My brain is recovering from the Rev. J-Wright experiment I conducted last night. In preparation for this post I decided to watch all three recent Jeremiah Wright talks - his interview with Bill Moyers, his speech at the Detroit NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner and his opening remarks and Q & A at the National Press Club in D.C - back to back with a three minute break (to cool my brain down from all the facts he was throwing out) just before his NPC talk.
When you undertake such an endeavor you'll immediately note a few things: 1) the man's command of history and theology is astounding, 2) he's a fierce defender of the southside nation and a fierce proponent of enhancing the southside experience (however *not* to the detriment of other nations - there is no notion of 'black supremacy', just an equal seat at the table), 3) he strongly recognizes the inherent differences in cultures and acknowledges the fact that there is no 'one size, fits all' approach to dealin' with them, 4) he doesn't hate America and 5) he caters to only one demographic - the southside...
If you break all that viewing into quarters - Rev. J-Wright held his own for three quarters and then the wheels feel off in the fourth. I disagree with the view that the attacks on him were attacks on the Black Church. The attacks were on him for political gain against his former congregate Smooth Barack. I can't fault his logic that led him to say that it's plausible that the government could mount a biological attack against a segment of society (either their own or a foreign one) but I don't believe the U.S. government intentionally introduced AIDS into the southside nation to exterminate the race. After all, AIDS was originally called GRID - Gay Related Immune Deficiency and its initial impact was in the gay community not the southside community.
And then there's his defense of Louis Farrakhan, which seems to be particularly odious to many. Wright choose to stand with Farrakhan calling him one of the most important voices of the 20th and 21st century. He balanced Farrakhan's comment of calling Zionism a 'gutter religion' (there is much confusion here as to whether Farrakhan used the terms 'Zionism' or 'Judaism', 'gutter' or 'dirty' but the end result was and remains insulting and infuriating to Jews) against the good works the Nation of Islam has done to rehabilitate black males both inside and outside prison. Can either side of that argument negate the other? Which is more important? It's complicated, but I know how I'd feel about the argument if we substituted Jesse Helms for Louis Farrakhan - I wouldn't care what good the guy did.
So for three quarters Rev. J-Wright walked a fine line and I was persuaded by his command of the facts. Then came the National Press Club Q & A and the good Reverend got to clownin'. He's eminently comfortable in front of a supportive crowd and it just seemed like he told them what they wanted to hear - just like a politician. He took the easy and popular (with the crowd) way out instead of addressing the questions with the thoughtfulness and broad-mindedness that they deserved. It was the Anti-Smooth approach and in that moment, you could see the vast difference between Jeremiah Wright and Smooth Barack.
To be a pastor, you only have to cater to your flock - a flock that is comprised of members with common backgrounds, shared experiences and a desire to understand how God relates to their particular circumstance. To be a president, you have to cater to the nation - a nation made up of a multitude of cultures, religions and socio-economic backgrounds and the belief systems that come with all that. I've seen nothing in Smooth's actions, heard nothing in Smooth's words that tell me that he's not up to that task.
It's a wise person who can listen to all points of view and yet maintain their own moral compass. You can't build a view of the nation by looking through a narrow life lens (your culture, your religion, your economic status) and I challenge anybody to refute the fact that Smooth's life lens isn't the broadest of the candidates out there. It would be a shame for that fact to get overlooked in the 'white noise' that is Jeremiah Wright.