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April 1, 2008

In The Preacherís Defense

Derek Shackelford

So far this presidential election has developed many subplots. They – if we are not careful as voters – will take us away from the important issues that affect this nation.


The media has a way of dictating to the masses what the important issues are and should be. What happens in these instances is that voters take the media as the source for what candidate is the flavor of the month and what issues should be the focus. And, if voters are not careful, they will be swept into casting their ballots for these candidates and for the issues important to these media darlings.


The reason that I bring this for consideration is the media attention given to Sen. Barack Obama, not for the issues that are important to the voter but because of something that increases Nielsen ratings and sells newspapers.


This something is due to comments – or should I say – sermons delivered by Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. The sound bites have been played on most major television networks and radio talk shows. It is interesting to note that the entire sermon in context has not been played, just sound bites that could be used to shape a presidential election. The sound bites that have been played over and over again portray the Reverend Wright as a racist, one who is unpatriotic, and un-American. It could be said that some of the comments made by him are controversial and divisive, but racist – that is a stretch.


One could spend time defending Wright’s credentials and his work as a pastor but that speaks for itself. As one who has read some of the Reverend Wright’s works, listened to his lectures, and listened to his sermons, I can say rather confidently that the man is being misinterpreted.


Does this mean that I agree with all of views? No! I don’t agree with any individual’s views entirely. The Reverend Wright served in the United States Marines, speaks five languages fluently, and has earned several degrees from prestigious institutions. He was the same pastor of the same church for 30 years. This does not exempt one from making mistakes just because they have impressive credentials.


After thousands of sermons if a minister has not said something, anything controversial, it causes some to think they are not doing their job.


Does this mean one can use the pulpit for their personal opinion and personal commentary? One would hope not; but it happens. After all, as human beings, we are flawed people.


It should be noted that the clips that were shown attempted to display the Reverend Wright as one who is angry and divisive. It should be noted that he is equally hard on African Americans, just as he is on any other race of people. He is an equal opportunity critic when it comes to this nation and its failure to live up to its creed.


The sermon that spoke of the 9/11 tragedy, in which he spoke of chickens coming home to roost, should be judges after listening to the entire sermon and its context.


Mr. Wright spoke of former Ambassador Edward Peck and his comments on Fox News. No one has called Ambassador Peck un-American, unpatriotic, or racist. If they have, then I stand corrected.


In the context of the sermon, the Reverend Wright uses the pronoun “We.” This is inclusive, himself included. He talks about how the United States has perpetrated violence over the years, and how peace should be the answer in relationship to the Gospel.


One can disagree with his analysis and viewpoint, but how can anyone emphatically state that these comments were un-American?


Listen to it in its entirety and judge the context. It often appears that when one speaks out of mainstream thought, then one is wrong in their analysis of America.


The Reverend Wright is not a politician. He is a preacher. He does not have to worry about polls, approval ratings, or financial supporters. He is a preacher. If only some people could be so free in saying what we truly believe or what we truly think.


Mr. Wright deals with social critique of injustice as the prophets of old. Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah…were some of the prophets who had critiques of the oppression of the poor, injustices, and wars that were rampant in the world. The prophets did not benefit when the world was wrong, for their hope was to right the world.


How does this relate to Senator Obama? The senator is being blamed for the comments of the Reverend Wright, who is responsible for his own comments. Senator Obama is no more responsible for Wright’s comments than Mr. Wright is for Obama’s political views.


Wright’s comments were made in 2001 and 2003, yet they were displayed as if they happened after Mr. Obama announced his candidacy for president. They were not an issue when he ran for the U.S. Senate and won. So why are they an issue now?


We focus on Wright’s comments, yet an unjust war is still taking place. Thousands have died and been injured, yet we focus on comments by a preacher.


We are spending billions of dollars and incurring significant debt for the next generations of Americans, yet we focus on comments by a preacher.


The economy is on a downward spiral, yet we focus on comments by a preacher. Gas prices are skyrocketing, yet we focus on comments by a preacher. Foreclosures are at an all time high, yet we focus on comments by a preacher.


Millions are without healthcare, yet we focus on comments by a preacher.


We focus on comments by a preacher because we hope that this spotlight will take our mind off these things that really matter, so the real problems will go away. We really don’t want to deal with them.


The comments by a preacher did not create any of the problems that are present today, yet questionable policies that are being practiced are getting a pass.


It should not be the comments of the Reverend Wright that should be our focus because they do not affect our daily lives. We should be focusing on the failed policies that have led us to the situation we are in, and no one needs a sound bite or clip to know this.


We don’t need this fixation on Rev. Dr. Wright, for he is not running for president. Even over the last few weeks subtle comments have been about the issue of race in this election. It has been talked about in so many subtle ways by all candidates from all parties and affiliations.


Race was not injected when the Reverend Wright made his comments. They were injected when Senator Obama announced his candidacy. Our discomfort with race shows how far we have come or – should I say – how far we have to go?


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