Rev. Wright, Obama's former pastor, talks of reconciliation
BY LARRY ALEXANDER, Staff Writer
Although he has four academic degrees and nine honorary doctorates, Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. is best known as then-Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's pastor, and a target of criticism by those determined to derail Obama's candidacy.
On Thursday, Wright touched on those attacks, as he spoke on the evolution of black religion and theology to about 300 listeners at the First Reformed Church on East Orange Street.
Wright's visit was sponsored by the Lancaster Theological Seminary, said Seminary President Carol Lytch in her introductory remarks, as a way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which set America's slaves free during the Civil War.
In his remarks, Wright equated African American religious tradition with "the invisible man."
"It has been right here in our midst, on our shores, since the 1500s, but it was, has been, and in many instances, still is, invisible to the dominant culture in terms of its rich history and its incredible legacy," he said.
He said black religion was referred to as "the Invisible Institution," because it was forced underground by laws that forbade the gathering of more than two blacks without the presence of a white person to monitor the content of their conversation.
He spoke about how slaves brought to various countries were forbidden to speak their native tongue and were forced to learn the language of their new home.
Wright noted that the theology of the black church is not just "a theology of liberation," but also of transformation and reconciliation.
"God does not want us, as his children, to be at war with each other, or to see us as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, mis-use each other or put each other down" he said. "God wants us to reconcile with one another."
Wright believes that the way we see God is how we see one another.
"If I see God as male, or as white," he said. "If I see God as superior, if I see God as mean, vengeful, or sexist, then I see humans through that lens."
That is how, he said, "some can worship Sunday morning in a black clergy robe and be killing others on Sunday evening in a white Klan robe."
"To say 'I'm a Christian' is not enough," Wright said. "Because the Christianity of the slave owner is not the Christianity of the slave."
During his talk, Wright touched on politics, He drew applause from the audience when he talked about his criticism of government policies that balk at feeding the poor while supporting "unjust wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service," said Wright, himself a former Marine and Navy corpsman. "Those same people sent over 4,000 American boys and girls to die over a lie."
Wright noted that he took part in a symposium in 2008 that included a number of black scholars presenting papers on hope and reconciliation, none of which, he said, were covered by the media. Instead, attempts were made to "discredit" him, he said, and "hopefully destroy the candidacy of the first African American candidate for the highest office of the land who looks like he might just get the Democratic nomination."
Those types of attacks, he said, were intended to "render the black church invisible and not worthy of serious consideration."
But, he concluded, that type of politics "does not and cannot silence the message of our God."