Academy


A Man Was Lynched Yesterday

Lynchings of black people in the US were common occurrences following Emancipation and throughout the first half of the 20th century. The NAACP would hang a banner from its offices in New York City the day after these horrible events to alert people of the city to what had happened.

Today, we hang this banner for Jesus of Nazareth, who was lynched on yesterday.

VCF

From the beginning, when major news outlets reported on Barack Obama’s “controversial” membership in Trinity United Church of Christ and his relationship with its (now) retired senior pastor Dr. Jeremiah Wright they never were interested in contextualizing the story. Wright appeared on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes over a year ago to help “contextualize” TUCC’s mission and message, but Sean Hannity wanted no part of it.

The most recent flap about Obama’s relationship with Wright has been reported with similar incompetence by white media in both “liberal” and “conservative” outlets.

To help add necessary context to Dr. Wright’s sermons, why not seek the expertise of those who could help explain why Wright would have the audacity to exhort that God Damn America? Why not seek to understand how someone could say Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country run by rich white people? Most are so aghast that Wright made such claims from the pulpit, that wrestling with what he said hasn’t been the order of the day. I’ve heard a lot of “he shouldn’t have made those statements,” but not much of “his statements are erroneous because…” Maybe its because (for the most part) Wright is right, but it’s a truth that most citizens of the U.S. don’t want to hear.

Below, two scholars help to put Dr. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons in context by taking African-American experience seriously and recalling the prophetic protest tradition within the Black Church. They offer necessary context for those who don’t seem to get it. But it really makes me wonder. If we don’t “get it” now, will we ever?

VCF

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Barack Obama & Jeremiah Wrigh

What’s Right with Jeremiah Wright?
The Daily Voice
Randall C. Bailey, Andrew Mellon Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at the Interdenominational Theological Center

The current turmoil regarding Dr. Wright’s sermons reminds me of the reactions to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1967 sermon against the Vietnam War delivered at Riverside Church in New York. In that sermon he charged the U.S. with crimes against the Vietnamese people and challenged the military industrial complex and the economic destruction of this nation due to that war. King saw the interrelationship between racist actions in the U.S. and in Vietnam and connected the dots. He did this in the finest tradition of Black preaching. King was castigated for speaking about issues other than civil rights and for criticizing the nation and government. We should not be surprised that more than 40 years later people still decry the marked difference in the ways in which many Black clergy approach the tasks of theologically calling the nation to judgment.

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Our Jeremiah
TheRoot.com
Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University

A black orator stood before a rapt audience, his voice rising to a crescendo as he made this fiery statement: “Statesmen of America beware what you do! The soil is in readiness, and the seed-time has come. Nations, not less than individuals, reap as they sow.

The dreadful calamities of the past few years came not by accident, nor unbidden, from the ground. You shudder today at the harvest of blood sown in the springtime of the Republic by your patriot fathers.”

Sound familiar?

These are not the words of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the embattled minister of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. These words were uttered by Frederick Douglass in his appeal to the U.S. Congress for African-American voting rights.

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I’ve been following Melissa Harris-Lacewell’s work ever since I heard her debate Gloria Steinem on Democracy Now a couple of months ago on race, gender, and Presidential politics. I’ve since purchased and started reading her book Barbershops, Bibles, & BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought and encourage anyone else to do the same.

An Obama supporter/campaigner, the following is an article by Harris-Lacewell about how Obama should manage the mounting attacks that the Clinton campaign has levied against him.

VCF

Melissa Harris-Lacewell

Redemption Along the High Road by Melissa Harris-Lacewell
TheRoot.com
March 5, 2008

The high road is a hard road.

Barack Obama is often compared to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because of his soaring rhetoric and charismatic grace. But on Tuesday I night I realized that Obama is more like King in another way: He is leading a 21st Century non-violent, political campaign.

Over the past week the kitchen sink came flying at Obama, the political equivalent of Selma tear gas and vicious Birmingham dogs. The Clinton campaign tried painting Obama with the “scary Muslim” label by releasing a photo of him in Somali dress. Hillary whined that she was being treated unfairly during the debates, even as she piled on in a ruthless and unwarranted exchange that floated the suggestion that Barack was an anti-Semite.

She ignored her decades of political entanglements with dozens of indicted and convicted felons while charging Obama with having secret negotiations with Canada to assuage fears about his stance on NAFTA. She declared that because she was a woman, her presidency would represent change, even though her current fighting tactics and those she would resort to in a battle against McCain are recycled tricks from her eight years of living in the White House.

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Christianity is a bedrock of cultural blackness. There are, of course, Black Muslims, but not as many as Christians. Barack Obama was counseled by black ministers that if he was to have credibility in the community where he was organizing, he would have to join a church. Their counsel would seem to suggest that Christianity plays a central role in black culture. Were they “stereotyping” black culture? Christianity played a central role in the Civil Rights movement: that is, the black people with most influence over the community were Christian ministers.

In the program to the original Broadway production of the musical Hairspray, six of the eleven black cast members thanked God (not Allah) for their success. One the 24 white cast members, only one did that. This was another indication that Christian faith plays a central role in black culture – unless for some reason white actors have a commitment to suppressing evidence of their faith in their program bios, which obviously they do not.

Or: in the film of Waiting to Exhale, there is a quick exterior sequence of the protagonists leaving church on Sunday, despite that the movie is not about religion. Think about how much less likely that shot would be in the latest film with people like Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, or Katie Holmes. If they were seen leaving church – especially four characters together – then the movie would likely be about the church in some way. In Waiting to Exhale, that sequence was a nice touch of authenticity – in that Christianity is part of the warp and woof of the culture.

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Discussing his new book, the Harvard minister calls for modesty in religious debate and decries the domestication of the Christian God.

Interview by Lisa Miller

Newsweek Web Exclusive
Nov 10, 2007

Peter GomesIn his new book The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus the Rev. Peter Gomes pushes Christians to see beyond what he says is the “domesticated” view of the Christian Lord and embrace instead the gospel message of radical good and radical justice. Gomes decries the slogan “What would Jesus do?” as superficial and self-justifying, preferring instead “What would Jesus have me do?” “Unlike Dr. Phil, [Jesus] does not dispense free advice on television,” writes Gomes, “so it falls to us to try to figure out what we ought to do in our time, with our own skills and problems, based on what we think about Jesus.” The iconoclastic Gomes is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University and the minister of Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. NEWSWEEK’s Lisa Miller spoke with him. Excerpts:

What do you think is wrong with the public conversation about religion today?
Rev. Peter Gomes: Well, most of it is conducted quite frankly at too high a decibel level, and it is not particularly well informed. It’s a lot of shouting and not very much substance, and it tends to give religion a very bad name.

What’s the solution?
I think the solution is a certain amount of modesty, which is a very old-fashioned word, in making claims that we don’t know very much about, and with respect to traditions that are not our own. I am unabashedly a Christian, but most people who talk about Christianity don’t know very much about what they’re talking about.

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By Renita Weems from SomethingWithin.com 

WEEMSIf the woman in Luke 8 who’d been hemorrhaging for twelve years lived in the U.S., she would have been dropped by her insurance company by the time she met up with Jesus. You can bet that she would have been fired from her job for taking too many sick days. And if after her miraculous healing she had applied for health insurance she probably would have been turned down flat.

Prior or preexisting medical conditions make you a bad risk in the eyes of insurance companies. Of course, it’s possible that she might have qualified for partial coverage. That means, every thing except the uterus is insured.

In case you didn’t know: health insurance in the U.S. is for the healthy. You better suck it up and keep going.

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