Putting Obama’s pastor’s preaching in perspective

Diana Butler Bass comments on the media’s lack of understanding of preaching in a congregation and especially the nature of black preaching. At God’s Politics a blog by Jim Wallis and friends on Beliefnet she writes:

The current media flap over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor, strikes me as nothing short of strange. Anyone who attends church on a regular basis knows how frequently congregants disagree with their ministers. To sit in a pew is not necessarily assent to a message preached on a particular day. Being a church member is not some sort of mindless cult, where individuals believe every word preached. Rather, being a church member means being part of a community of faith—a gathered people, always diverse and sometimes at odds, who constitute Christ’s body in the world.

But the attack on Rev. Wright reveals something beyond ignorance of basic dynamics of Christian community. It demonstrates the level of misunderstanding that still divides white and black Christians in the United States. Many white people find the traditions of African-American preaching offensive, especially when it comes to politics.

I know because I am one of those white people.

Read it all here.

Church Executive Magazine has more here.

The Daily News of Los Angeles carries this commentary with the note “Well I guess on the bright side of things, there should be no more questions about whether or not Sen. Barack Obama is a Christian.”

The fact is that Wright isn’t the first or the last preacher or black to call out America for her racist history – a history that for some reason we are always being encouraged to forget because today Americans are “transcending” race.

Is that why black men and women are being imprisoned almost as fast as their mothers can give birth to them? Is that why a man who called a group of young black women “nappy-headed hos” is still on the radio? And were we rising above race when it was joked that Tiger Woods should be lynched?

Previous story in The Lead here.

The Washington Post reports Wright’s congregation’s defense of their retired pastor:

To his supporters, the message Wright wove through more than 4,000 sermons is now disseminated in a handful of grainy, two-minute video clips that tell only part of his story. Yes, they acknowledge, he was sometimes overcome at the pulpit by a righteous rage about racism and social injustice. But he was a radical who also inspired women to preach, gays to marry and predominantly white youth groups to visit his services. Until he retired last month, Wright, 66, implored all comers at Trinity to “get happy” — to shout, to sing, to dance in the aisles while he preached the gospel.

“The world is only seeing this tiny piece of him,” Moss said. “Right now, we are all being vilified. This isn’t just about Trinity, isn’t just about [Wright]. This is an attack on the African American church tradition, and that’s the way we see it. This is an attempt to silence our voice.”

Read the story here.

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