Jeremiah Wright 1, Sound Bite 0

By John Bloom | 04/29/2008


Since when do you have “amens” at the National Press Club? Apparently when Jeremiah Wright is the speaker!

I once knew a city editor in Philadelphia who would say “amen” to a dry Rob Roy at 2 in the afternoon, which is the closest anyone ever came to exuberance in the newsrooms of my youth. But anybody who watched any cable this past weekend could be forgiven for thinking that Rupert Murdoch just launched a new Jeremiah Wright Channel, as first the man appeared on Bill Moyers Journal, then his entire keynote address to the NAACP was broadcast and re-broadcast by CNN, and finally he did a brisk 30-minute speech to the National Press Club followed by an even brisker half-hour Q&A session Monday morning that was simultaneously broadcast by at least five networks. Whew! What’s going on here?

Obama Matthews

Some evidence of what’s going on here could be gleaned from the steady blow-by-blow commentary of the interchangeable anchor people who commented on the unfolding media blitz that clearly took the Barack Obama campaign by surprise. Chris Matthews said bluntly, “Why doesn’t this man go away?” Obama’s political advisory team got on the phones to the networks and asked them, in effect, “Why are you giving Wright this platform? How often in the past have you re-broadcast any speech to the NAACP?” And the media answered, in effect, “Hey, it’s a breaking story, why isn’t Obama shooting him down?” To which Obama’s organization said, “How many times, and in how many ways, do we need to repeat that he doesn’t speak for Obama?”

Obama Wright

And they were right. It wasn’t about Obama. That never rang true to me, this idea that intemperate statements by a preacher should come crashing down on a candidate because he happens to worship at that man’s church. First of all, the media already agreed back in December, after the Mitt Romney speech at Texas A&M, that we were not going to do this to any candidate! Second, the implication by the media that Wright should shut up in order to help Obama’s campaign raises two questions: 1) Why should he care about helping Obama’s campaign? He’s his pastor, not his campaign manager. 2) Why would the media want help for any particular campaign? Not a single Hair Helmet spoke up to say, “Let Wright speak. We trashed him, it’s his turn to talk.”

To Chris Matthews, especially, I would say, “The man is a preacher. He’s not allowed to go away and he’s not allowed to be ‘temperate.’ That would be the equivalent of a soldier abandoning the battlefield.”

James Cone

But what Jeremiah Wright alleged about the recent controversy didn’t ring true either. He kept saying, “This is not about me, it’s about the black church.” He was implying that somehow there was a conspiracy afoot to bring down the black church, specifically the so-called “prophetic” black church that speaks hard words to the government and the overlords of our culture. One brilliant moment in Wright’s speech to the press, I thought, was his disavowal of Black Liberation Theology in the form of a compliment to James H. Cone, its inventor, followed by a brief outline of his own view of the transforming gospel (specifically the calls to action of Jeremiah 41 and the Jesus of Luke 4), a view that is color-blind and unsentimental and ends in reconciliation.

There’s no conspiracy to bring down the black church. There’s no failure to understand the black church, at least not any greater failure than the general lack of interest in the word “church” itself. Most people, but especially the working press, would be content with a black church that’s silent, a black church that’s noisy but out of view, or a black church that ceases to exist entirely. To constantly assert that people are assaulting the black church is nonsense.

Obama

So if this is not about Barack Obama and it’s not about the black church, what is it about?

It’s about something that, in my view, is far more important. Jeremiah Wright is the first man in my lifetime to speak prophetic words against the Sound Bite. In fact, he brought it tumbling down. He was attacked with sound bites—as he pointed out, nobody had listened to the actual sermons used to pillory him—and, in rebuttal, he forced everyone to listen to five solid hours of the ultimate Jeremiad. He single-handedly broke free of the format itself, showing everyone how he moves, how he talks, how he makes points in three dimensions. He was more successful at getting his own views across than any of the three remaining presidential candidates have been at getting theirs across. He made everyone listen to the beginning, the middle and the end of complete stories and complete ideas. He said, in effect, “I refuse to let you take 30 seconds of my sermon and make any conclusion from that.”

Many others have felt sandbagged by the sound bite, rendered impotent by the media, but they were unable to fight back. Jeremiah Wright said, “I will be heard.” And he was. This one man defeated about 200 billion dollars worth of media concentration. He said, “The microphone is mine. I’ll tell you when I’m finished.”

