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From the dept. of double standards: Jeremiah Wright and Trinity Church

By Griffin · March 18th, 2008 · No Comments


This article by the son of religious right leader, the late Francis Shaeffer, is nothing short of a meme changer.  In the article, Frank Shaeffer asks why Barack Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright is being raked over the coals while “Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father’s footsteps) rail against America’s sins from tens of thousands of pulpits,” with nary a raised eyebrow.  Shaeffer goes on to write:

Dad and I were amongst the founders of the Religious right. In the 1970s and 1980s, while Dad and I crisscrossed America denouncing our nation’s sins instead of getting in trouble we became darlings of the Republican Party. (This was while I was my father’s sidekick before I dropped out of the evangelical movement altogether.) We were rewarded for our “stand” by people such as Congressman Jack Kemp, the Fords, Reagan and the Bush family. The top Republican leadership depended on preachers and agitators like us to energize their rank and file. No one called us un-American.

Take Dad’s words and put them in the mouth of Obama’s preacher (or in the mouth of any black American preacher) and people would be accusing that preacher of treason. Yet when we of the white Religious Right denounced America white conservative Americans and top political leaders, called our words “godly” and “prophetic” and a “call to repentance.”

Of course, there is one major difference, beyond the issue of race, that can explain why Jeremiah Wright’s words have kicked up such a firestorm.  He is not just a supporter or a ceremonial guest, he is the pastor and “spiritual mentor” of a presidential candidate.  That carries quite a bit of extra weight, and begs the very legitimate question of what parts exactly of this man’s teachings that Barack Obama subscribes to.  Though to be fair to Obama, nothing he himself has ever said or done publicly or privately (privately, meaning that none of his old friends have ever come out with, “Guess what I heard Barack Obama say about white people in 1998…”) even hints at the possibility that he secretly holds Jeremiah Wright’s antagonistic view of race.

But regardless of Wright’s unique standing in this presidential campaign, there are more than a few double standards that are worth exploring.  Here are just a few off the top of my head:

1. Why is it okay for Southern Baptist preachers to call down God’s judgment on America over the “sins” of homosexuality and abortion and liberal judges, but it’s not okay for Jeremiah Wright to call down God’s judgment on America over the sin of racism?

2. Why is it okay for American Jewish synogogues to express a non-negotiable commitment to Israel, but it’s not okay for Trinity United Church of Christ to express a “non-negotiable commitment to Africa”?  Likewise, if a synogogue described itself as “unapologetically and unashamedly Jewish,” would it raise even half the commotion that Trinity’s description of itself as “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian” has?

3. Why is it okay for certain right-wing preachers to link 9/11 to America losing its way as a “Christian nation,” but it’s not okay for Jeremiah Wright (or Ron Paul, for that matter) to link 9/11 to the far more plausible cause of bungled American foreign policy?

4. Why is it that up until two weeks ago the words “God damn” were a violation of FCC rules and never heard on either network or cable television, yet when they came out of the mouth of Jeremiah Wright, they were played uncensored on a near-continuous loop for days?  Could it be that the news networks decided that the shock/entertainment value of an expletive being shouted from the pulpit by a black preacher outweighed whatever decency standards they had previously followed?  Maybe Obama supporters should file an FCC complaint every time news programs play that clip uncensored.

UPDATE: Another pastor, writing on DailyKos, comes to the defense of Rev. Wright:

I don’t always like what conservatives within my own denomination have to say, let alone what many Southern Baptists preach. But by and large, my colleagues understand what it is that their communities need to hear, and they give to them responsibly.

… 

Rev. Wright is I’m sure sharply aware that poverty and repression are daily realities for many of those seated in Trinity’s sanctuary. The anger of his sermons is not his own invention, but grows from the unhappiness and frustration his parishioners feel. He must be responsible to those feelings even if he doesn’t endorse them, even as he tries to move his community beyond them. It isn’t his responsibility to comfort the privileged overhearers of his message, nor is it to speak “respectfully” of the outside world. His job is to articulate the good news for his congregation, which often means articulating a message of hope, liberation, and justice, even if that upsets the outside world.

In short, Wright eschews the feel-good comforts of religion and poses difficult questions about whether things in America are just and equitable.

Tags: Barack Obama · Democrats


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