Tuesday, March 18, 2008

hatred and hope

so, Barack Obama's former pastor said some things over his many-year-long career, quotes taken out of context are swirling around, probably found and sent out exactly at the time the clinton camp wanted them to be.
the pastor said these things to
an african-american church in the politically corrupt city of chicago, about the evils of racism in america.
absolutely. and well he should have.
if the gospel isn't about overturning the tables of the rich who oppress the poor, what was jesus doing?
if the gospel isn't about fighting for the rights of the poor and oppressed, why did jesus say his mission was "to give sight to the blind, give hope to the oppressed, set the prisoner free"? did he mean that only theoretically, or was he much more of a radical than we think?
the gospel has given hope to the oppressed throughout history - the christians in rome, for instance, or the poor in many countries, including latin america, where "liberation theology" became important. it's about the liberation of the poor. that comes from questioning - and challenging - the powers that be.
the gospel's message of god's self-declaration to moses and the israelites - "i am the god who brought you out of egypt, and made you free instead of slaves" - gave african-descended slaves in america hope.
Obama said today that the original sin of america is slavery.
i say, its children are all the forms of racism which still exist.
Obama also said that his pastor made a mistake; as a man who had lived in Jim Crow segregation, and had not experienced anywhere near the change he and his people longed for, the pastor did not see that enough progress had been made in opening america's power to the formerly disenfranchised. the pastor was angry that it wasn't changing. he was stirring his people up, challenging them.
this is what the prophets do throughout the bible.
the pastor quotes the jewish and christian scriptures, which say that if a nation does what is wrong in the sight of the lord, the lord damns that nation.
well, this nation's continued prejudice and fear-based territorial thinking have indeed been damn-worthy. i'm with him. it's what i think jesus wants, as well - set this nation's beautiful dreams free by fighting against every system and decision which keeps us from being fully what we can be - a land in which all men and women are equal.
in this country, today, an african-american man, a descendant of african slaves and european american immigrants, is really really close to being elected as president of the united states. that's amazing. beautiful. it makes me proud of this country and how far we've come.
Obama said today that his former pastor just couldn't see that so much progress had been made, and for that the pastor was wrong.
i agree.

and how many of us have ever worked in a company, or been members of a church, or been part of a family, in which the ceo or parent or pastor said things we didn't agree with - but we saw the greater good in that person? i think that's what's happened here.

if this is what brings Obama down, i am sad that this country cannot see itself more clearly. because we've still got a long way to go. i am proud of us, that we're working so hard. but we're not there yet.

is it wrong to preach hate? yes.
is it wrong to call people to what the prophets all called people to - namely, the "zeal of the lord" for what is right and a passion for challenging what isn't as it should be?
no. it is not wrong.
a far greater wrong is apathy in the face of what isn't right - the apathy of the american christian church, for instance, toward the poor ... the very hypocrisy that turns so many people off about church - the apathy of the christian church toward prejudice and racism and sexism and violence are all SINS.

so, that pastor was pissed off? he was angry with america? hey, america, if you can't handle that there's legitimacy in that, get tougher. as they say, if that's the straw that broke your camel's back, you need a stronger camel.


Melinda Hasting said...

Yeah. I agree. Much of what the pastor said resonated with me.

I have been blurting a scaled down version of this when I rail against a public school system that pushes minority dropouts out of its line of sight in order to assuage its guilt for failing to educate them.

I wrote a piece called "Back of the Bus" that high schoolers distributed all over the capitol that decried legislators who forced hundreds of black and brown students to wait seven hours to testify while white kids and adults went first. (They had important stuff to attend to!)

I cried and wrote and shouted last year over the abuses kids suffer in the Texas Youth Commission where, again, they're forced out of sight so we don't have to think about them.

If I were your pastor and you ran for president, I could ruin your campaign.

Since when did America become a place where we can't get mad at ourselves?


Rick Diamond said...

i hope that if a journeyer runs for office, whoever's checking that person's story has to struggle with journey being her/his faith community ....

nonprofitprophet said...

We are going to have to agree to disagree to an extent. I understand that the pastor was using God Damned American in a certain context, and not just blanket GD the USA. It probably is using sound bites out of overall context. But the soundbites are awful.

I may not agree with my pastor 100% of the time about certain issues. (As you know, its more like half the time in my case). Its okay. I cannot fathom, however, that Obama did not know about this rhetoric. I am concerned about that. Its not about the pastor, but about Obama's honesty in the situation. If I went to David Duke's church for 20 years and said "Hey, I didn't hear him say anything about the Klan", I doubt many folks would believe that. I ain't buying it either. If he would have just said from the beginning "yes, i have heard that and have told Wright I disagree" then fine. But thats not what Obama the Politician said. And maybe thats just a politicians response...
But actions speak louder than words to me. Always will.

As you say, jewish and christian literature/scriptures "say that if a nation does what is wrong in the sight of the lord, the lord damns that nation." Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson used that same language when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and they caught 3 types of Hell over it. Evangelicals said that about homosexuality and the AIDS virus. Is it true in some instances while false in others? Is this another way for one group to blame another for problems?

I guess I am just tired of groups labeling other groups as the cause of their problems - no matter the group. There are certain crazies in every camp - doesn't make the whole tribe crazy. Wrong is wrong and evil is evil.

Yes, Jesus turned over the temple tables. Yes he caused problems. Heck, I cause problems as you know. Jesus never blamed someone for the color of thier skin, but the content of their hearts. There is a reason he used a Samaritan as the Good person in the parable.

