A while back, I made some comments about John McCain and his pursuit of the endorsements of ministers like John Hagee and Rod Parsely. I feel I should also take a moment and comment on the broohaha over Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
First, I think it’s generally more insidious and theologically problematic for a church to wrap itself in the American flag than to be cautious towards, if not out-right critical of, “the powers of this world.” So, on the charge that the church in question doesn’t love America, I’m dubious. I think it’s better to say the church in question challenges the actions of the government of the United States when it believes the government acts in ways contrary to the gospel. Frankly, that’s perfectly reasonable.
However, Jeremiah Wright has certainly said some things that fall into the category of unreasonable, i.e. that AIDS was invented by the government or that the government gives illegal drugs to black people so it can throw them in jail. I can only assume that the level of distrust and anger that emanates from such statements is beyond my ability as a child of relative privilege, security and comfort to fully comprehend. Still, his comments are wrong and should be called as such.
On the issue of 9/11, Wright’s comments bear examining. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, you had people on the extreme religious right saying the attacks were a judgment from God on America for having too many gay people and abortions, a line of reasoning that is, on many levels, ridiculous. On the other hand, you have those like Wright saying the attacks were a response to years of heavy-handed US foreign policy, a charge that bears a somewhat tighter grasp of reality than the former. The terror attacks didn’t happen in a vacuum. Many people have grievances against our government; it’s neither unpatriotic nor a symptom of the so-called “blame America first” mentality to examine those grievances and ask some honestly tough questions concerning the foreign policy of this nation. Doing this in no way excuses the violence of that September morning.
Now, there are those suggesting (or saying outright) that because Jeremiah Wright holds these views, Barack Obama must as well. This is, of course, nonsense. If you look back at Sen. Obama’s years of public service, can you find any speeches, interviews, casual conversations, etc. that suggest that the Senator from Illinois is anything other than a man who works very hard to bring together people from all walks of life? Concerning Sen. Obama’s repudiation of Wright’s comments, Andrew Sullivan sums it up well: “[you can] believe that this is a sincere message given by a sincere person; or a phony message delivered by a fraud. The only way to really know which is to look at his record. It seems to me that Obama has been motivated by the same themes from the very start, and still offers the same hope of unity that has been the core of his campaign for president from the beginning.”
I should also add that my criticism of Sen. McCain is not because I fear he might buy into the bologna John Hagee sells; I’m sure he won’t. I just find it disappointing that in order to be a successful Republican, one must pay lip service to these people who are, frankly, very well suited for their 2 AM time slot.
Ok, that’s my two cents. That and 5 bucks will buy you a venti, breve, half-caff latte.