For those of you who did not get a chance to watch the hour long interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS you missed an excellent show. Wright, whose sermons at his south side Chicago church Trinity United Church of Christ where Sen. Barack Obamais a member have been used as a wedge-issue against Obama. Obama has had to distance himself from his minister of over 20 years and Wright has become a vilified figure in the corporate media and a favorite target of the right-wing.
In this interview the public got to see a lot more of Rev. Wright which is a lot bigger than the limited version that Americans have seen on cable news shows and Youtube. They saw the story of a man who grew up the son and grandson of Christian ministers in Philadelphia, studied the ministry at Virginia Christian Union, went to Vietnam as a marine, prepared President Lyndon Baines Johnsonfor surgery in his capacities as a cardio tech, graduated from Howard University in DC, and then went to Chicago to study religious history at the University of Chicago.
It was in Chicago that he took over pastoral duties at a small church of 87 members that and built it into a 5000 member church. What was the message that led to such growth? It was a message of community service; soup kitchens, job training, counseling, youth mentoring, tutoring kids, an HIV/AIDS ministry, and other things. On the south side of Chicago, which in the 1980’s (and even today) was decimated by drugs, gangs and violence the vision Rev. Wright had for the church was one that extended beyond the four walls of a building.
The Rev. Wright also addressed the issue of whether his message was exclusionary and was not inclusive of white people. Now, for one, I found this allegation that his church excluded whites to be somewhat comical because it assumes that whites were lining up in the south side of Chicago to come to his church. But, in case the jury is still out, Rev. Wright said he has a multi-racial and multi-ethnic congregation.
What Rev. Wright made clear was the following; his church was in the black community and addressed the unique needs of the people it served, he sought to give his congregation a positive view of their African roots and connect it to their Christian faith, and the Black Value System was developed to address the problems that existed amongst the people.
In addressing his “God damn America” statement he said what a lot of people have said in that white America does not know or understand the black church; because if they did they would know that the kind of sermons that Rev. Wright gave are par for the course in many black churches.
When he made this statement on the Sunday after 9-11 which he has been electronically lynched for what did he mean? He meant that in a nation that was built on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, practiced genocide against the Native American people, practiced legalized apartheid, bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, burned Vietnamese alive, bloodily occupied the Philippines, supported apartheid South Africa, blindly stood with Israel even to her own determent, how should it come as a surprise when one day the “chickens come home to roost.” Rev. Wright, like myself and a lot of other people, love America but we recognize her sins and that these sins have consequences.
Anyone so blind and foolish that they do not think Americas stance in the world and foreign policy had nothing to do with 9-11 and the hostility towards this nation and “they” just “hate us for our freedom” needs to go lay on some therapists couch. As Rev. Wright correctly stated the people who have attacked him are those who say there is “nothing wrong with America” no the problem is Rev. Wright in their minds.
Of course as a Muslim I look at this issue from the outside while finding it interesting that Wright addressed Muslims either directly or indirectly on three occasions. He first addressed Muslims in an indirect manner when he stated that a part of the motto of the church “unapologetically Christian” was a direct response to those claiming Christianity to be the “white mans religion” more than likely referring to African-American Muslims in general and the Nation of Islam specifically. He also praised the NOI for its work in taking young black men off the streets and blamed the corporate media and sinister forces for creating the false perception that Obama is a Muslim.
I came away from the program feeling I had leaned about the man and far from being a villain this is a man who is deserving of respect for his efforts in the community. However, I have serious doubt he will be made anything other than a villain in the media and we will hear more and more about him until November.