So Pastor Wright is wrong for what he says. I don't think Obama is honest that he knew nothing about it. I don't think liberation theology is the overriding message of Jesus. It doesn't translate well "love thy neighbor" if you are spewing hate from the pulpit.

so we agree and disagree. I may just be cynical of politicians in general. I dont' like abuse or hatred, no matter the source.

love ya brother. ~npp

Rick Diamond said...

no, npp - we don't disagree as much as you think. it did occur to me that this is not so different from any other i'm-telling-you-why-god-damns-you message, and i CANNOT STAND those. they're using god as a justification for their own prejudices, etc. that's not okay. (it ain't new, but it ain't okay.)
for this pastor to be so hateful? not okay. period.
as i said, for him to call for change, point out what's wrong, etc.? that's good.
part of the problem is that in the bible, there's one test: if it's the people with power (a jerry falwell or pat robertson, for instance) to speak for god is suspect; for a leftover, outsider, stranger to speak for god is probably correct. but hateful language still ain't right.
obama should've distanced himself from this pastor if he didn't believe in what he was saying - just for political reasons.

i want them all to do the right thing for the common good, not for their own egos!!!!!!!

nonprofitprophet said...

Yes. Where is Mr. Smith when you need him? By the way, planning another palooza this spring. Will send you the dates by email. ~npp

Rick Diamond said...


y'know, where IS mr. smith??? i was at some level hoping obama was a mr. smith.
and - i think there's a parallel here. turns out, in mr. smith's state the politicians are corrupt and there's a constant, if not as overt, message of control and power and anger. a power struggle. and so there is in chicago. and people get ahold of it and start smearing him. and yet - he was pretty naive and shoulda been a lot more shrewd if he wanted to go to the big show. too trusting. oh well.
been there.

nonprofitprophet said...

yes - my thoughts as well. unless he is so goooooood at this politics game that he is better at hiding it, as opposed to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where the power struggles and politics were very overt. I know, i'm being cynical of the system again. Guess thats what I get for having worked in it for so long.

Rick Diamond said...

no, no, npp - you're right. i guess that's part of why i'm bummed - i really think obama is sharp and uncorrupt and this throws me. i'm trying to see beyond all the commentators' and pundits' and politicians' use of this for their own ends.
fucking politics!

Joe Rutland said...

I'd like to interject this thought, which may or may not have absolutely ZERO to do with this topic.

Do you think Jesus had big, uh, grapefruits? Gee, I sure think that dude did.

Politics? Politics? In the American Christian Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Cross of Calvary by the Literal Word of God? Oh mercy ... I may need my smelling salts.

Like the give-take btw journeyingrick and npp. You guys rock.

Lady Melinda ... you keep on fighting that fight. You are an awesome woman.

Anonymous said...

I'm not certain that this is the forum to state this, so if it's inappropriate, you can spank me later. ; )

I am extremely unhappy with Obama. Like you said, he is very sharp. Sharp enough say, to manipulate public opinion using the cards in the deck which up till now, have pretty much been off limits.

I was on the fence about Obama until I read that he stated that slavery was America's original sin.

First and foremost, I want a solid separation between church and state. My personal perception of Obama is that he is neither spiritual nor religious. So when I see that he is digging deep into the south with such statements it causes me to seriously lose respect for him. This behavior isn't worthy of a great leader. This behavior is designed to ignite longstanding bitterness between Americans in the hope that he may turn the emotions of those who feel (justified or not) slighted by racism over the years toward him, as a solution. This in my book is exactly the kind of "leader" that America does NOT need right now.

This isn't concern over the well being of the country and all of it's inhabitants, this is an example of a unethical politician whose ambition has unbalanced his ability to remain ethical before any real burden of responsibility has even been applied.

America's original sin was NOT slavery. Any man or woman of Native American Indian descent will tell you so. To dredge up this kind of ill will for his own selfish purposes is a CLEAR indicator that this man simply isn't up to the task of keeping race, religion or creed OUT of the bizness of running an entire country. Any country, let alone a country which has terrifically varied interests and agendas among a huge number of special interest groups.

So yeah, I'm more than disappointed with him, I'm actually a little pissed.

Just my two cents worth.


Rick Diamond said...

FF - fascinating. what i hear in your comment is what i was looking for in obama's speech, and i heard it completely differently than you did - the opposite, in fact. i thought his speech said, "Yeah, there's a problem with racism. but we've made huge progress, and those who can't see that aren't getting what's happening. i want to move forward. let's go, together." that's actually a great way to address the race issue - hey, folks, yeah, there's been a huge problem - so, let's face it down and dig in.
i would expand by saying that the self-focus of white europeans who came to america and decimated its indigenous people, and then used other people - from asia, from latin america, from africa - to help them build their empire. so, he's right, if it's in the larger context of that entire cycle.
"original sin" isn't a religious term - it's a metaphor. the idea of "original sin" comes from the early christian theologians, who said that adam and eve's eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree made all human beings infected with that "sinful" nature. obama's saying that because america has in its deep history this domination by european americans, to the detriment of all people of color, infected america. to use the metaphor further, the remedy for original sin is salvation through redemption from sin. to face it, to lay it out there, to ask the Creator into it, and make it different. in this case, the Creator to whom he is referring is the principles upon which america was founded.
i think he is saying something amazing and important and powerful.

but hey, we just heard it differently. you're still a stud and so am i !!! aho!!!

Rick Diamond said...

joe -
JESUS HAD AMAZING HUGE SOUL GRAPEFRUITS!!! it takes balls to be that strong. PERIOD!

Anonymous said...

I would certainly love to think I had misinterpreted what his intention was. I will have to get more data.


Rick Diamond said...

i may also have misinterpreted. so, i'm watching for more data myself ...