Those who say, “Well, he got away with it because he came along in the middle of a presidential campaign,” should try to do it themselves. It’s not easy to derail the entire media-industrial complex. During the Q&A at the National Press Club, the most “dangerous” time for a politician, Wright was in his element, clearing enjoying himself, zinging the questioners, laughing at the absurdity of it all, and saying, in response to one particularly convoluted question about how he could hurt Obama’s campaign, “I’m not running for president.” He said it with a raised eyebrow, and then added, “However, I’m offering myself for vice president.”

And what came through it all? Reconciliation. He ended each message with reconciliation. Reconciliation is the word of both the apostle Paul and of Nelson Mandela. What could possibly be scary about that? I don’t have to watch the sound bites anymore, I heard the sermon.


Comments(85)

JoshH | 10:05 am on 4/30/2008

Lying and not knowing what it is to be called of God to preach?
Take a look in the mirror, you schmegege.

Siarlys Jenkins | 08:19 pm on 4/30/2008

Rev. Wright did NOT lie when he said "God damn America" is in the Bible. Now the Bible does not mention America, because those entrusted with recording what is there did not know of America's existence, and the ultimate source does not seem to have mentioned it to them, they probably wouldn't have understood anyway, plus, there was no United States IN America at the time. But, there is plenty of reference to how and why God chose to damn many people and nations, including his own Chosen, for reasons that can, by analogy, be applied to the USA.

I would not have chosen to say "God Damn America." But I sympathize with Rev. Wright's frustration that on Sunday Sept 16, 2001, a whole lot of churches were lining up as adjuncts of Caesar AS their response to what happened the previous Tuesday. My preferred observation is "God bless America is a perfectly good thing to pray for, but it is not an entitlement program. I guess Rev. Wright is more angry than I am. I was proud to be in a church that Sunday where the pastor did say "We are one cocky arrogant nation. What happened to us was terrible, but don't you know there are people in the world who wake up every morning wondering if a bomb will fall on them today? What makes our pain more important than theirs?"

Check out the link to Bill Moyer's interview with Wright. The good Rev. comes across very well.

Siarlys Jenkins | 08:19 pm on 4/30/2008

Rev. Wright did NOT lie when he said "God damn America" is in the Bible. Now the Bible does not mention America, because those entrusted with recording what is there did not know of America's existence, and the ultimate source does not seem to have mentioned it to them, they probably wouldn't have understood anyway, plus, there was no United States IN America at the time. But, there is plenty of reference to how and why God chose to damn many people and nations, including his own Chosen, for reasons that can, by analogy, be applied to the USA.

I would not have chosen to say "God Damn America." But I sympathize with Rev. Wright's frustration that on Sunday Sept 16, 2001, a whole lot of churches were lining up as adjuncts of Caesar AS their response to what happened the previous Tuesday. My preferred observation is "God bless America is a perfectly good thing to pray for, but it is not an entitlement program. I guess Rev. Wright is more angry than I am. I was proud to be in a church that Sunday where the pastor did say "We are one cocky arrogant nation. What happened to us was terrible, but don't you know there are people in the world who wake up every morning wondering if a bomb will fall on them today? What makes our pain more important than theirs?"

Check out the link to Bill Moyer's interview with Wright. The good Rev. comes across very well.

Clark | 07:27 am on 4/30/2008

Did you all miss the most obvious point? I heard the entire performance, and have listened to his sermons. He is not even a Christian- anyone who does not ascribe to Jesus Christ as "the way the truth, and the life" is a cultist. He categorically denied this teaching by using Jesus's words out of context saying "many sheep have I of other folds"- in this Q&A, that specifically was asked of him of Muslims, and his reply would indicate Muslims would go to the same heaven as Christians.

He may have just wanted to be "bombastic" and trying to get attention, but when a supposed man of the cloth speaks heresy, he should be burned at the stake figuratively.

The man is a freak show, and probably on Hillary's payroll.

