Saturday, May 3, 2008

Jeremiah or Judas? Rev. Wright or Wrong?

Much ado has recently been made in the popular press about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, senior pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago, Illinois, where Senator Barak Obama, a leading 2008 US Democratic Presidential candidate has attended and held membership for over 20 years. Wright’s remarks about God damning America for its foreign policies particularly predominate in the sound clips that are played. These comments are considered unpatriotic and unAmerican, if not also unChristian and divisive by the mainstream media which presents little substantial criticism to the status quo and current policies of either of the mainstream parties, Democratic or Republican. 

Wright for his own part, particularly as we note below in his address to the National Press Club Breakfast, has declared all this in reality to be nothing more than an attack on the black church and its traditions, largely unknown to mainstream white and racist America. To be fair to Wright, he does make some valid points and he is addressing in part a hostile and ignorant audience. As Wright mentions repeatedly, The Bill Moyers Show edited out some of his taped interview and he has to keep repeating himself to the media. Further, as he mentions, the working press has little if any knowledge of the Bible, much more biblical history - though we may come to find out that Rev. Wright knows considerably less about the Bible than he might think he does. Neither is imperialism off limits for criticism and distinctions have to be made between the American people and the government/regime.

Yet with that all said, Wright cannot be given a bye on his equating liberation theology of whatever variety, whether black, white or purple with green polka dots, with historic orthodox trinitarian Christian theology, as well his confusing the historic Christian faith with feminism/egalitarianism or even just plain old liberalism/universalism.

Nowhere is this more pointedly seen than in Rev. Wright’s answer to the quote from John 14:6 and the question as whether he believes it and whether Islam is another way of salvation. Late in the interview, almost to the end, the transcript reads:

MS. LEINWAND: Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but through me." Do you believe this?
And do you think Islam is a way to salvation?

REV. WRIGHT: Jesus also said, "Other sheep have I who are not of this fold."

Jeremiah Wright’s brief reply is an abbreviation of John 10:16: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Yet clearly, if not historically, Christ has always been understood to be talking to the Jews about the Gentiles, who would also be brought into the Christian church. And if anything, the Jews had a racist phobia of sorts about associating with Gentiles that would make this disturbing and shocking news to them.

But to the point at hand, Wright really blew it. As Christ also said,

Mark 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

It would seem to be only too clear, that Wright qualifies here. Forget about whether white - or even black - churches find this or any other comment offensive by Wright, the real question is whether Christ finds it offensive. Somehow, we don’t think the Lord Jesus Christ on that day will be saying ‘Well done, Jeremiah Wright, thou good and faithful servant. Thou glorified me and the gospel thou profess to be a minister of when asked point blank if there was salvation in Islam’. Rather we think it will be something on the order of ‘Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of Mohammed (cf. Matt. 16:23)’.

Further, there is no question that earlier in the question and answer period that Wright properly remarked that Farrakhan is an influential black and like EF Hutton, when Farrakhan speaks, black America listens to him, whether they agree with him or not. Yet if the Koran is not an unneeded addition to the Scripture and Mohammed and his prophecies are an unneeded and blasphemous addition to Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the very Son of God come in the flesh, the one and only Saviour of mankind after whom comes no other, we know not what. And if that is not enough, Islam most emphatically denies the Trinity and Wright as pastor of the Trinity UCC congregation ought to know something about that. Ought to, but perhaps he does not. To his shame and confusion.

The blatant apostasy and compromise doesn’t get any worse than this, but in that Wright harps on white America racism - though he acknowledges that white Christians largely ran the Underground Railroad and came south to start the HBCU’s or the 'historically black Christian universities' such as Howard, Fiske, Moreland etc. - again he’s got a soft spot for good ole Louis Farrakhan and Islam. Wright even goes so far as to say, “Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didn't make me this color”, to which the audience made up in part of fans cheered and applauded.

