Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jeremiah was a prophet?

Further to the what Kinky Friedman calls Obama's "Pastor Disaster," there has been an interesting exchange on the fantastic site Mirror of Justice. Greg Sisk begins it by reflecting on black liberation theology, exemplified by theologian James Cone and practiced by Jeremiah Wright. In Sisk's view, it often goes beyond the identification of injustice and the call for change to the incitement of hatred. He cites Cone's oft-quoted call for a God who hates and destroys:

If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community. . . . Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy.

For Sisk, there is a distinction between anger and hate. He contrasts Cone with Martin Luther King - something that I also do in my Law & Theology seminar.

In response, Eduardo Penlaver makes the whiteness as metaphor argument. When Cone refers to whites, he is referring to a system of oppression and not to individual white persons or even white people generally. He notes that Cone is often moving and prophetic.

I actually agree with the last sentence. As I think I have mentioned on this blog before, I cited Cone in a forthcoming law review article on the exclusion of worship from limited purpose public forums. I use him on the proposition that worship can have profound temporal implications, as it did in the segregation-era black church.

But I'm with Sisk who wries, in response, that "[w]hatever may have been originally intended when the theological terms were being defined in the quiet of an academic office, such rhetoric cannot be contained, especially when introduced to the public.

Most recently, Michael Perry posted this column on Wright by noted Lutheran theologian Martin Marty on his experience with Wright and Trinity Church. Marty found much to like about Wright, so much that, incredibly, he chooses to describe Wright's "fantasies about the U.S. government's role in spreading AIDS" as "distracting," ablbeit "harmful."

I find something slightly condescending about that. In an earlier post, I spoke to the racial etiquette that often distorts conversations about race. There is a notion that white people, to assuage their guilt and prove their good faith, must be "understanding" of exaggerated claims of injustice or, as in this case, crackpot theories of racial malevolence. One of the reasons that conservative talk radio is routinely branded as racist is that it fails to abide by this etiquette (although there are s few talkers who do come to the label honestly.

Marty notes that perhaps Jeremiah Wright was trying to live up to his name, acting as an Old Testament prophet who curses the enemy and calls upon God to strike them down.

Fair enough. The prophets are a major part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. But, for Christians, the Old Testament is not the end of the story. Nor did history stop on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

What is troubling about Jeremiah Wright is that, notwithstanding all the good that he has done (and I am sure that it is considerable), the incitement of racial resentment and the preaching of a world in which you can't win harms, rather than helps, his congregation.

What is troubling about Barack Obama - what makes all of this an issue - is that he does not appear to have seen that until he wanted to be President.

22 comments:

Seth Zlotocha said...

I find something slightly condescending about that.

I don't think this is an exclusively racial phenomenon, Rick. Religious figures -- heck, any figure speaking publicly -- can say ridiculous and divisive things w/o having those things define their work. I don't think Marty was suggesting the ridiculous and divisive things from Wright be forgiven b/c he's black, but rather b/c they don't define Wright as a minister.

As Marty concludes (emphasis mine): "Having said that, and reserving the right to offer more criticisms, I've been too impressed by the way Wright preaches the Christian Gospel to break with him. Those who were part of his ministry for years — school superintendents, nurses, legislators, teachers, laborers, the unemployed, the previously shunned and shamed, the anxious — are not going to turn their backs on their pastor and prophet."

This is key. I'm glad to see you're starting to come around to the idea that there's more to Wright than those YouTube loops, but then there's this:

What is troubling about Barack Obama - what makes all of this an issue - is that he does not appear to have seen that until he wanted to be President.

Ah, did someone like Marty hear them before? If so, why didn't he speak out publicly on it before?

I mean, come on. If there's no case to be made that the entirety of Wright's ministry is outlandish enough to expect Obama to leave his congregation, did you expect Obama to call a press conference after each service to publicly denounce the controversial statements he heard that morning, or to air the private disagreements he's had with his pastor? He hasn't publicly commented on what he has heard from Wright -- which he's said doesn't include the comments on AIDS (which, as far as I can tell, only came up in one sermon) or "God damn America" -- until now b/c they weren't a public issue until now; that doesn't mean, however, he never took private issue with anything Wright said.

