IVP - Behind the Books - Jeremiah Wright

March 20, 2008

Jeremiah Wright

Author and pastor Dr. Jeremiah Wright has been much in the news lately. Dr. Wright has a chapter in an InterVarsity Press book I edited, Women's Liberation Jesus Style. So I have been following the conversation with interest. For some insight into how African American Christians might view Dr. Wright's comments and Obama's response, I turned to Edward Gilbreath's blog.

Ed has been a writer and editor at Christianity Today and is now working as director of editorial services for Urban Ministries, Inc. He is the author of the book Reconciliation Blues. He has been closely following the presidential race and Obama in particular. Here's an excerpt from his blog post entitled "Does Obama Have a Prayer?" March 15, 2008:

. . . In recent months, I’ve often thought to myself that the presence of an African American and a woman in the presidential race was a good thing for helping America confront its complex history in a more honest way. Lately, however, I’ve become convinced that it’s impossible to give an honest critique of these things in the context of a political campaign. It seems that the majority of American voters are simply not willing to go beyond the surface to reckon with the issues of our nation’s history—and its present—in a way that requires a sustained use of critical reasoning.
I don’t mean to come across as negative or elitist, but it doesn’t seem white America in general (including the media) are culturally and intellectually equipped to understand, for instance, Michelle Obama’s recent comment that “for the first time in my adult life, I’m really proud of my country.” Rather than see it as a vulnerable moment from an African American woman whose life experience is very different from theirs, many whites used it as an opportunity to question her patriotism or label her a racist.
Likewise, the recent video of Barack Obama’s now-former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, also brought swift condemnation from many whites who accused Wright—and by extension Obama—of being a racist. However, a fair and thoughtful viewing of the video reveals a man who, while clearly angry and frustrated, was attempting to offer a serious (albeit blistering) critique of American culture, racism, and white privilege. Rev. Wright is undeniably inflammatory in tone, and this certainly is not the kind of public support anyone running for President of the United States probably covets (just ask Obama), but simply writing his words off as racist or hateful misses the deeper point. I won’t go so far as saying I agree with everything Rev. Wright says, but I will say that those unfamiliar with black church tradition and oratory, as well as the African American experience in general, will find it hard to understand the emotional nuance and intellectual underpinnings of his sermon.
If Obama survives these latest racial and religious minefields, it will be because enough white voters were willing to exercise critical thinking and stretch their understanding of race, faith, and culture beyond their own familiar experience. Which conversely means if Obama loses as a result of this stuff, it could very well be said it’s because he’s black. This doesn’t necessarily mean those white voters are racists, just that they do not possess the cultural tools to examine race, faith, and culture beyond their own limited experience. Posted by Edward Gilbreath
Posted by Cindy Bunch at March 20, 2008 11:03 AM Bookmark and Share


How can you nuance emphatic assertions that the US Government engineered the AIDS virus to commit genocide against blacks? How can you nuance calls for his congregation to pray for God to damn America?

If the pitch is, "It's a black thing...you wouldn't understand..." I don't buy it.

Comment by: Kevin at March 21, 2008 9:37 AM

Kevin: Its not a black thing- its an empathy thing- and you DONT WANT to understand.

And by the way....
Did the government engineer AIDS? no evidence of it.
Did Reagan hold back taking the nesessary steps to contain AIDS when he could have, when the center for disease control KNEW what was happening?
Most Certianly!

Comment by: MIke at April 10, 2008 10:43 PM

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