A week or so ago, I listened to Pastor Wright’s 2003 sermon in which he repeatedly said “God damn America”. It is available on the internet. I heard an audio version; I don’t know if there is a video.
I had a couple of reactions. One was, “this is a little over the top”. The other was, “this guy is quite an orator”. And the second sentiment predominated. This was a lengthy sermon, ranging over a number of topics, most of which dealt with various forms of social justice and human responsibility. It ranged from soft tones (“now listen carefully or you might miss something”) to absolute bombasts. You could have scored it with “allegros” and “lentos”, “crescendos” and “glissandos”.
Of course, history is filled with powerful orators, many of whom have (as the NYT now famously described Wright) “wackadoodle” qualities. Farrakhan is a powerful orator, but much of what he says is nonsense. Hitler was a powerful orator, and we know what his talent at speaking led to.
But Wright does not strike me as a Farrakhan, or as a Hitler, or as a “wackadoodle”. He also doesn’t strike me as a fundamentalist theologian who uses his oratory to scare his flock with the possibility of eternal damnation. He strikes me as a very (emphasize ‘very’) smart man, with a congregation whose members include many who have been dealt a rough blow in life and need buoying up from time to time. And a man, who finds his mission in helping those congregants with a large agenda of social programming meant to hold a troubled neighborhood together.
And, yes, I guess his sermons can go over the top. But, except for this thrice repeated line, there really was nothing over the top about this sermon. It was highly critical, not of American, but of the American government and its support of countries and institutions that we might be much better off if we opposed. And he asked, as did the biblical prophets, how a God could bless such a nation. As the Jeremiahs of old railed against the waywardness of Israel, so did this Jeremiah rail against the waywardness of the Bush administration. And as the prophets of old warned of punishments, so did the prophet of 2003, speaking, as did Malcolm X, of “chickens coming home to roost”.
You can agree with him; you can disagree with him. But the sermon was intelligent and thought provoking. And the Barack Obamas of his congregation might listen to him and say “oh, boy, here he goes again” (but don’t we all do that with our clergymen?), but not necessarily “I am out of here”.
So, who is kicking up all of this dirt, and who is projecting the presumed sins of Wright onto Obama? Yes, maybe the media. And, yes, maybe Hillary and her increasingly motley crew. But most of them, I suppose, are those bitter small minded people, who gravitate to their guns and religion, that Obama talked about. His comment was right on, you know, and his wording was right on as well, with only one exception. These bitter bigots are not only located in the small towns of Pennsylvania. They are everywhere. And, to complete the circle, it is their existence which requires to Rev. Wright to pontificate as he does.
So it goes…..