What's more, Obama, quite importantly, has used his status in the black religious community to speak out against anti-Semitism and homophobia. This is pretty clear evidence that he hasn't passively accepted everything Wright or other black preachers say, nor has he pandered to them by saying all's well with their community in front of them and then admitting something different in front of other communities.

Some on the right are trying to say Obama has been no different than a politician like Romney when it comes to his religious background, but good luck finding any speeches that Romney gave to Mormon leaders or Bush gave to white evangelical leaders where they urge them to moderate the divisive views they hold.

Bottom line, if it's pretty clear that Wright is, on the whole, a solid preacher and upstanding member of the community, what did you expect from Obama until now? If leaving the church isn't necessary and speaking out to black religious leaders as a group isn't enough, then all that's left is singling out Wright publicly, which doesn't seem at all reasonable or productive.

Anonymous said...


I'm loving this

Rick Esenberg said...

Seth

If my pastor (whose picture you can find in last Sunday's Journal Sentinel) claimed that the US government created AIDS or intentionally gives drugs to blacks or is responsible for 9-11 or defined the enemy by race, I'd leave. I'd leave even though he was nice enough to call my wife both before and after a minor medical procedure to see how she was even though he was on vacation. I'd leave notwithstanding the fact that he walked a baby around the sanctuary on Easter to show her the Christian community who loves her. (Ok, I'm promoting the guy now.) I'd leave because some things, no matter how much they may be rooted in history, are too harmful to tolerate.

Wright was known in Chicago for this type of thing. Shortly after this whole thing broke, I got an e-mail from an Obama supporter who was bemoaning the fact that it was "over" because it was inconceivable, given Wright's reputation, that Obama hadn't heard this type of thing. (This guy incidentally would probably cheer much of what Wright says, although not the AIDS stuff.)

Seth Zlotocha said...

That's interesting, Rick, but your reaction to your pastor in a hypothetical situation isn't the issue here.

The issue is whether you think Obama along with other Trinity parishioners and supporters like Marty need to make a choice: Either reject Wright altogether and leave Trinity, or own these particular comments made by Wright that have, according to Marty, "distorted" an otherwise impressive and upstanding career preaching the Christian gospel.

Anonymous said...

Seth-

Even if we accept your nuanced articulation of the issue, phrased as un-objectively as it is, my answer would still be yeah, they need to make a choice. If you have even a passing familiarity with the Christian bible you understand that many of the statements made by Wright are in conflict with the aspirational virtue of the holy book.

I think its fair to say that the parishioners were claiming the statements as their own by applauding and cheering them and by doing so on more than one occasion. Now, did Obama do so? It strikes me that one who vehemently disagreed with such rhetoric would have a hard time fitting into this particular congregation, though I admittedly have never been to the church myself. So based upon that and Obama's close relationship with the pastor (during which he almost certainly became aware of the good reverend's views), I would say that he either needed to leave the church and the reverend behind, or the consequence would be ownership of the views associated with the two.

Seth Zlotocha said...

If you have even a passing familiarity with the Christian bible you understand that many of the statements made by Wright are in conflict with the aspirational virtue of the holy book.

I'm not particularly interested in what the Bible says; I come at this more from the perspective of whether these views would have a place in an Obama presidency, and based on Obama's repeated denouncements of them and his demonstrated willingness to confront black religious leaders, Wright included, on instances of hatred in the black community leads me to unequivocally conclude they won't.

As for the Bible, though, Marty knows it pretty well, and while he doesn't say these particular comments fit or conflict with it, he -- correctly, I'd say -- opts not to allow them to define Wright's preaching of it. If these comments were all Obama, Marty, and other parishoners heard from Wright, then I might be able to agree with your statement that they "would have a hard time fitting into this particular congregation," should they opt not to leave it; but I just don't think that's the case.

What's more, the real issue for Christians doesn't seem to be whether Wright's comments fit with the Bible, but rather whether their reaction to them fits with it. It appears to me that Marty is suggesting, in a sense, to reject the sin but not the one who committed it.

What do you think, Rick? Was Marty wrong not to break with Wright? And by not doing so, does he now own these particular statements by Wright? After all, even if he wasn't in the pews when some or all of them were spoken, it's pretty clear from his column that he knew Wright well enough to know he harbored these types of views, and, if nothing else, he certainly knows it now.

William Tyroler said...

