Speaking Up for Jeremiah Wright
I will confess to being a Barack Obama supporter, but that's not the reason why I feel it necessary to speak up for Jeremiah Wright. I''m not averse to criticizing a fellow pastor, when I deem it necessary (consider my criticism's of Rod Parsley and Ted Haggard on this blog). I'm not averse to saying that some of what Jeremiah Wright has said, I find deeply problematic -- especially his statements about the government's role in spreading HIV into the Black community.
I know that the Obama campaign isn't all that happy that Jeremiah Wright is speaking up at this time, I think in the long run it will be helpful. As long as the Sean Hannity's of the world are allowed to demonize Jeremiah Wright and then try to link him to Obama, the issue won't go away. The important thing, therefore, is to let us see the real Jeremiah Wright. Let us come to know the man who has pastored Trinity UCC for more than 35 years, who grew it from 87 people to more than 5,000, who has been an important force in the city of Chicago, and who is widely respected within his own denomination and beyond.
What has bothered me from the very beginning of this controversy is the way in which the Black church in America has been misrepresented and even vilified. I am a white pastor. The traditions in the white church tend to be different from the black church. Our services tend to be quieter and the music tends to be different. But, as Jeremiah Wright so eloquently stated last night in his Detroit NAACP speech, difference doesn't mean deficient. White European theology and practice isn't normative for the church as a whole.
As postmodern theologians are pointing out, all theology is local. All church practice is local. Jeremiah Wright's preaching emerges from his experience ministering on the South Side of Chicago. It emerges from being Black. It emerges from coming into ministry during the 1960s. As Barack Obama has pointed out things have changed and his own experience is different. But let us not say that because Wright's experience is different that it's deficient. He is, warts and all, part of the body of Christ. He is, warts and all, a colleague in ministry. He is, warts and all, a fellow citizen of God's kingdom. He may say the same of me!