Rather quite simply the problem is that while in the west, black African slavery was perpetrated by white western Christians, it was also abolished by white western Christians. In Africa and the Mideast, Islam enslaved blacks even before the western trade began and has never really quit in either Africa or the Mideast even to this day. (Can you say Sudan? Darfur?) Not only did Islam enslave white Christian Europeans, Islam has enslaved - and killed in the process - more black Africans than the West ever did. Which leads us to question one: whether black American conversion to Islam is a knee jerk reaction to a perception of Christianity as being white and racist in principle, as opposed to some of its professed practioners. Two: will Wright ever ask for an apology for Islamic slavery of black Africans from Louis Farrakhan? Tain’t going to happen any time soon, folks. Rather Wright recently gave Farrakhan an award. Neither will Wright ask for an apology from black Africa and those like Kofi Annan originally of Ghana and late of the UN, whose forbears profited from the African slave trade. Somehow we don’t think this is what “equal opportunity” is all about, racist or otherwise.

As further evidence of Wright’s liberalism or his departure from historic orthodox Biblical Christianity of whatever color or complexion, in answer to a question of whether all races feel comfortable attending Trinity, he boasts that a white female minister in his denomination - the liberal United Church in Christ - even stood in his pulpit and claimed to be “unashamedly African” - whatever that is supposed to mean. But back to Christianity 101. Christians have historically confessed the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost in quite blatant opposition to the feminist liberation revisionist theology that either confesses or has an option that God is the Mother, the Daughter and the Holy Ghost. Further in that ministers of the gospel speak to the congregation in the name of that trinitarian God, historically the Christian pulpit has only been open to ordained men. If that be oppression or discrimination, Rev. Wright, liberalism and the UCC have to take it up with an authority far far greater than this writer and we speak not of Christian or Biblical tradition, but the God who wrote Scripture.

That, not to mention the clear statements of Scripture. Granted the working press knows little of biblical history, much more the Bible, but Wright should know better than to attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the sheep’s discernment. Yes, Paul says in Galatians 3:28 that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”. But again context is critical, just as in Christ’s statement about sheep of another fold. Paul is talking about salvation. All can be saved, not just Jews, or even free male Jews if you will.

Rather Paul makes it a point of the creation order between men and women that:

I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 1 Timothy 2:12-14

He continues in 1 Timothy 3:1,2:

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

How can a woman be the husband of one wife and refrain from teaching and usurping authority over a man if she desires the office of a bishop or presbyter/elder? She can’t. The Southern Presbyterian Robert Lewis Dabney had his faults, among them an effort to justify southern slavery from the Bible and contra the original professed standards in presbyterianism, which forbid manstealing in the Larger Catechism on the Eight Commandment. Yet his comments about Jacobin egalitarianism and the women’s liberation movement of the 1800's is seen today with not only women being admitted to the office of elder and pastor, but also practicing sodomites or homosexuals. We would say unto Wright what many have said before. Resist the nose of the camel or you will find the whole beast eventually in the tent.

The Rev. Wright can say whatever he wants about the controversy being an attack on black churches and their prophetic tradition of liberation, transformation and reconciliation, but the real problem is he mistakes black liberation theology, feminist egalitarianism and liberalism/universalism for the historic Christian biblical gospel. Even further, we are liberated, transformed and reconciled only in Christ, not Islam. Wright may make much of Isaiah 61 as the basis of the prophetic tradition he claims that the black church, much less his ministry is a part of, but Isaiah 56:10 is also part of that inspired Word of God of which he is bound to declare the whole counsel of under the penalty of death (cf. Act 20:26,7):

His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

While we would not say Jeremiah Wright is sleeping, in that he resembles a paler version of Redd Foxx, he also clearly loves the spotlight and all the attention. But however active he is, on just one count alone, Jeremiah Wright has not informed us of the contradictions of Islam with Christ and Christianity when he had opportunity. That’s not too prophetic according to the Good Book.

Rather his namesake tells us:

Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Jeremiah 14:14

Black, white or purple liberation theology, feminism and Islam are all lies and false and deceitful visions. If Jeremiah Wright doesn’t want to go down in history as a Judas, it would behoove him to get up to speed with what the Bible really says about salvation in Christ alone, the Trinity and gender and office, much more liberal black liberation theology. If his theology is not racist, it is not orthodox and that judged on its character in light of Scripture and not the color of the man advocating it. Ultimately Wright is wrong on the one thing needful. Whatever the nature of the media controversy or attack, his theology is at least an affront to Scripture, if not also an attack in its own right and Wright really can’t afford to be wrong about that whether the media agrees or not, and regardless if he has street cred back in the hood with the brothers, Muslim or otherwise.

