Friday, March 28, 2008

The Attack on Jeremiah Wright & Trinity UCC

All the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, senior minister at Trinity UCC in Chicago, where Barack Obama worships, got me to wondering how leaders of the United Church of Christ were dealing with this all-out media attack on the pastor of the denomination's largest congregation.

In a quick survey I find that the Rev. John Thomas, president of the United Church of Christ, offered high praise for Dr. Wright at his retirement ceremony about a month ago when right-wing critics were shouting relentlessly from the tube. And the Rev. Jane Fisler Hoffman, the northern Illinois district minister of the United Church of Christ, who also attends Trinity church, spoke out in January in strong support of the church’s ministry. I would love to find that Unitarian Universalist leaders are speaking up, but I do recognize that at stake here are deep philosophical and social issues which challenge all thoughtful Americans.

It turns out the assault on Dr. Wright and Trinity church has been going on a lot longer than you or I may have realized. The Christian Century in a substantial article profiled Trinity UCC back in May, 2007 as a church already under attack by “right-wing bloggers and TV pundits” intent on swiftboating Obama.

I listened to all of Dr. Wright’s rousing 40 minute sermon from April 2003, “Confusing God and Government”, now circulating in a seemingly endless two minute loop on YouTube. The full sermon was quite an experience for this liberal not-Christian, but, apparently, it is an apoplexy inducement for evangelicals who equate G_d and country. This seems to be exactly as it should be given the sermon’s challenge to such beliefs. Elsewhere, Dr. Wright challenges those evangelicals who equate G_d and money-making, but you’ll have to do your own research on that one — at least for now.

Jeremiah Wright is an unabashed student and follower of the black liberation theologian, Dr. James Cone. Barack Obama is not. Obama says he has heard Dr. Wright make statements with which he ‘absolutely’ does not agree. You will understand immediately what he may mean after you hear “Confusing God and Government”; their differences in attitude toward race are passionate. I’m with Obama, but I had great sympathy for Wright’s angry views. I am thrilled to see the United Church of Christ try to embrace such dramatic differences and saddened to recognize the difficultes our own denomination faces along this complex racial fault-line.

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