Martin Marty's endorsement of Wright's hate speech is an excellent example of what Spengler (as well as Professor Esenberg) trenchantly terms the condescension of the liberal academic elites: "But the fact the liberal academy condescends to sponsor black liberation theology does not make it less peculiar to mainstream American Christians."

(An aside: Trinity's 6/10/07 bulletin contained an anti-Israel diatribe in the form of an "open letter" to Oprah Winfrey; more ravings, from a self-described "advisor" to Farrakhan, including the charming assertion that Israel and South Africa "worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs." No, Wright wasn't the author, but it was his church, and equally to the point, he was given to public derogation of Israel, which very name Wright pronounced "dirty." Just more impressive Gospel-preaching, one supposes.)

"Condescension" is a very apt way to describe the tendency to let Wright off the hook for hate speech that would be universally regarded as intolerable coming from someone not black.

Seth Zlotocha said...

"But the fact the liberal academy condescends to sponsor black liberation theology does not make it less peculiar to mainstream American Christians."

For starters, Marty is a mainstream American Christian, as is the pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church (which is Bill and Hillary Clinton's church, and the United Methodist Church in general is heralded as the largest mainline Protestant church in the US w/ over 8 million members) who similarly refused to condemn Wright while comdemning these particular statements.

Second, I'm wondering if Rick agrees with your and Spengler's view of black liberation theology, let alone the argument -- which you and Spengler seem to be implying -- that anyone from that tradition should be considered toxic for a potential president, even if the candidate clearly tends toward the integrative strands of that tradition, embodied most evidently by Martin Luther King Jr.

(And tending toward the King line of the tradition is pretty clearly the case with Obama; as he said in a key part of the Philly speech, my emphasis: "For the African-American community, [the path to a more perfect union] means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family.")

"Condescension" is a very apt way to describe the tendency to let Wright off the hook for hate speech that would be universally regarded as intolerable coming from someone not black.

As I noted to Rick, Marty wasn't saying Wright should be forgiven b/c he's black, but rather b/c these comments don't define his ministry.

(An aside: Interesting you'd dismiss someone based pretty much entirely on your perception of their tradition, in this case Marty's place in the so-called "liberal academy,"...you know, like you (wrongly) accused me of doing -- an "unseemly dodge," you called it -- in our last discussion.)

William Tyroler said...

you know, like you (wrongly) accused me of doing -- an "unseemly dodge," you called it

As then, you now want to change the topic. Professor Esenberg's post asserted that Wright's theological tradition "often goes beyond the identification of injustice and the call for change to the incitement of hatred." The professor conceded that Wright's mentor (Cone) "is often moving and prophetic." The burden of his post is that the hate-filled portion has a sort of viral effect when introduced to public discourse.

Because this discussion (necessarily) occurs at a level of generality I provided an example: church sponsorship, in the form of publication of an "open letter" to Oprah, which alleged Israeli research on an "ethnic bomb" (among other ravings). Seth ignores this concrete example of how Wright provided a medium for the transmisison of an ancient virus. As he did the last time, when he dismissed Trinity promotion of Hamas agit-prop, Seth dodges the problem here, with discussion of Marty's taxonomic place.

As I noted to Rick, Marty wasn't saying Wright should be forgiven b/c he's black, but rather b/c these comments don't define his ministry.

Robert Hansen, Wisconsin supreme court justice and wonderful aphorist, once remarked that an egg that is at all bad is all bad. How much hate-filled bilge should be tolerated from a preacher before it is said that he is all bad? A whole lot, apparently, if Seth has his way. Seth's way is the bigotry of low expectations.

And we come back to the problem that haunts all those who think that Obama is the avatar of racial healing: his guru is a hate-monger.

Seth Zlotocha said...

As then, you now want to change the topic.

I -- in an aside -- note that your only response to Marty was that he comes from the "liberal academic elite," and that's somehow changing the subject?

Professor Esenberg's post asserted that Wright's theological tradition "often goes beyond the identification of injustice and the call for change to the incitement of hatred." The professor conceded that Wright's mentor (Cone) "is often moving and prophetic." The burden of his post is that the hate-filled portion has a sort of viral effect when introduced to public discourse.