In conclusion, it must also be said, that if a white candidate were to attend a church with a comparable white supremacist theology to Wright’s black liberation theology, their candidacy would be over before it started. That Ron Paul the only presidential candidate of real principle even accepted a $500 donation from a white supremacist, much more his old newsletter had some blunt comments on race, was enough for the media to give his candidacy the kiss of death and black it out.

But in this day of racial and gender politics, to state the obvious is to be declared a bigot, just as Geraldine Ferraro stated the obvious about both her previous candidacy for vice presidency and Obama’s current run and got hounded off Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff for it. For that matter though, do we really think Hillary is running on anything but the gender card? If she wasn’t first the wife of Bill Clinton, where would she be? Regardless of all that, however you want to cut the cake, racism is still sin of whatever flavor and a theology built around racism of any kind is still unbiblical.

The real problem is sin period, not just the sin of racism and a theology built around a reaction to white racism like Cone’s black liberation theology, which Wright espouses. Indeed any theology built around any sin other than the original sin that endemic to the race of Adam, is inherently imbalanced, partial and partisan. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, all men are prone to hate God and their neighbor. God first and our neighbor second, whatever his color, if not more because it is different. All sin is first against God. The distinction is critical. That men are not colorblind is one thing. That all men are in need of a saviour, whether racist or not, is the orthodox gospel. Again, a theology in reaction to white racism, errs in the other extreme. Why else would Wright cut Farrakhan some slack if it were not that they were the same color though they are not of the same faith, however Jeremiah might mangle John 10:16? Or does Wright know something we don’t? Is Farrakhan on the verge of apostasizing from Islam and converting to Christianity, if not at least Wright and Cone’s liberal black liberation variety?

It is a sign of the times though, that it is not really Wright’s theology that is suspect in the eyes of the mainstream press, but his politics. He for whatever reason, correct or not, opposes American imperialism. And that the secular American press cannot stand. It is one of the sacred cows and idols in American culture and consequently American politics. (Another one would be a woman’s right to choose to abort her child. That is largely why the antiwar Left refused to consider Ron Paul’s candidacy over somebody like Kucinich who believes in flying saucers. Being against the Iraq war is not enough.) Yes, John Hagee is a theological nutcase and yes, John McCain has accepted his endorsement (- and later returned it), but as a dispensational and zionist nutcase, he also has necessarily baptized American imperialism and that is enough to buy him some slack from the media. Remember, it is Wright’s politics, not his theology that people are objecting to. And while Hagee also suffers from some dispensational confusion about whether Christ is the Messiah of the Jews, he hasn’t come out and begged the question regarding Islam like Wright has. He is to his credit down on popery, regardless if dispensationalism was first propounded by Jesuits in order to deflect the charge of antichrist from the pope, but if anything ironic contradiction epidomizes dispensational fundamentalism.

Further, of the three leading candidates, there is not much to choose from; socialist mediocrity looms large over their character, policies and principles. Biblical Christianity does not play much of a part in any of their lives, which is yet another reason for Reformed Presbyterianism to dissent from the current political process. (The chief reason would be the godless American constitution which exiles any questions of morality and religion essentially to Siberia, whether that is as considered nationally or as regards the officers of the government.) Yet in short, amidst all the hue and cry of the hustings, it is good to remind ourselves that the real problem is never political. The problem is spiritual, moral, religious. In a word, sin. Even further, as that staunch old prophet and presbyter John Knox said, it is vain to ask for reformation of manners, where there is corruption of religion and America needs a reformation of both. It will not happen politically.

Yet it is even because of sin, that we can be thankful that the most High ruleth wisely in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, even setting up over it the basest of men - or women (cf. Dan 4:17) - and this nation will probably get better than it deserves, even as poor as the slate of options is. If anything that poverty of candidates might hopefully force people to consider the vanity of the secular campaigning and politics and consider the real king, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who rules in the heavens and on earth and does as he pleases and none can stay his hand or say him nay.

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