Last Monday morning, Rev. Jeremiah Wright confirmed to the world that concern about his theology and worldview was justified. In response to his critics he said that criticism of his opinions was part of a media attack on the black church. As an African-American preacher, I was surprised at Reverend Wright’s presumption and hubris. Throughout his press conference, he equated his defense of the black church to defending his mother in a grade school squabble. He made it clear that he felt that part of the trouble people had with him was an ingredient of a mainstream media disdain for and lack of appreciation for the black church. His defense of his spiritual mother was evidently very well organized: a 6-day media blitz, beginning with one of PBS’s most watched journalists, speaking at a major NAACP fund raiser in Detroit, addressing the national press and culminating with a two day symposium on the black church held at Howard University.
Like a well-oiled political campaign, Rev. Wright built upon each previous appearance. Yet, something went terribly wrong with Wright at the National Press Club. The nation saw a sharp contrast to the way he presented himself on Friday on Bill Moyer’s program – humble, soft spoken, and entreating. Like Dr. Jekyll of English literature, he turned into Mr. Hyde right before our eyes. Instead of appearing to be the faithful defender of the poor, he seemed more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing - manifesting his true character. He selfishly defended his career and reputation above the needs of his long time church member, Barack Obama.
The question that kept running through my mind was: why now? Some conspiracy theorists blame Hillary Clinton’s campaign; others point the finger at Wright’s upcoming book; and a final group actually believes that Rev. Wright was justified in his own defense.
Most people I talked to after the event, felt that Jeremiah Wright’s true colors came out in his press conference. Most evangelical bible scholars were concerned about Wright’s answer to the question of whether Muslims will go to heaven. Given his flippant answer, theologically conservative Christians concluded that Rev. Wright is preaching “another gospel” as the apostle Paul termed the divisive heresies of his day.
Just when I thought that only a handful of black pastors would choose to defend Wright’s racial comments, to my surprise many white religious leaders have condoned his incendiary views. Tony Campolo, famous professor and author, made the following remarks on beliefnet.com:
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
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