Again, I'll let Rick clarify, if he's interested, whether or not he agrees with your and Spengler's feelings about black liberation theology being decidedly separatist, along with your implicit argument that anyone coming from that tradition is toxic to a presidential candidate; in other words, whether it's possible to maintain an integrative stance on race in America -- which most would agree is a necessity for a US president -- while maintaining connections to scholars in the tradition of black liberation theology.

Because this discussion (necessarily) occurs at a level of generality I provided an example: church sponsorship, in the form of publication of an "open letter" to Oprah, which alleged Israeli research on an "ethnic bomb" (among other ravings). Seth ignores this concrete example of how Wright provided a medium for the transmisison of an ancient virus. As he did the last time, when he dismissed Trinity promotion of Hamas agit-prop, Seth dodges the problem here, with discussion of Marty's taxonomic place.

I haven't dodged anything. As I stated on the last thread, Wright's reprinting of a column -- and now and open letter -- in the Trinity bulletin doesn't say anything about any anti-Semitism or sympathetic feelings toward terrorist groups like Hamas on the part of Obama, Marty, or anyone else who condemns some of Wright's statements and beliefs w/o also condemning him as a person or pastor entirely.

And, as evidence for my position, I noted how Obama has spoken out against anti-Semitism to black religious leaders, Wright included, condemned the reprinting of the Hamas column as "outrageously wrong," and demonstrated at every chance open hostility toward Hama along with a firm commitment to the US's allied relationship with Israel as the fundamental cornerstone of America's policy in the Middle East. You, amazingly, called the former "beside the point," while ignoring the latter two.

Robert Hansen, Wisconsin supreme court justice and wonderful aphorist, once remarked that an egg that is at all bad is all bad. How much hate-filled bilge should be tolerated from a preacher before it is said that he is all bad? A whole lot, apparently, if Seth has his way. Seth's way is the bigotry of low expectations.

And we come back to the problem that haunts all those who think that Obama is the avatar of racial healing: his guru is a hate-monger.


Nice attempt to avoid the fact that you have no defense for your original statement on Marty, which is that he was only forgiving Wright b/c he's black.

I could really care less about a cliche from Robert Hansen.

And the bottom line is that you're going to continue to rely on misreading black liberation theology as decidedly separatist, along with a handful of soundbites from Wright and a couple of reprintings in the Trinity bulletin for evidence that Wright is nothing more than a hate-mongering bigot, and I'm going to rely on statements by mainstream figures in the Christian community (among others) who know Wright and have actually followed his career as a pastor as evidence that there's much more to Wright than those soundbites and reprintings.

And, perhaps most importantly, I'm going to continue to look to Obama, as opposed to relying on Wright, for evidence of what Obama thinks and feels about race, foreign policy, black liberation theology, and every other issue at stake in this election; and I'm going to continue to accept the fact that you don't need to reject someone altogether if you want to avoid owning everything they say and do, and how that is a decidedly less productive and useful stance for the leader of our nation than trying to find common ground w/ large communities of people who you don't entirely agree with -- as opposed to fringe groups who you do entirely disagree with -- so that you can be in a position to make progress on resolving the differences you do have, which is exactly what Obama has done when speaking out to black religious leaders on anti-Semitism, homophobia, and conflicts with the Hispanic community as well as calling out the black community in general to work toward integrating their complaints with the similar problems of white people rather than defining the two in opposition to each other.

Jim C. said...

I now come to this blog for Seth's comments ---

You've been missed, Seth. Welcome back!

William Tyroler said...

No offense, Seth, but your predilection for irrelevant details gets in the way of a full debate. Whether I am right or wrong in labeling Marty a "liberal" in the theological world is simply of no moment. If it will assist in cutting through the underbrush camouflaging your position then fine, attach to him any label you want. (But note that my quote from Spengler referred to the "liberal academy"; and that Marty runs a center in his name at the U of Chicago. Nonetheless, the distinction between the academy and the "mainstream" denomination to which Marty belongs need not, as I say, detain anyone here. If anyone is still paying attention, which is quite unlikely.)

With Marty out of the way, you're left with a fallow field. I think this is what you're saying, though I'm not entirely sure. I think you agree that the Hamas agit-prop was a form of church-sponsored hate speech. That is, you seemingly agree with Obama's condemnation of it as "outrageously wrong." Nor do you really challenge the denunciation of any of the other items discussed previously at length ; for that matter the mainstream media heaped lavish praise on The Speech exactly because, in its collective view, "Obama rejected Wright's divisive statements."

