17 March 2008

The Words of Jeremiah

Read now the words of Jeremiah:

Listen, destruction has come upon you! Foreign fighters have come from a distant land, and raised their hands and bodies against your towers... Your conduct and your acts have brought this upon you. This is your bitter punishment.

The words of Jeremiah Wright? They could be. But they are actually my paraphrase of Jeremiah 4:15-18, of the Holy Bible, Jewish Publication Society translation.

Yes, Jeremiah Wright was and is full of himself, more than he is of the Holy Spirit. Yes, he is the Man of Words, out of ancient African tradition, that gives the church in Africa as well as the African-American church its voice and its power. And yet, he is also speaking out of the ancient tradition of the Hebrew prophets, who reviled their societies for their shortcomings. Indeed, the original Jeremiah blamed the destruction of Solomon's temple and the expulsion of the Israel into captivity in Babylon on the conduct of Israel itself. And as you would expect, he was "repeatedly imprisoned and castigated as a traitor for his views," according to the Introduction to Jeremiah in the Jewish Study Bible.

It is thus misleading to judge Jeremiah Wright (and Barack Obama for his association with Wright) without the contexts of the historical development of politically black Christian rhetoric, the development of Black Liberation Theology, and their roots in the Old Testament and African oral stylistic tradition.

Still, blaming America for 9/11 is blaming the victim. It is on the same moral level as white people blaming black people for white people's prejudices and stereotypes. It is as ugly for a black man to say it as for a white man to say it. And it is just as wrong. And blaming the US government for AIDS, particularly claiming that it introduced AIDS into African-Americans is a vicious lie (i.e, it is morally and factually wrong), and Wright is morally culpable for believing it and promulgating it from the pulpit.

One has to ask what Barack Obama, as a sitting senator — a man already holding a national office , a position of trust with respect to all Americans — was thinking when he continued to associate with Wright. The most likely answer, given what I've been trying to explain in this and the previous post, is that Obama was simply desensitized to this style of rhetoric. In other words, Obama was probably not thinking at all.

So I doubt that Barak Obama's association with Wright serves as evidence that Obama is anti-American, anti-military, anti-white, or anti-Semitic. But I have to wonder how far to the left Obama might actually be, given that this style of rhetoric didn't faze him enough to get him to go find another church.

Note added on 3/18: Here is the text of Obama's speech on this subject. And you can watch the video here.


Anonymous said...

The proper context for all of this (Obama, Wright, Jeremiah, etc.) is wisdom. And, all left-right distinctions aside, that is by far my biggest concern re. Obama.

Scooper said...

Yes, indeed.

Until I witnessed the media coverage of this over the past few days, I didn't realize that the color of bullsh-t was white. Well, mostly so, this time.

I don't know why it surprises me every time. Maybe I'm just slow. But whenever something happens that I know even the slightest bit about, the media coverage seems hopelessly shallow. They blather on a 24-hour cycle. Would it really hurt if they took a little time out to research and think?