Thursday, March 20, 2008

BIC Loves...: BIC Support

Yes, I wish Barack could do it for us and keep us from carrying the burden. But in this case I am willing to do it for him. To support a candidate means to provide him support and help him do things he cannot do. I will keep doing my best to explain why Jeremiah Wright is a prophetic pastor whom many of us love and support.

-Melissa Harris-Lacewell

I'm mentally and emotionally drained as I log onto DrudgeReport every hour on the hour and watch the trainwreck that is the political sewage being strewn across Barack Obama's otherwise fragrant candidacy. While I've read many Huffington Post articles about how this should blow over in the wake of Barack's magnificent speech on race--a speech for which this country has been thirsting for years--headlines on political websites and the sight of conservative pundits spewing gross hyperbole and all types of hatred across the airwaves have caused an election indigestion that leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Yes, I know how Jeremiah Wright and Barack's affiliation with him looks to Americans far outside of that experience, and I realize how difficult it would be for some of them to understand the dynamic of a politically-charged Black pastor and his congregation. I have attended churches like this all of my life and fully comprehend why it is necessary, for the membership of churches such as Trinity, to have a refuge on Sunday morning after a long week in an office, in a society, in a country that isn't always so easy on them.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of Trinity but I've been blessed to hear plenty of Reverend Dr. Wright's sermons as he is very close with my family church's pastor in Dallas and is featured on for whenever I feel the need to check him out. Jeremiah Wright is a messenger of God, a man with what old Black folks call "a Word" in his mouth. I truly believe he speaks the words God wants us to hear. Now, that doesn't mean that every syllable he utters is something we want to hear or even that we agree with, but as a righteous man blessed with a large congregation, I think he's done an exemplary job of leading his flock and teaching the Bible in a way that not only uplifts his congregation but moves them to action.

In one of my favorite sermons of his, one that would probably not be as readily looped on Hannity & Colmes for the next six months, he says these words:

"Some of your biggest enemies are folk who look just like you...look like you, talk like you, live near you and worship at the same place you worship… some of the enemies of Jesus are folk who sing the same songs, praise the same name and claim the same faith but they are enemies of Jesus because they do not follow the teachings of Jesus nor walk in his pathways. Think about it: they hold slaves—enemies of Jesus. They build churches in the midst of slave castles—enemies of Jesus. They justify slavery, twisting scripture to justify it so—enemies of Jesus. They justify wealth and greed, twisting scripture to do so—enemies of Jesus. They make preemptive military strikes on countries that don’t even have an Army and tell y’all that God told them to do it—enemies of Jesus. They walk past 47 million Americans with no healthcare on their way to worship their distorted images of God—enemies of Jesus. They pass by on the other side of the road the…almost 3300 now corpses of American military and the 100,000 corpse of Iraqi civilians just like they pass by the 143,000 of fried Japanese civilians when we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima, they pass by their corpses on their way to the crystal cathedral to worship a God who sanctions the slaughter of innocent and the slavery of Africans. These are enemies of Jesus!...It’s time to be scared when you got folk who are religious folk, who are sincere about their religion but who are sincerely wrong, religious folk who look like you and worship like you but are enemies of Jesus! …To miss the political implications in this text is to miss many a lesson you will need to remember because of the tests you’re gonna have to face each day living in this country.”

Of course, Reverend Dr. Wright's words have been plastered all over the television of late, scaring the living daylights out of most non-Black voters--and I suppose some Black voters, as well. Among the more incendiary offerings he's presented are that the US created AIDS to chip away at the Black population and that 9/11 was retribution for US sins. While both of those pills are hard to swallow and I won't completely address them here due to their delicate intricacy, I will point out that a 67 year-old man who not only belongs to the legacy of slavery but has been fully alive and a witness to such disgusting US institutions as the
Tuskegee Experiment and US atrocities such Japanese internment and our unwarranted invasion of countries such as Vietnam and Iraq might place US policies and practices under greater scrutiny. He might encourage others to do this as well. If he had a church with a membership of thousands, he might share these thoughts with them.