And so we can narrow the dispute to whether Obama shares the ideas exprssed in his spiritual guru's "divisive statements." Guess what? I have never said Obama does. It is a reflection on Obama's ability to bring about racial "healing" (the notion promoted by his wide-eyed enthusiasts) that he sat in silence while Wright raved on. And that Obama helped legitimate the man.

Your response to that objection is: So what? Obama has spoken out forcefully against the sort of hate exhibited by his very own reverend. That's the nub of this controversy: to you, it doesn't matter whether Obama belonged to a church that served as a medium for hate, so long as Obama spoke out -- but not against the church; not until political expediency forced him to make some carefully hedged denunciations. That isn't a problem for you, it is for me. Not even Martin Marty can bridge the yawning perceptual gap between us.

At the risk of being presumptuous, I suspect you have little to no familiarity with the role of the "blood libel" in Jewish history. (An assumption preferable to the idea that you're simply insensitive to its application here.) The "ethnic bomb" so breathlessly promoted under Trinity auspices is a species of "blood libel".

That is the church to which Obama belonged and lent the prestige of his name. In your view none of this matters. Instead, you're going to:

look to Obama, as opposed to relying on Wright, for evidence of what Obama thinks and feels about race, foreign policy, black liberation theology, and every other issue at stake in this election

That's your call. I will continue the question the judgment of a man who for years abided hate speech in his place of worship. And when, as seems to be his wont, he relies for advice on individuals who are either hostile toward Israel or ascribe excessive clout to Jews or both, then my concerns about his judgment are sharpened.

Finally, I am sorry to hear about your disinterest in Justice Hansen's writing style. He had a wonderful ability to condense a good deal of thought into a few words. We could all benefit from his style. For example, I believe this entire dispute can be summed up in your disagreement with the following principle:

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

Seth Zlotocha said...

No offense, Seth, but your predilection for irrelevant details gets in the way of a full debate. Whether I am right or wrong in labeling Marty a "liberal" in the theological world is simply of no moment.

I don't care that you labeled Marty a "liberal academic elite" (although I'd question whether working at the U of Chicago necessitates liberalism; case in point would be the Chicago school of economic thought); my concern was that you used that label as the sole means for dismissing his points about Wright.

With Marty out of the way

When did that happen?

It is a reflection on Obama's ability to bring about racial "healing" (the notion promoted by his wide-eyed enthusiasts) that he sat in silence while Wright raved on. And that Obama helped legitimate the man.

Your response to that objection is: So what?


No; as you go on to explain, my response was precisely that Obama hasn't "sat in silence while Wright raved on."

That's the nub of this controversy: to you, it doesn't matter whether Obama belonged to a church that served as a medium for hate, so long as Obama spoke out

There's actually another layer to my argument, which is that it's highly desirable that the leader of the US refuse to reject altogether large communities in this country simply b/c they don't agree on everything, even if the things they disagree on are instances of hatred and extremity. Again, if it's a fringe group that's entirely based around and focused on hatred, then that changes the equation, but I think the case has been made pretty clear by mainstream Christian theologians and pastors like Marty and Dean Synder (the pastor at Foundry United Methodist Church) that there's much to like about Wright and Trinity in spite of those aspects that deserve condemnation and derision.

not until political expediency forced him to make some carefully hedged denunciations.

As I noted to Rick earlier, Obama never publicly commented on his church before running for president because it was never a public issue until he ran for president.

In the end, I'm not going to try to convince you not to be concerned about Obama's judgment when it comes to Israel (which seems to be your primary concern). There are prominent pro-Israeli writers who support Obama and dispute the anti-Israel charges leveled against him in places like the American Thinker and the American Spectator, like Marty Peretz (see here and here for two examples), but I'm sure none of that will change your mind, so, beyond that, I'm not sure there's much to say that hasn't already been said.

William Tyroler said...

When did Marty get out of the way? Perhaps I was indeed hasty in my dismissal. I think this is Seth's syllogism (my words follow, certainly not his):

Marty says that, contrary to the assertions of some, Wright (and Black Liberation Theology) don't encourage hate and racial divisiveness; Marty is a "mainstream" theologian; therefore, Wright and BLT are within the mainstream of religious thought.

