more rev. wright

‘Cuz you know you can’t get enough of this stuff.

Some more Rev. Wright-isms have been combed (Jake Tapper comments) that include some more ugly stuff. One of which is conspiratorial nut job-ism at its finest (Israel and South Africa were working on an “ethnic bomb”).

At the same time, Wright was also a leading advocate of de-funding/boycotting South Africa. (And recall that Israel maintained formal relations with the apartheid government all the way until its collapse. And if a 2 state solution isn’t forthcoming, Israel is heading towards/in some ways is already employing an apartheid-like system).

So I’m gonna take a step back here.

Wright’s worldview is characterized (in Wilber terminology) as green meme. Including heavy elements of so-called mean green meme (i.e. pathological postmodern egalitarianism mixed with rampant narcissism).

As Rod Dreher has it:

I don’t see humility in Jeremiah Wright’s Christianity. I see rage and pride as therapeutic theology. Dr. Wright is wrong.

This is half-(w)right at best. In the destructive ones, Rod is correct. There is too much of the therapeutic culture of alienation. But there is an entire other side (the side Obama highlights) that is deeply humble and comes from the great black church tradition. And sometimes rage, prophetic rage is appropriate. But not de-humanizing excesses of such. He comes also from the black liberation tradition, which has its great truths and its great sins and weaknesses. All that fits with the penumbra of green: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Now as I said above, there is an added element here which is that he also appears to be prone to some conspiracy thinking. (That’s not an automatic with green or mean green even). I know lots of people (intelligent ones included) who believe lots of conspiracy theory type thinking. It’s more common in my experience than people are willing to admit publicly I think. That doesn’t condone it or whatever, it just means that dude believes some crazy made up stuff.

And again on the other hand, Wright called for inclusion of gays and lesbians in the black community (a big no no in many quarters). Very courageous and forward thinking (and Christian) in my view.

So the criticism that is coming (mostly but not exclusively from the right) in terms of alienation culture, conspiracy stuff, racist language is there though again only one side of a many faceted situation. For one, a church is never defined by its pastor and especially his/her political views. As someone studying to be a clergyman, God help if a church I were serving was defined solely by my sermons.

The main difference I have is that I don’t have a purity test (or what I would call right-wing identity politics). i.e. I don’t mind that he goes to that church because I’m sufficiently convinced that those are not his views, that he supports the good work the church does, and that as a black man I can appreciate (in the black theological tradition) that it’s about being with people who have suffered and not abandoning people. In other words that people are applying a (mostly) white (entirely) middle class way of thinking about how church is on this situation–which is understandable because such people perhaps have never experienced otherwise so they don’t realize it’s a way of thinking (as opposed to simply what is). That does not however make the mindset any less prone to criticism.

Jesus dined with sinners all the time. Obama is not Jesus I know. That’s not what I’m saying. As someone who spent a great deal of time in church life amongst poor, minority groups, I agree (based on my experience and reflections) that one key, if not often the key, element is to maintain relationship with people. Doesn’t mean you agree, just that you do not discard people who society has otherwise discarded. People need a physical reminder that they are dignified even if society treats them worse than garbage (which at least gets picked up weekly for the well to do).

By identity politics I mean the following (and this is done on the left as well as the right, just in this case its mostly coming from the right in my view):

1. Have a litmus test that some candidate must pass, often on a single issue.
2. Assume a candidate is guilty until proven innocent (i.e. until they pass your litmus test). Especially if you can connect them somehow (anyhow) however tenuously to someone who does hold views on this topic you find offensive. Even if the candidate/public figure has said they do not hold such (fill in the blank) views. If a connection of theirs, call for the candidate to not simply disagree with the other person but cut all ties with them.
3. Call for the candidate to pass your litmus test and if they don’t respond again (point #2) see this as evidence of guilt.
4. You hold a position of superiority and you alone (or your conferres) gets to pass absolution/approval on said subject. Never relinquish that position or admit you may only be partially correct.

For what I believe to be this right-wing identity politics played on Obama relative to the Wright controversy, Victor Davis Hanson’s article offering an alternate speech Obama should have given on race.

If you want to see Jewish identity politics played on Obama (from a mainstream WashingtonPost editorialist–not exactly a raging right-winger, again this is done on all sides but same basic format/mentality just the issues are different), here.

And yes Rev. Wright has at times played identity politics from a very left-wing position. I’m against identity politics period, from whatever side.

Other times he hasn’t. As a Christian, we are brothers and I was taught by St. Ignatius to always emphasize the best (look for the best) in another person. And realize he is a sinner like I.

Politically, I don’t believe that Obama holds these views, so it doesn’t bother me. I do find it hypocritical that some (by no means all) self-described right wing (often religious of self-proclaimed religious) types who correctly point out we can never know what is in someone’s heart and emphasize the sacredness of conscience, particularly around religious choice, then go and believe they do know what it is in someone’s heart (and its wrong) when it comes to his religious choice. Which I take to mean that its not entirely about freedom of religion per se as much as it is freedom of religion plus (often unexamined) non-threatening/non-critical of the social order.

I can appreciate some folks have an existential emotional investment in a certain vision of the US. A kind of faith if you will. And that any criticisms will ignite this sensibility. Particularly when it comes from someone who is (now) well off financially, well educated, that it looks like sour grapes, evokes resentment. I can appreciate all that. I think it’s valid, to a point. [That point is crossed when it becomes part of a narrative about how X person is a godless liberal who hates America (purity test)]. But that is not my struggle. What I would appreciate is other people not projecting their issues onto someone like me for whom that is not an overriding issue and a recognition that it is ok for that particular issue not to be my #1 or 2 issue.

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Published in: on March 28, 2008 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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