Anonymouse | 10:51 am on 4/30/2008

I heard that in context, too. Any first year Bible College student knows that Jesus was referring to the Christian mission to the GENTILE world. He was not saying hold hands and sing Kumbayah and it will all be good. Wright declraed that unconverted Muslims were the "other sheep" Jesus had in mind. He is very articulate and very intelligent, and very wrong on this point.

SRebbe | 12:20 pm on 4/30/2008

oh, we're not going down that "he is not even a Christian" path.
anyone here who has ever been accused of that should leave the room immediately. if I had a dollar everytime I heard that one...

buda | 07:10 pm on 4/30/2008

True, dat, true dat.

Clark | 11:12 pm on 5/02/2008

Yes, you are right I suppose...he COULD be a Mormon.

Siarlys Jenkins | 08:28 pm on 4/30/2008

For someone who believes that Jesus is "The Way, The Truth and The Life" you have a very strange way of overlooking what Jesus said in order to reify your own deification of your Savior. There is no doubt in my mind that Matthew 25, starting at the 31st verse, makes clear that many who never knew Jesus, never accepted him, never did anything knowingly for him, will indeed be in heaven with the sheep on the right, while many who praised his holy name and proclaimed him their savior will be on the left with the goats, because "inasmuch as you did it (or did it not) to or for the least of these my brethren, you did it (or did it not) unto me." C.S. Lewis makes the same point in THE LAST BATTLE, which closes out the Narnia series. Aslan tells a prince of Calmorene that his sincere devotion to the idol Tash is accounted devotion to Aslan, because Tash is so evil that anything evil done in Aslan's name is really done for Tash, while anything good done for Tash is really done for Aslan.

Take note that al-Lah is not even an idol or a Name comparable to Tash. Every Christian Bible printed in Arabic says al-Lah where our English Bibles say God or The Lord. There is no other word in Arabic. The Muslim call to prayer begins "There is no God but The God. It does not say "There is no God but Allah, except in distorted English translation. Yeah, Muslims understand Jesus differently than I do, but Jesus already welcomed many into heaven, by his own words.

SRebbe | 02:06 pm on 5/01/2008

And many who did good deeds, lived moral lives, and raised money for their own causes and glory, all the name of their LRD, will ask in that day "LRD, did we not perform works in your name to pass on hope to the hopeless, if not for one night? Did we not create wonderful movies that spoke of Your Name and save souls for your glory? Did we not pour thousands of dollars into revivals and megachurches and xtian concerts so that the sinful world would see that we were different? Did we not pause for a moment during work to witness to our coworkers? Did we not put money in the offering plate to keep the lights on in the sanctuary so that more could come and hear of You? Did we not remember to pray for our unsaved neighbors? Did we not wear shirts that quoted Bible verses? Did we not wear jewelry and buy CDs and books from the xtian bookstores instead of Wal-Mart?"

And the LRD looked at them and shook his head sorrowfully. "Did you help build My kingdom? Did you deny yourself daily? Where were you when your neighbors lost their homes in the fires and floods? Where were you when the children needed food? Where were you when your coworker needed a visit when she was sick? Where were you when the televangelists and pastors were abusing my children for money for their own selfish gain? Where were you when your sister was raped by her boyfriend? Where were you when his brother needed a visit while he was in prison?

"You lived in comfort, not turning to the right nor the left to help any of my children find me.

"For what you have done to the least of these, you have done to me."

Jan Sykes | 07:43 am on 4/30/2008

This was a truly funny article. I thought it was going to be a serious one and was thrilled to find the conclusion was pure satire.

JT | 08:25 am on 4/30/2008

Yes. the reason he didn't go away, was because the media refused to let the issue die - even AFTER Barack "denounced" him during the first debate after the 30-second sound bytes were going viral.

What we need is a media that ignores the sensationalism, abandons the "MSNBC Doc Block" mentality, and does real journalism and reporting.

That said, I appreciate Rev. Wright and have understood what he was saying from the get-go (even BEFORE the public was allowed to hear the sermon in question IN CONTEXT). But, I don't expect the media nor the general public to understand, or even DESIRE to understand. That would require higher level thinking, and a spiritual understanding above that of Kultural Krisitanity… Gee, that sounded pretty "elitist" didn't it?