I think that process of reasoning assumes an awful lot. (And, to be sure, perhaps I've mischaracterized it as Seth's.) I do, to be clear, think there's a nice question about BLT and the liberal academy, but ultimately it's (again: to my mind) a distraction.

Here's the problem in concrete terms: if what Wright said wasn't really so bad (which may or not be Seth's view, or Marty's; I'm not sure), then why did Obama bother to denounce it or reject it, or whatever it was he's said to have done? To those who think that Wright is more or less within the "mainstream," or merely "controversial": why didn't Obama have the conojes to withstand the heat? Either his "denunciation" was (because quite dilatory) expedient and unprincipled, or his failure to stand behind his guru was the same. I don't see a middle ground.

To this argument Seth responds: Obama never publicly commented on his church before running for president because it was never a public issue until he ran for president. But he trumpeted the church; he titled "Audacity of Hope" in Wright's honor. Obama very publicly linked himself to Trinity. He never saw the problem. Perhaps a moral lacuna; perhaps the benefits at that point simply seemed to him to outweigh any costs; perhaps both.

As to my "primary concern" being "Obama's judgment when it comes to Israel": well, it's certainly a concern, but hardly my primary one. As to the latter, it is one that is clearly not non-controversial; I'm much more concerned about his stated intent (maybe truthful; maybe not) to precipitately withdraw our troops from Iraq. But that is surely a different topic. I did harp on Israel, Jews and the blood libel ... but that is because it's another reflection of the company Obama keeps and why it's not enough that he mouths platitudes about healing when his own church is so problematic (a matter of opinion, I grant).

As to Seth's point about prominent pro-Israeli writers supporting Obama: true, very true. A number of same, to be sure, are Jewish. If that places me in the minority, it is still a place I'm very glad to be.

I'm done. I thank Seth again for a civil discussion that allowed me to sound out some of my thoughts. (I trust I was civil, if not I apologize for what I recognize as a tendency to be a bit choleric.)

Seth Zlotocha said...

Just want to clarify...

Here's the problem in concrete terms: if what Wright said wasn't really so bad (which may or not be Seth's view, or Marty's; I'm not sure)

That's not my view, nor is it Marty's (based on his column). My and Marty's (and Obama's, for that matter) view is that while these comments by Wright are really bad, there's much more to his ministry and that much more is often really good.

But he trumpeted the church; he titled "Audacity of Hope" in Wright's honor. Obama very publicly linked himself to Trinity.

Yes, Obama has publicly linked himself to Wright and Trinity, but that doesn't mean he was promoting every view and position of Wright and the church by doing so. And, it's worth noting, there's nothing particularly offensive -- and much that's uplifting -- about Wright's "Audacity to Hope" sermon, which can be read here. But it's still worth noting that in Obama's Audacity of Hope book, the uplift is still there, but he transforms it from the hope for personally overcoming a polarized world -- which was Wright's aim -- to hope for uniting a politicized US; in other words, he took what was good about Wright's message -- the need for hope -- and placed it firmly within a broader integrative framework for society, which I think serves as a perfect demonstration of how Obama is able to take the good in Wright and BLT while simultaneously urging it further in its assessment of society as a whole, not to mention the opportunities for dialogue that would be lost if Obama opted to take the route of the consummate poll-conscious politician and toss aside Wright and Trinity, and in the process his moderating voice in the black religious community.

Anonymous said...

Clarification.... There are 3 main Lutheran synods. Wisconsin (WELS)and Missouri (LCMS) are of the Evengelical, conservative, traditional variety and are generally gaining membership. The laughingly called Evengelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the liberal, anything goes, feel-good variety that is generally losing membership. Case in point, I left an ELCA church to join an LCMS church. My kids go to the school there as well.

However, we don't preach or teach any hatred of those of differing races or orientations.

Tolerance only means you accept and love the person, not that you have to accept and love their ideas or choices. Liberals like Seth have hijacked the meaning of tolerance to basically say that if you don't agree with them, you are therefore intolerant and should be silenced. The irony is that makes them the most intolerant of all.

rc

Seth Zlotocha said...

Liberals like Seth have hijacked the meaning of tolerance to basically say that if you don't agree with them, you are therefore intolerant and should be silenced.

