Jeremiah Wright is right…on many things:
On the need for racial understanding and reconciliation:
“In the past, we were taught to see others who are different as being deficient. We establish arbitrary norm and then determine that anybody not like us was abnormal. But a change is coming because we no longer see others who are different as being deficient. We just see them as different.”
About the insight that because different individuals and cultures may have differing perspectives based on their experience, it does not follow that one viewpoint is wrong or deficient in truth. “Different does not mean deficient!” –NAACP’s Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit, April 27, 2008
On how he meant “God condemns America” in his sermon in which he said “God damn America”:
“When you start confusing God and government, your allegiances to government, a particular government and not to God, that you’re in serious trouble because governments fail people. And governments change. And governments lie. And those three points of the sermon. And that is the context in which I was illustrating how the governments biblically and the governments since biblical times, up to our time, changed, how they failed, and how they lie.” –interview on PBS’ “Bill Moyers’ Journal, April 25, 2007
“God doesn’t bless everything. God condemns some things. And dem, D-E-M, is where we get the word damn. God damns some practices and there’s no excuse for the things that the government, not the American people, have done. That doesn’t make me not like America or unpatriotic.” –National Press Club in Washington, April 28, 2008
On how he softened and contextualized his previous suggestion that the U.S. government may have in invented the HIV virus:
“Based on this Tuskegee experiment [The U.S. government’s unethical 40-year experiment on black men with syphilis which finally was admitted and apologized for by President Clinton] and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.” –National Press Club in Washington, April 28, 2008
On Black Liberation Theology:
“I come from a religious tradition where we shout in the sanctuary and march on the picket line. I come from a religious tradition where we give god the glory and the devil the blues. The black religious tradition is different. We do it a different way.”
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. Liberation theology started in and started from a different place. It started from the vantage point of the oppressed.
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 contribution that he has made and that he continues to make to the field of theology… I call our faith tradition, however, “the prophetic tradition of the black church,” because I take its origins back past Jim Cone, past the sermons and songs of Africans in bondage in the transatlantic slave trade.
The prophetic theology of the black church is a theology of liberation. It is a theology of transformation. And it is ultimately a theology of reconciliation. The Apostle Paul said, “Be ye reconciled one to another, even as God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s self.”
God does not desire for us, as children of God, to be at war with each other, to see each other as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, misuse each other, define each other or put each other down.
God wants us reconciled one to another, and that third principle in the prophetic theology of the black church is also and has always been at the heart of the black church experience in North America.
The black church’s role in the fight for equality and justice from the 1700s up until 2008 has always had as its core the non- negotiable doctrine of reconciliation, children of God repenting for past sins against each other. Jim Wallis says America’s racist – the sin of racism has never even been confessed, much less repented for. Repenting for past sins against each other and being reconciled to one another — Jim Wallis is white, by the way — (laughter) — being reconciled to one another because of the love of God, who made all of us in God’s image.
Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks or Hispanics become Asian or that Asians become Europeans. Reconciliation means we embrace our individual rich histories, all of them. We retain who we are, as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us; they are just different from us.
We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred or prejudice. And we recognize for the first time in modern history, in the West, that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles and different dance moves; that other is one of God’s children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness just as we are.
Only then will liberation, transformation and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals. –NAACP’s Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit, April 27, 2008
Rev. Wright is not right on everything he says, of course, nor is the way he ‘tells it like it is’ always in the right spirit of peace and love…but, when I listen to the man, I am challenged and inspired by how a prophet speaks truth to power.