Battle on!

doubting dave | 09:50 am on 4/30/2008

Wake up, people! This Jeremiah Wright is a prophet. When has anybody like a prophet? When has anyone accused a prophet of telling the truth? Never! And no one ever will. A prophet speaks for God (or god) and you choose whether or not you want to listen or attend to what he or she is saying. Most people choose to trash, dismiss, or ignore prophets --- that certainly was the plight of the biblical ones. Amos said that conemporary religious practices were total crap. I'll bet that made him real popular and that everyone clammored to hear more of his prophecies.

Jeremiah Wright says that the United States is a racist nation and deserves to be damned by God (or god) and furthermore, take that, put it in your pipe and smoke it.

Is your skin so thin and your ego so fragile that your can't stand to look into the mirror that Jeremiah Wright is holding up?

Oh well.

Prophet Lopi | 10:06 am on 4/30/2008

Doubting DAVE

The United States will be judged because it leaders,religious as well as secular sleep with the world and have produced children that represent the "Love of Self and Money". It is easy to see Rev Wright loves himself,his elite status and is buiding a multi million dollar in an white elite area.
The only people Jesus ever "Damned" was the Religious Leaders of HIS day. NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT DAVE

shutterbug98 | 11:28 am on 4/30/2008

I'm WHITE & I've been asking people who gripe about Rev. Wright's statements on YouTube to tell me EXACTLY what was inaccurate. His statement about the U.S. government creating AIDS to wipe out the black man is a little nutty on its face, but the same U.S. government gave smallpox laden blankets to the Indians & conducted the Tuskegee(sp?)medical experiments, so I'm not sure that you couldn't put something like the creation of AIDS past them. Anyway, I saw the Moyers interview & remember thinking that if I lived on the south side of Chicago, believed in religion or JESUS. for that matter, I would like to belong to this guys church. I guess that people don't like to have a mirror held up to Uncle Sam's face so they can see the atrocities that he committed in all their names.

Robert Winkler Burke | 01:17 pm on 4/30/2008

Dear Shutterbug98,

Please see http://victorhanson.com/ for articles about Wright. This is the website of Victor Davis Hanson, a college professor of military history residing in California. But I will warn you, he's hard to understand at first, because he speaks from a perspective of the Age of Enlightenment. You'll need a dictionary, if you are like most of us. (We've been dumbed down, you know, by public education, or lack thereof... :)

Then, if you can stand it, see today's post on a perspective of how televangelism in general relates to the Wright exposure fiasco in particular on my website: www.inthatdayteachings.com.

All these references might re-introduce you to the concept that with Western Enlightenment, the point is to maturely understand that yes, our state and nation governments often do bad things. But this is Western Enlightenment, so don't believe the cheap thing and say, "I'M SHOCKED, I'M SHOCKED!" And prepare to riot! (Or throw a tizzy fit.)

No, no, no, my friend. Be mature. Say, "Ah so. This is how the cookie crumbles in Western Enlightenment. And it is how a better cookie gets baked. Be patient and we shall all have better dining arrangments.

Unfortunately, we often are taught the highest of education is to throw tizzy fits. This fits into the desires of demagogues -- like Wright who furiously tries to stir prejudicial vexations up -- who then gain cheap control over cheap circumstances and a cheapend people.

Amen, anybody?

Or do we chant more accolades to the Obama mesmorizing machine?

buda | 07:14 pm on 4/30/2008

I prefer brownies myself. Happy Tummy Brownies to be specific.

Robert Winkler Burke | 07:33 pm on 4/30/2008

From New Yorks' City Journal, Heather Mac Donald reminds us that "bad ideas must be fought at their origins -- and every moment thereafter." See her scholarly discourse on the terrible scholarship Wright is so in love with: http://www.city-journal.org/2008/eon0429hm.html.

calvin was right! | 10:04 am on 4/30/2008

OK, I know this is not satire, but it is an awesome hour long sermon by Thabiti Anyabwile about the Christian perspective on race and ethnicity. I love it and I thought maybe someone else could be blessed by it as well. I wish I could get it in the hands of Jeremiah!!!

http://t4g.org/08/media/#

As a white male with a black wife and 3 mixed kids, race and religion can be a unique situation to deal with. But it is nice to hear how there can be true Christ-like unity in the church no matter what ethnicity we are if we are minimizing us and maximizing Christ. God bless!!