I'm not trying to be flip, rc, but I have no idea what you're talking about. Can you be more specific about who I'm claiming should be silenced?

Terrence Berres said...

Seth Zlotcha wrote "Again, I'll let Rick clarify, if he's interested, whether or not he agrees with your and Spengler's feelings about black liberation theology being decidedly separatist, along with your implicit argument that anyone coming from that tradition is toxic to a presidential candidate;"

Senator Obama appears to lean toward Spengler's view, saying in an interview for broadcast today on 'The View' that "Had the reverend not retired, and had he [then] not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church."

Seth Zlotocha said...

Senator Obama appears to lean toward Spengler's view

Except for the fact that quote from Obama doesn't equate to what Spengler wrote.

Spengler was writing under the assumption that Black Liberation Theology is decidedly separatist; this quote from Obama isn't agreeing with that. Spengler also wrongly assumes the only two relationships Obama could possibly have with Trinity are either complete agreement w/ Wright or political positioning; this quote from Obama isn't agreeing with that either.

Seth Zlotocha said...

Just to clarify what is perhaps causing the confusion, this controversy isn't about Wright being a pastor in the tradition of black liberation theology. This controversy is about particular statements by Wright that go beyond what most people -- Obama included -- would consider to be reasonable assessments of the US and, more specifically, its policies.

To be sure, if this was just about black liberation theology in itself being offensive to the American public at large, you'd be seeing virutally every sermon by Wright in its entirety causing a firestorm since they all are written from the tradition of black liberation theology. These particular statements were picked out of those sermons b/c they are beyond the pale, not b/c they define the entirety of Wright's sermonizing.

Terrence Berres said...

Mr. Zlotcha:

Above you said, "The issue is whether you think Obama along with other Trinity parishioners and supporters like Marty need to make a choice: Either reject Wright altogether and leave Trinity, or own these particular comments made by Wright that have, according to Marty, 'distorted' an otherwise impressive and upstanding career preaching the Christian gospel."

Sen. Obama now says that, had Rev. Wright not retired, he would have chosen the alternative of leaving Trinity.

Seth Zlotocha said...

I just got done watching the full interview on "The View," which you can see here, and I have mixed feelings about that particular comment.

On the one hand, if Wright did continue as pastor at Trinity, I think there would be some expectation that he comment on these statements; and if those comments reinforced these particular statements even after the firestorm he's seen them cause -- not just for Obama's campaign, but also for black theology -- then I could see where Obama wouldn't want to be a part of Wright's congregation moving forward.

And Obama, quite importantly, isn't taking back in this comment his stance on not rejecting Wright altogether based on these statements. In fact, he reiterated in this same interview that there's much more to Wright than those statements, and while he denounces those statements, he doesn't feel they compel him to denounce Wright altogether. In explaining that he spoke to Wright recently, Obama said: "I think he's saddened by what's happened, and I told him I feel badly that he has been characterized just in this one way, and people haven't seen this broader aspect of him."

At the same time, it bothers me to see Obama allow hypothetical situations cloud the position he took in reality, and what's worse is that the hypothetical situation was of his own doing. To explain, the context of the question was Barbara Walters asking him -- justifiably, I'd say -- about comments he made supporting the decision to fire Don Imus. Walters wanted to know if, had Wright remained the pastor at Trinity, Obama thinks the same should've happened to him. It was a fair question, and Obama really pinned himself into that answer based on his response to the Imus affair, which is actually where I think he screwed up. He shouldn't have taken a position on Imus' firing, and that he did strikes me as a characteristically political move.

And that's important because what attracted me (and I imagine others) to Obama's candidacy, in large part, is his demonstrated ability and willingness to eschew the route of the poll-driven politician who parses and panders in favor of that of a leader who seeks to broaden understanding and consideration of complex issues. That's exactly what I think he did with his Philadelphia speech, in terms of both the complexity of race and the complexity of relationships. But what he did in the Imus situation -- and what led to this comment on "The View" -- works, unfortunately, in the opposite direction.

In the end, though, it's not enough, in my view, to trump everything else he has said and done regarding this issue along with the other instances when Obama hasn't acted like the consummate politician. To paraphrase Andrew Sullivan, Obama isn't perfect, but I still appreciate the difference.