What the America who finds themselves so shocked by his words will not admit is that Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright has every reason--and every right--to question this country's commitment to Black people and other minorities. What they will not speak about as they dissect and denigrate Trinity and its former pastor is the long history of discrimination, institutional racism, and the deep, deep legacy of hatred in this country that Barack so admirably tried to address the other day.

With all of this going on, you can see why I found it a little hard to sleep last night. So thank God for Melissa Harris-Lacewell, the often funny and always enlightening Associate Professor of Politics and African-American Studies at Princeton that I so admire. Thank God that Melissa put breath to the words I feel so deeply underscore this entire incident--that many Black people find solace in the church because we are deeply connected to the themes of Christianity: hope, faith and love, but not without an eye on the judgment of God, the wrath of God and the understanding that in our faith there is suffering before deliverance and consequences for our decisions.

A former member of Trinity,
Melissa writes:

In churches like Trinity UCC, black folks read the Bible with an eye on what it has to say about experiences of bondage and oppression. In this way the Bible is both a moral guide and a political text. Even though slaveholders declared that God wanted slaves to obey their masters, black people believed that God wanted them to be free. They believed this because they read the story of Moses.Though the confederate states claimed that God instituted segregation; black Americans believed differently because they read Amos. Today many black Americans worry when our country engages in self-righteous foreign policy because we have read Isaiah.

Thank you, Melissa. If only you could make the rounds to the Pat Buchanans, Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters and shake some sense into them. But we know how useless that would be.

Jeremiah Wright is not unpatriotic. What he is is viscerally American. He hasn't picked up and moved to Africa, although he's respectful of ancestral ties there. He obviously finds value in this country in which he was born, particularly having served it in its Armed Forces, raised his children in it, fought for rights in it for nearly all of his life, and I don't think I'd be mistaken to assert that Jeremiah Wright has paid taxes to it for nearly the past six decades. That man loves this country, just as all of us who sit in church on Sunday and pray away the angst and pain that being a minority in America can mean, love this country. And all he wants--all we all want--is to, in our lifetime or at least that of our grandchildren, feel loved back. Reverend Dr. Wright, as a student of the Bible and a man of God, understands that while God loves His children, he parents us and he disciplines us. And He is often disappointed in us. The United States is not above that disappointment. And we are not above His discipline. Maybe a young Black woman typing these words silently in a dark room read differently than a high-powered Black man screaming them from a pulpit, but we say the same thing. God will not bless America if it can't get this one right. Reverend Dr. Wright should not be taken out back and slaughtered like a mad cow as some very ugly people would have it. And neither should his very blessed and highly favored congregant Barack Obama.

Hebrews 11:1 says clearly, and it's one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible, "faith is the substance of all things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I have no faith in this country because I have no faith in any man. I have faith in God and what God can use people to do and can work through and will people to do. There was a time when no one believed it was possible for this presidential candidate to win this race, and at that time I felt moved to support him anyway. And through this dark period I will continue to believe in his candidacy for the highest office in the land. Because specifically for Black people, I believe that our churches that have fortified us for years have done so for a reason. In fact, I am beginning to believe they've done it specifically for this moment, so that we can all remain faithful and believe God for something that, right now--especially March 20, 2008--we cannot see.

I have faith, and have had faith since February 2007 that Barack Obama will be President of these United States.

And with that, I'm going to bed.


Kimberly said...

Preach Sista Ash!!! Wow! Goosebumps! If God is for Barack, as I believe that He is, then no one can be against him. That includes everyone from the high ranking political officials, to the crazy pastors (i.e. ATLAH), and anyone else in between. I'm definitely with you on this one. I say we all need to keep the faith and watch what God can do.

tory said...

why the hell is he being judged based on his pastor's words in the first damn place....if those repubilicans try to use this in the fall......its on and poppin!