Monday, April 28, 2008

Divisive or Descriptive?

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright spoke at the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP’s annual fundraising event over the weekend. The speech was carried by CNN live and allowed Reverend Wright to speak to his critics while at the same time speaking to the larger theme of the event which was, “A Change is Gonna Come”. Like so much of what occurs in American society the speech will be evaluated based on the listener’s frame of reference. For many in the black community the speech will be hailed as brilliant and will demonstrate Reverend’s Wright superior intellect and skilled articulation talents. For some in the white community it will be misconstrued and reinforce their views of him as being divisive. How is it possible that so many people can hear the same speech and yet reach so many different conclusions?

Are we so divided and so different that we can’t even acknowledge our differences. And having once acknowledged those differences can we not celebrate them or are we so tribal that anyone who is not exactly like us we view as deficient? In rhetoric and language befitting a leader in the black Church, Dr. Wright attempted to characterize the differences we share and their history to depict why there are those who are either unable or unwilling to understand his past characterizations of the country that he served. Let’s be clear, many of those who are questioning the patriotism of Reverend Wright have themselves chosen for whatever reasons not to serve their country, except as Mitt Romney so aptly described by campaigning for their fathers. Reverend Wright served this country as not only a Marine, but also as a member of the US Navy.

I am no expert in democracy or in Constitutional law, but I believe that if someone chooses to place his life on the line in defense of this nation, a nation that for a long time refused to apply equal protection for all of its citizens, has a right to criticize that same nation. I am so sick and tired of this false wing-nut narrative that anyone who criticizes America is anti-America or anyone who does not wear a flag lapel pin is giving aid and comfort to terrorists. As if to say that anything and everything that has been done in America and by America has been right. Forgive me, but my take on the Freedom of Speech clause is that as members of a democracy we have the right to criticize or to praise our nation as we see fit. Whether you agree with his views or not, Reverend Wright has every right to express them. Why is it that we have to display our war stance when it comes to surrendering our civil rights, but we do not have to display it when it comes to making actual sacrifices for the effort?

While I agree with the basic premise of Reverend Wright’s speech which is, why must everything and everyone be placed under “the white man’s burden?” For those who are not aware the white man’s burden is to elevate the blacks, reds, browns, and yellows of this world to the grand standard of Western European culture, as if to say no other culture has brought anything to the world but them. Just because you are a bully that doesn’t make you right, it just makes you a bully. If it were not for the Native American culture, those great European settlers would have never survived in this hemisphere. There are those who expect those of us who have received the brunt of American discrimination and racism to quietly accept our fate and anyone who “describes” those atrocities are being divisive. Are we to believe that those perpetrating these atrocities are doing so with the purpose of unifying us as a Nation?

Where I take exception with Reverend Wright and any other spokesman of God, is that while it is important to speak out against injustice and all the other deficiencies in human character, one must do so in a different forum than the Church. I understand that for many years in the black community the Church was the only release for the frustration and anger many felt with their conditions; however one must separate the worldly from the spiritual. In other words, it is a sin to steal yet there maybe extenuating circumstances to mitigate the stealing. Those mitigating circumstances cannot be a part of the message of the Church against stealing, that message must be delivered outside of the Holy proclamation. Social causes while important must not be allowed to interfere with the true message of the Church. The Apostle Paul only preached one sermon repeatedly; “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”[1]

Representatives of God should not use the altar to assail their brothers no matter how large their shortcomings. One can acknowledge evil and injustice in a way that does not cast aspersions on any one group. Evil and inhumanity knows no color or race. The recent blood-letting in Africa can attest to that fact. In my opinion pointing out the ills of a government should not be done from the pulpit, but from the soap box in the public square. Ministers should separate the Church from social commentary, just as we have separation of Church and state for the protection of the Church, we also need it for the protection of the Republic. While it is becoming increasingly difficult in our society to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to give to God what is God’s, it is a distinction we must maintain at all costs.



[1] 1 Corinthians 2:2

1 comment:

Meffle said...

Well now, Mr. Knott, I was with you until you said the pulpit is no place for politics (more or less). As you point out, traditionally the black church is the focal point for all issues in the black community. If one has chosen to be spiritually guided, that guidance should inform every part of one's life. It is inappropriate to do dirt Monday through Saturday, then sit in the screamers section on Sunday.

As far as your stealing example, in my opinion, and hopefully my life, there are 10 rules, only 10, just 10. There are no exceptions to those rules. The word "except" is not in the 10 Commandments. Thou shall not steal is not suggestion. It is a mandate. There is not mitigation. If you steal, you have sinned against the law of God. I think all that mitigation is what trips us up.

Thou shall not commit adultery (But my wife and I haven't gotten along for years). Thou shall not bear false witness (But my son was going to go to jail if I told the truth). Thou shall not covet (But Joe's car is REALLY nice).

Other than that, I can agree with you.

 
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