Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Once a mistake, twice a rank idiot

Dr. Jeremiah Wright told us a year ago who shaped his worldview and his theology. If any of the “news people” had bothered to simply check out who Dr. Wright named there would be no ‘real shock’ at the rhetoric of Dr. Wright. Mind you, “no shock” does not equal agreement with a statement, rather it means you understand a state of an existence of a theology being taught in our seminaries and in some churches.

Lets do for ourselves what the paid MSM failed to do. James H. Cone, is a Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary. First, Union Theological is not some backwater , obscure institution, but rather has been in existence since 1836. But many are not quite aware of the fact they proudly state:

“Our ecumenical, interfaith commitment grows and strengthens through programs of exchange with churches and seminaries throughout the world. Informed by the insights of liberation theologians, the Seminary embraces and addresses the richness and realities of religious pluralism. “

If people grasped religious pluralism then Wrights rhetoric would be no surprise.James Cone has been featured in PBS’s This Far by Faith Series


It was the voice of Malcolm X that first made James Cone question his theology. Malcolm X proclaimed loudly that “Christianity is a white man’s religion,” and said that blacks should adopt an understanding of God that grew out of their own history and experience. He railed against a blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus and a belief in the delayed rewards of heaven.

Still, Cone, then on the faculty of Adrian College in Michigan, continued to believe in the nonviolent, Christian love of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was the northern riots and Stokely Carmichael’s call for “Black Power!” during the Meredith March in Mississippi that led him to a crisis in faith.


“For me, the burning theological question was, how can I reconcile Christianity and Black Power, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s idea of nonviolence, and Malcolm X’s ‘by any means necessary philosophy?’” (Preface to Black Theology and Black Power, p. viii.)

Christianity, as he understood it, no longer explained or held meaning in the turbulent years of the late 1960s. “I was within inches of leaving the Christian faith.” If he were to remain a Christian, Cone would have to reinterpret his faith to respond to such demanding times.

Not exactly what most of us would find to be common in church on Sunday Morning, but how can the informed Christian be ignorant of the existence of this? Corruption of the seminary has ahistorically been the beginning of the theological shifts in denominations to a more liberal stance.

It would be good to note, both Dr. Wright and James Cone comes from the generation prior to the American Civil Rights Movement and their experiences shaped a worldview of resentment towards the treatment blacks had received in that area. That their rhetoric reflects that should no more surprise us then the rhetoric of the colonial pastors inspired the American Revolution.

Dr. Wright also mentions , Dr. Dwight N. Hopkins, whose works include: Being Human: Race, Culture, and Religion; Walk Together Children: black and womanist theologies, church and theological education; Another World Is Possible: Spiritualities and Religions of Global Darker Peoples; Loving the Body: Black Religious Studies and the Erotic (coeditor); Heart and Head: Black Theology-Past, Present, and Future; Introducing Black Theology of Liberation; Down, Up and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology; and Black Faith and Public Talk: Essays in Honor of James Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power (editor). His previous texts include Black Theology USA and South Africa: Politics, Culture, and Liberation; Shoes That Fit Our Feet: Sources for a Constructive Black Theology; and We Are One Voice: Essays on Black Theology in South Africa and the USA (coeditor). He is an editor of Religions/Globalizations: Theories and Cases; Changing Conversations: Religious Reflection and Cultural Analysis; and Liberation Theologies, Postmodernity and the Americas.

Dr. Hopkins is a Professor of Theology in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. This school is well known and respected for it’s scholarship in the study of religion and religious tradition.

Chicago reflects only one orthodoxy: that the rules of evidence and argument must discipline conversation, and that such rules are especially important when the topic is religion. Our faculty and students present a remarkable range of attitudes about religion as a force for good and for ill in the world. These attitudes bespeak the shared view that religion is one of our most fascinating and enduring windows into central truths about human life and being. The School aims to develop out of that conviction the richest possible conversation, and direct it to the central, complementary ends of scholarly excellence and moral engagement.

