is a bevy of sociological and psychological research literature that exposes the overt and subtle racism that we ALL harbor (especially among white Christians.)…”
    I respectfully disagree.
    Not ALL of us, as your quote above indicates, harbor racism, even on a subtle basis. Racism is a sin but it is wrong for you to assume everyone (“ALL of us”–your quote) struggles with the same sin. Many of us do not. Many of us are not racists. Indeed, many white Christians are not racists either.
    Me personally, I have attended a predominantly Hispanic Protestant church for years now. You are simply mistaken to think “ALL of us” are racists or “harbor racism” on a subtle level. Your comment is more divisive and does not aid in the healing we need on a national level concerning this issue.
    John Paul Todd:
    Thanks for mentioning Reformed Blacks of America. I have met the founder a couple of times. He is pretty cool, real cool to talk too.
    There is another group out there called “Council of Reforming Churches.” I have attended their conferences the last 2 years. They have rich, deep, excellent expository preaching.
    By the way did anyone discern the racism present in yet-again-ANOTHER-comment by Wright himself when he talks about “Blacks and the Bell Curve”:
    “One of the stranger aspects of Jeremiah Wright’s speech came in the supposed neurological explanation of the differences between whites and blacks. Wright claims that the very structure of the brains of Africans differ from that of European-descent brains, which creates differences rooted in physiology and not culture:”
    Now imagine if that was a white man saying what Wright said?

  8. Molly April 30, 2008 at 12:50 am

    Good stuff. The recent Steve Brown Etc podcast on the exact issue was really thought-provoking and I highly enjoyed it.
    Thanks for being a voice for the marginalized. When blacks are feeling this way, and whites tell them to shut up (because said feelings are unholy/improper/incorrect), it tends to lead an observer to guess that, er, maybe the black community actually HAS something that really needs to be said.
    “The only caveat I have to that statement is about the 100 years of racism. It is more like 350 years. It is so much a part of the very fabric of our national identity that precious few white Christians, churches and ministers are willing to face it. Why? The honest answer, as best I can tell, is simple. They would lose their jobs if they did. It is so much easier to see all of this in terms that are clear and defensive rather than have to admit that we inherited a system that is broken and desperately needs serious “Christian” commitments to fix it. “

  9. John Paul Todd April 30, 2008 at 7:41 am

    ” Comfort, yes, comfort my people!” Says, your God.”Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand Double for all her sins”.
    Thus begins one of my favorite sections in Scripture- all the way through the rest of the prophecy of Isaiah. Yes, I couldn’t agree more that true prophecy is meant for comfort of the Lord’s People, for building up the Body. But the simple fact is that Israel had much tearing down ahead of her before these words would in fact bring comfort, and the Comforter.
    The very next verse in Isaiah’s prophecy introduces “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:”Prepare the way of the Lord…”! Jesus The Great Prophet is the Bringer of the ultimate comfort, but he also brought a message of God’s ultimatum :”Repent…”
    And religiously speaking, that’s what got him crucified.
    I think Gene may have a point but I would submit that maybe we should modify the statement about Dr. Wright and say, like most prophets these days, when judged by Jesus, they are not “complete” or “perfect” in their pronouncements as he is. And this is where we have to be very careful speaking into our present culture. There is much to condemn and we need voices crying against the terrible sins that our society and yes, our Nation is guilty of; there must be true repentance before any hope of comfort and blessing from on high will come. But we must be careful to always come back to the Gospel of what God has already done; the indicative of the New Covenant!
    And maybe that is what is missing in all this, or is not being heard, and that grieves me more than anything. We want others to know this lovely, perfect healer that the Father of love has sent us sinners.

  10. Nathan Petty April 30, 2008 at 10:48 am

    As usual, a thought provoking, provocative post. I also appreciate the disparate nature of the previous commenters.
    As a white man who, I’m sure, doesn’t “get it” totally, I am sympathetic to the need for honest, and perhaps painful, dialogue. I think that is needed for a church which has more often than not ignored the evil of racism.
    The problem, of course, lies not only in the diagnosis but in the prescription. Are the solutions that we come up with of God?
    I would recommend two recent talk by two black pastors. The first, Thabiti Anyabwile , can be heard at: http://t4g.org/08/media/#.
    The second, Eric Remond, can be heard at:
    I found these to be helpful discussions.

  11. Jack Isaacson April 30, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Joihn, Will you be doing a follow-up in light of what Senator Obama said on Tuesday? Jack

  12. c May 1, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Coltsfan, you are right. It was wrong of me to claim that all people harbor racism and I apologize.
    My point is that racism is still pervasive in this country on all sides. I have heard racial epithets, slurs and crude jokes carelessly uttered and seen minority families categorically ostracized and ignored in the church. Racial stereotypes are constantly perpetuated. There are of course, so many wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ that emulate His life through their unconditional love towards others. My pastor is one of them. Unfortunately, I also have close friends and even family who utter racist remarks in more private settings. I love them dearly and can understand that wounds run deep. But I cannot deny the racism that is entrenched in the mindset of many. It is a complex and sensitive issue that needs much collective prayer. The dialogue on this blog is one step. I have already learned a lot through the comments of others. I pray that a Christ-centered commitment to a shared vision may enable the Christian community to rise above this complex conflict.

  13. ColtsFan May 1, 2008 at 12:39 am

    I have listened to audio tapes of both Rev. Wright and Senator Obama repeatedly since this story broke out…
    And the one thing that keeps coming back to me is my disappointment that Rev. Wright literally threw Senator Obama under the bus.
    I strongly disagree with Obama’s socialism, his pro-abortion, and progressive views, etc. But it saddens me to learn of the permanent rift that has occurred between him and his former pastor. I myself do not rejoice in the long-term damage done to a 20 year relationship between a leader and his pastor. This article below speaks of the strain behind the headline news.
    We must remember that Obama was up 20-25 points in North Carolina before his pastor made his yet-again-another-unfortunate- speech insinuating that Obama cares more about political expediency than about telling the truth. Now the following new poll has Hillary actually winning NC???

  14. ColtsFan May 2, 2008 at 1:42 am

    C writes:
    “Coltsfan, you are right. It was wrong of me to claim that all people harbor racism and I apologize.”
    Thank you for your Christian charity and respectful gesture.
    I do look forward to reading (and learning from) your comments in the future.
    Thank you again, my friend.

Comments are closed.

My Latest Book!

Use Promo code UNITY for 40% discount!

Recent Articles