Stupid White Dude Doesn't Dance | 10:53 am on 4/30/2008

A simple understanding of Hebrew (Old Testament) Scripture has clearly been perverted by Fudamentalism and its myopic, self-centered, rabid insistence of the prophetic role as little more tan soothsayer, that is, as predicters of the eventual emergence of Jesus Christ, hundreds of years into the future. The role of he prophet - Amos, Hosea, Habbabkuk, and the rest - in both the Southern and Northern kingdoms, was to proclaim as the voice of God. Rev. Wright get my vote for the best prophetic voice and vision today. And not just because he pisses so many off. The dude's got game. Now I'm waiting for another shocker: "Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Bush upon it."

Dr. Dewey | 02:27 pm on 4/30/2008

His opinions are one thing, some of which seem quite flaky. But when he says "THE BIBLE SAYS THAT," he had better be sure that the Bible does say what he claims. Rev. 22:18 seems very apropos.

Other sheep are Moslems? Remember that the Koran denies that Christ was even crucified.

SRebbe | 04:03 pm on 4/30/2008

Quick question: have you studied Islam? Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet, which I'm sure you have heard. In Islam, prophets are not allowed to be killed or murdered. It is a curse and a most undignified way to die. Dying on a cross would be G-d allowing the prophet to be killed, therefore nullifying the prophethood of Christ. To keep consistent, G-d raised Christ to him instead, keeping his word by saving his most holy prophet.

The same goes with dying on a cross and the Jews. It was equated with being hanged, which was a curse for the Jews. Thus, Christ was not the Messiah because he died under a curse, not to mention he didn't eradicate the worldly empire of the Romans as the Jews expected and were "promised".

Sometimes what we expect and want is not G-d's plan in the long run.

Process Deist | 05:44 pm on 4/30/2008

Good answer Sarah.
You are right on top of the cultures.

Process Deist | 05:51 pm on 4/30/2008

OK....so you don't spell your name with an H.
I can't spell Sara.

buda | 08:10 pm on 4/30/2008

Thank you SRebe, I have wondered about that and not had an answer when the subject came up. Now I do. Thanks.

SRebbe | 09:27 am on 5/01/2008

it's ok, my parents couldn't either. ;)
they stole it from a Hall and Oats song.

JoshH | 02:35 am on 5/01/2008

Don't misuse Revelation 22 for your own myopic use. It refers to those who "add to or take away" FROM REVELATION. When it was written, "the Bible" was not a whole "book."

I'm guessing you got your "doctorate" from a Cracker Jack box; of course, saying that is an insult to Cracker Jack prizes.

budda | 10:55 am on 5/01/2008

Hey, Josh, what post were you referring to? I'm sure it's obvious to most but I can't quite place it in context.

SRebbe | 04:09 pm on 5/01/2008

Josh is referring to the oft quoted Rev. 22:18
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book."

budda | 07:48 pm on 5/01/2008

Yep, got that part. I just can't find the previous post where someone misused it and provoked Josh's corrective response.

Process Deist | 08:26 pm on 4/30/2008

I think we are beginning to recognize the problem here.
It is called SENILE DEMENTIA.
Bro. Wright just needs to shuffle off the stage.

budda | 07:59 pm on 5/01/2008

Hey Deist, can you answer my question in the comments of the new article? Can anyone? You are right, but the Rev. seems intelligent, so what's his angle, I can't figure it out.

live_life | 09:53 am on 5/04/2008

He went too far with his speach - it's gone kinda messy...

http://www.thefaithdebate.com
http://www.thefaithdebate.com
http://www.thefaithdebate.com

Barbara | 03:00 pm on 5/07/2008

The reason the Rev. Wright elicits such vitriol and outrage (and therefore condemnation) is that he tells the truth. The government and military of the United States of America have destroyed hundreds of thousands of individuals in foreign countries, yet deplore as supreme evil any act against US citizens. Governments do lie. That's the truth. I feel tenderness for the song "America the Beautiful," but I do not and never will pledge allegiance to the United States of America. I pledge allegiance to the truth of the Golden Rule.

Sean - Internet Advertising | 09:33 am on 12/12/2008

hello! what a luck to be the last in this line of comments: you always get so many usefull information and advices. so thanks very much to everyone whose comments are under this article!!! have a nice day!

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