Dr. Hopkins is more of an academic than James Cone, but whose worldview is certainly shaped by the James Cones and the Jeremiah Wrights he grew up under. Dr. Hopkins , an American Baptist minister believes,

The descendants of American slaves are due reparations. Their foremothers suffered oppression because of the slaveholding structure of American society, and they suffered injustice at the hands of individual Americans, both those who owned them and those who acted like they owned them. White Americans forced these women to work as house and field laborers, and white American men treated these women as objects, not humans, when they raped them. The ancestors of today’s Americans even suffered the additional outrage of rape as a form of profit maximization: If an enslaved woman gave birth, her child would increase her owner’s wealth and provide him with yet more free labor. The psychological damage that these women and their families suffered is incalculable. Yet enslaved American black women did not retreat into passivity. They forged a theological understanding of their relationship with a God who would one day pass judgment on the slaveholders and compensate the enslaved-In Heaven and on Earth. What we need now is a discussion of how we can best compensate the descendants of these women and thus strengthen our society today.

None of this is secretive information, but rather readily available in a google search, yet people are “shocked”. Some will even say, well that is racist and I won’t even acknowledge racism . That is like not talking about sex,

STD’s , drugs or alcohol with our children will make it go away. It has the same effect, you leave people unprepared. And “shoocked” it even exists, instead of armed and prepared.

In all probablity this type of theology and the black experience had more effect on shaping Michelle’s worldview than it did Barack’s. This is reflected in her Princeton thesis which you can read here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Barack on the other hand was raised in a mixed cultural environment that was not walled in by the black experience (which why many claim he is not black enough). He was taught Islam, but from a political more than a religious standpoint in his home in Indonesia as a child. But Barack has more of a antropological view and reaction to society than his wife Michelle does.

I am much less concerned about Dr. Wright’s view than most, it is what it is. I tend to believe the social political aspect of Trinity UC church is part of the political reality of a Chicago politician more than a true indicator of Barack Obama’s belief system. I believe even though Dr. Wright had a lot of influence on Barack and is loved and respected by Barack as a fatherly type figure, he is intelligent enough to hold Wright’s radical (to us) views in tension and keep them in perspective.

Why? Because of his mother. HIs mother and his grandmother and his wife are powerful influences in his life. But not so much that he married a white woman. He married a true black woman-nobody will ever question if Michelle is black enough. Barack loves and respects her and she runs the house.Never underestimate the influence of a wife who b-slaps her husband in public. Early in Obama’s campaign, Michelle Obama could not restrain herself from belittling the senator.

”I have some difficulty reconciling the two images I have of Barack Obama. There’s Barack Obama the phenomenon. He’s an amazing orator, Harvard Law Review, or whatever it was, law professor, best-selling author, Grammy winner. Pretty amazing, right? And then there’s the Barack Obama that lives with me in my house, and that guy’s a little less impressive,” she told a fundraiser in February 2007.

“For some reason this guy still can’t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale, and his five-year-old is still better at making the bed than he is.” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported at the time, “She added that the TV version of Barack Obama sounded really interesting and that she’d like to meet him sometime.” Her handlers have convinced her to be more tactful since then.

Michelle Obama speaks with great warmth of her mother-in-law . “She was kind of a dreamer, his mother,” Michelle Obama was quoted in the January 25 Boston Globe. “She wanted the world to be open to her and her children. And as a result of her naivete, sometimes they lived on food stamps, because sometimes dreams don’t pay the rent. But as a result of her naivete, Barack got to see the world like most of us don’t in this country.” How strong the ideological motivation must be of a mother to raise her children on the thin fair in pursuit of a political agenda.

I think time has come to put this whole Trinity church affair in perspective and realize it is what it is. However, lets learn the lesson from it. Let’s not wake up a year from now and realize someone told us something and we missed it.Words have meanings and do not trust the Sean Hannity’s and the Fox’s and the CNN’s to do their research, do your own.

I would be much more concerned about the effect Michelles worldview has on Obama than Jeremiah’s.

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