Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Jeremiah Wright and Liberation Theology

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jeremiah Wright and Liberation Theology

The Jeremiah Wright-Barack Obama relationship has been absolutely dominating the world of politics over the last couple of months and specifically the last couple of days. Obama and his campaign have now completely distanced themselves from the Reverend after Wright rattled off a string of televised press interviews. From those press tapings, Wright alleged that Obama agreed with his views but was unable to publicly say so because "he is a politician." He also reiterated his views on the US government's responsibility in 911.

Having listened and watched Jeremiah Wright react to this now worldwide issue, my assessment of him comes down to simply this: He does not have much practical sense. I think at the very heart of Jeremiah Wright's message is the reality that God does not hold the United States in some glorious high esteem above and beyond all the other nations. On that point, I am in full agreement. Regular Lair readers know my uneasiness with the tendency for our churches to make an unhealthy mix of Christianity and Patriotism. I see Wright missing the mark in primarily two ways.

First, I remember two words of wisdom my father gave me before I preached my first sermon:
1. Always let your hearers know what a great privilege it is to preach the Word.
2. Don't do stupid things from the pulpit.
Well, you might think that those two little insights my father offered me were rather trivial and obvious, but I think they moved me quickly beyond where I would have otherwise been starting out, and still to this day resound with me every time I preach. It is a great honor to preach and the Word does not need my antics to change lives. I'm not sure Jeremiah Wright received the same advise. From what I have seen and heard, Wright makes his points in ways that are unduly inflammatory; the core of his message gets lost in the speech and manner in which he makes it. During the press tapings, he was being a "showstopper", providing animated musings to go along with a defense of his words. It is one thing to preach with a certain methodology to a specific congregation, it is quite another when the entire nation is your audience, especially when someone he is clearly supporting might suffer because of his actions and words. If Wright would invoke some practical sense, stop the animated charading, and speak respectfully about the issues, things could only be better. I should add here that although I think Wright's ultimate message of God's impartiality to the United States is right on, he has clearly said some things which go too far and destroy whatever good insight he might otherwise have passed on.

The second issue for the overall views of Wright is wrapped up in black liberation theology. Black liberation theology, like any other theology of liberation, is heavily focused on social action, the oppressed, and the poor. There is no doubt that much good has come from its teaching and preaching. Nevertheless, I am skeptical anytime a message dominates the pulpit or church other than the new creation that is found in Christ Jesus. Liberation theology places such a strong emphasis on realized eschatology and the immanence of God that much of God's transcendence and future coming glory is left unnoticed. Again, the theology of the Already/Not Yet is helpful here. We must maintain a proper balance between what God has done and is doing now on earth, that we are already redeemed and set free, but that there is a crucially important "not yet" apsect that is coming. For the most part, liberation theology fixates on the "already." This is not unique to liberation theology. I have the same concern with liberal theology and any movement that revolves solely around a social agenda.

I am curious to see what happens over the next few months. I can only imagine the inner turmoil this is causing Obama. Time will tell.


Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

Well said.

The record shows that Wright's church in Chicago has done much good for many people. That is lost, of course, in the smoke surrounding his inflammatory statements.

You keep pushing us toward a healthy balance between the "already" and "not yet." I hope that you keep that emphasis.

April 30, 2008 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Agog said...

I don't understand why he doesn't keep his mouth shut at least until the election is over. He is killing Obama's chances. That says a lot to me about his character.

April 30, 2008 12:02 PM  

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