Center for Ethics and Leadership

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Jeremiah and His Jeremiads

I had thought that the Rev. Wright controversy would be old news by now, but conservative pundit William Kristol published a syndicated op-ed today in which he said that if Sen. Obama were to lose to Sen. Clinton, it would be because he had Jeremiah Wright as his primary running mate. Sigh.

The media knew of Wright's sermons for some time and seems to have been waiting for the right (pun intended) moment. I first heard of them from Bill O'Reilly, who was busy calling Wright un-American. I was unconcerned. The sound bites seemed to jibe with what I have heard Christian ethicists, black and white, say and write before. In fact, Catholic theologian Daniel Maguire's A Moral Creed for All Christians, published three years ago, renders an even more severe judgment of current American policies. And Rev. Wright's namesake, the prophet Jeremiah, spoke the words of YHWH that the very house of the Lord, the temple, would be destroyed because of Judaea's wrongdoing. For that, the Judaeans threatened to kill him.

Are Christianity and minister legitimate only if they pass a test of American political orthodoxy?

I do not want to let pass the media's feeding frenzy on the most provocative of Wright's comments. When MSNBC was reporting Wright's second set of comments about a week ago, the anchors called him selfish and several other names dismissively. I am still waiting for a fuller exploration of the source of Wright's remarks, namely, the black church in America. But the only white defenders I have read have been professional theologians such as the very distinguished Martin Marty or Jesuit philosopher John Kavanaugh. Black reporters have done a better job among the media. Sen. Obama was entirely correct in calling for an open conversation on race. But to return to the media, when are the J-schools going to start requiring their students to learn something of religion?

I could go on, but I think I have said enough to generate a conversation.

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