I was at first very open to Pastor Jeremiah Wright.
I felt some of the clips playing over and over on TV made sense.
I felt in some respects Pastor Wright was mirroring Martin Luther King in asking if America was in many ways a wicked nation that possibly merited judgement.
Beyond the public issues, Pastor Wright also reached me on a personal level.
At least according to family lore, I’m descended from people who were on the Mayflower.
People on the Mayflower were not at home with the society they were born into.
In my late teens and and early 20′s, I was a 1980′s Midwestern hardcore punk rocker.
Without exaggerating the bent of people who—for the most part—lived as others do, this was a crowd that had little affection for the tone and temper of American society.
There was definitely a Puritan tendency among punk rockers—A rejection of what was taking place around them.
I have a measure of sympathy for homeschoolers and Black Muslims.
They look around and are repulsed. Why wouldn’t they be?
So I welcomed Pastor Wright. I thought he might be a new voice. I thought he might have the discipline and personal austerity to reject the culture and add a new and needed dimension to the public discussion.
Jeremiah Wright is just another Andy Warhol ( photo below) 15 minutes-of-fame media hog. He says he hates the culture, but really he loves it. He found himself in the glare of lights cast by the bigots and idiotic cable channels, and he could not resist the starring role.
Not only that, he acted out of anger at Barack Obama instead of simply making his case for good or ill in a calm and disciplined way.
Pastor Wright has no obligation to help Barack Obama. But it is hard to see how he is serving his God or anybody else with his current conduct.
Please see the picture of Pastor Wright at the top of this post with another man who lacks discipline and self-respect.
Below is Jeremiah Wright’s secular idol along with Jimmy Carter. After a rough Presidency and rejection at the polls, Jimmy Carter made a patient step-by-step case that he was in fact a man of decency and vision.
Pastor Wright could still follow that better course–final judgement is not up to me–but he sure does not seem like a prophet or a leader of any kind at this point.
Above you see a picture of Pastor Jeremiah Wright goofing around with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. ( Pastor Wright is on the right and Mayor Kilpatrick is on the left.)
One thing he is saying is what Martin Luther King often said—That America can at times be a wicked and sinful nation, and that if a transcendent moral power exists in the universe, he or she may wish to consider what judgement should be passed.
But what is Pastor Wright doing playing around here with disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick?
Mayor Kilpatrick had an affair with an aide, exchanged racy text-messages with her, lied about it, cost the City of Detroit nine million dollars in a whistle-blower suit resulting from his actions, and is under indictment.
This is not what Detroit needs.
The Detroit City Council–majority Black and Democratic–has called on Mayor Kilpatrick to resign.
Pastor Wright had the opportunity to admonish Mayor Kilpatrick at the NAACP dinner. That would have been closer to a prophetic course.
Keeping company with a man of power and corruption is less than a prophetic course.
I want to believe Pastor Wright is a man of vision. I did have to wonder though when he canceled his guest sermons in my hometown of Houston a few weeks ago due to death threats.
What kind of prophet cancels a call to to preach because of death threats?
One time in my life I was mistaken for a black man.
I once worked in the office of a black member of the Cincinnati City Council.
This did not sit well with right-wing bully Bill Cunningham at Cincinnati radio station WLW.
This is the same Bill Cunningham who made news not long ago at a John McCain rally leading up to the Ohio primary.
Mr. Cunningham and other WLW programmers encouraged listeners to call Councilman Yates and voice their displeasure about his views on Mrs. Schott’s comments.
We took many hundreds of calls.
Because of death threats our office received, a Cincinnati police officer was posted in our council office for three days.
One caller said to me that because of comments made by Mr. Yates and because I worked in his office, he was going to come to City Hall and “hang you by your black balls.”
I told the caller I was Italian.
He did not miss a beat. He said—”I’ll hang you by your spaghetti.”
Did the caller hate only black people or was he a hater in general? Likely it was a close call.
Often when a black person who speaks up, whether the comments are valid or not—and Tyrone’s comments were valid— that black person is demonized.
Forces of “respectable” conservatism sit back while the shock troops do the dirty work.
We see the pattern today with John McCain silent as Barack Obama is portrayed as some kind of militant. ( The burden is on any black politician to establish that he or she is not some kind of “militant.”)
We see this in my current hometown of Houston just this morning. The Houston Chronicle reports that Jeremiah Wright has canceled three planned sermons in Houston due to death threats.
Is it any wonder why many black folks, and people of all kinds, don’t see American society as fundamentally decent?
Here are the reasons I liked Senator Barack Obama’s recent speech on race—
1. By correctly refusing to disown Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Obama showed loyalty.
2. By speaking at length about the good points and bad points of the black church, Mr. Obama acknowledged the basic humanity and complexity of the average person.
3. By addressing the historical experience of both blacks and whites in the United States, Senator Obama asked us to consider context. This is something increasingly rare in our fragmented quick-paced society. Yet context is a starting point of seeing the lives of others in a humane and caring way.
4. By speaking in a reasonably forthright manner about a difficult subject, Mr. Obama respected the intelligence of the average voter.
5. By offering the opportunity to move past divisive racial concerns in the 2008 Election, Senator Obama offered voters a positive choice.
Here is a good USA Today story on the speech.—(No, you don’t need to read the 11,821 comments so far made about the story.)